Albany is a city of contrasts. Historic brick row houses line streets leading downtown, where the castle-like State Capitol building points its red-roofed turrets into the sky next to the stark, flat geometric shapes of the enormous Empire State Plaza. “Albany is full of concrete,” Sam said to me when I told him David and I were headed there for his 40th medical school reunion. Actually, it’s marble, not concrete, but the Empire State Plaza is a huge expanse of gray space, rimmed by tall gray buildings, and I could easily see why someone would remember Albany as a city full of concrete. There’s even a giant gray Egg, a performing arts center that sits on the plaza like a space ship.
The highlight of the weekend was spending time with Harry, David’s good friend, and driving west out of Albany to a small town to find the farmhouse David rented for three of the years he was in medical school. On the way there, David was talking about some recent issues that had been bothering him, and Harry said, “Your problem is your tedious habit of introspection.”
David and I laughed and nodded in agreement immediately. Harry meant tedious to David, and in laughing and nodding in agreement, I was acknowledging how tedious my own habit of introspection is to me. “You intellectuals think and talk too much,” another friend said to me years ago.
Yes, David and I are introspective and we talk about that introspection a lot. In fact this blog post is going up a day later than I’d planned because we got caught in a long, tedious and deeply introspective cycle of talk yesterday.
But that’s okay. We’re both old enough to be able to ride along with who we essentially are and make our way to the moments of appreciation and peace that the tedious process of introspection makes possible.
And how does this all relate to Albany other than Harry having made the comment there? The contrasts in that city between ornate historic buildings and vast modern buildings remind me of what it’s like inside my brain. Grand and multi-faceted, gray and flat, tall and wide, big in scope and rich in detail, simple and complex, all cycling in a swirl that lets me laugh at my own tedious habits and relish what they make accessible at the same time.