It occurs to me that there are other towns. It occurs to me so violently that I say, at intervals, “Very well, if New York is going to be like this, I’m going to live somewhere else.” And I do — that’s the funny part of it. But then one day there comes to me the sharp picture of New York at its best, on a shiny blue-and-white Autumn day with its buildings cut diagonally in halves of light and shadow, with its straight neat avenues colored with quick throngs, like confetti in a breeze. Some one, and I wish it had been I, has said that “Autumn is the Springtime of big cities.” I see New York at holiday time, always in the late afternoon, under a Maxfield Parish sky, with the crowds even more quick and nervous but even more good-natured, the dark groups splashed with the white of Christmas packages, the lighted holly-strung shops urging them in to buy more and more. I see it on a Spring morning, with the clothes of the women as soft and as hopeful as the pretty new leaves on a few, brave trees. I see it at night, with the low skies red with the black-flung lights of Broadway, those lights of which Chesterton — or they told me it was Chesterton — said, “What a marvelous sight for those who cannot read!” I see it in the rain, I smell the enchanting odor of wet asphalt, with the empty streets black and shining as ripe olives. I see it — by this time, I become maudlin with nostalgia — even with its gray mounds of crusted snow, its little Appalachians of ice along the pavements. So I go back. And it is always better than I thought it would be.
I suppose that is the thing about New York. It is always a little more than you had hoped for. Each day, there, is so definitely a new day. “Now we’ll start over,” it seems to say every morning, “and come on, let’s hurry like anything.”
London is satisfied, Paris is resigned, but New York is always hopeful. Always it believes that something good is about to come off, and it must hurry to meet it. There is excitement ever running its streets. Each day, as you go out, you feel the little nervous quiver that is yours when you sit in the theater just before the curtain rises. Other places may give you a sweet and soothing sense of level; but in New York there is always the feeling of “Something’s going to happen.” It isn’t peace. But, you know, you do get used to peace, and so quickly. And you never get used to New York.
-Dorothy Parker, “My Home Town”; McCall’s, January 1928
Some more rain in the night & a little this morning. Some sunny periods, & not cold. Finished the flower garden. Planted two rows cabbage (36 plants). Cleared the place where the gooseberries are to go (it is too early to move them yet). Made experimentally a few briquettes of coal dust & clay. If successful will make a mould & a sieve for making them on a larger scale. Evidently it is important to use only fine dust, also one must have a large metal receptacle for mixing in.
Tonight found a kind of phosphorescent worm or millipede, a thing I have never seen or heard of before. Going out on the lawn I noticed some phosphorescence, & noticed that this made a streak which constantly grew larger. I thought it must be a glowworm, except that I had never seen a glowworm which left its phosphorescence behind. After searching with an electric torch found it was a long very slender wormlike creature with many thin legs down each side & two sort of antennae on the head. The whole length about 11/4”. Managed to catch him in a test-tube & bring him in, but his phosphorescence soon faded.
Pale yellow, very wriggly. (legs relatively thinner than this.)
—George Orwell’s journal entry for this day, seventy years ago.
[via Orwell Diaries]