Expressway: Taste of NYC, then back to good old Long Island

Westbound morning traffic on the Long Island Expressway.

Westbound morning traffic on the Long Island Expressway. (Oct. 31, 2012) (Credit: Charles Eckert)

I'd always wanted to live in Manhattan. I was fascinated by the idea because everything I enjoyed doing would only be a short subway or bus ride away.

So in September, I sold my home of 28 years in Wading River and moved into a studio apartment on the fifth floor of a seven-story prewar building on the Upper East Side. I remember humming the tune "Movin' on Up" from the sitcom "The Jeffersons" as I emerged from the Midtown Tunnel on move-in day.

My reasons for moving were about more than easy access to the delights of Manhattan. Diagnosed with Parkinson's disease 11 years ago, I was forced to think about things differently. The city seemed like a logical choice because I wouldn't need a car. I could use mass transit to get around, and be very close to health care providers. I was confident it wouldn't take long for me to meet people who shared my interests.


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But it also took me only about a month to have second thoughts about the move. I'd left Wading River, where I'd lived for 34 years, and said goodbye to wonderful neighbors and friends. I began to wonder about my beloved flower garden, and even worried about the twin fawns that were born in my backyard last summer. In the city, I no longer heard birds sing in the early light of the day, or marveled at hummingbirds as they hovered from one flower to the next.

In its place, I heard screaming fire engines and constantly honking car horns.

At best, my mobility is limited. With my condition, I tend to drag my left foot and this can slow me down. On the streets of the city, instead of being able to take my time walking from place to place, I risked being swept away by humanity that moved like a raging current. I would step aside to let a crowd pass, or find a clear lane on the street side of the curb.

I was tripped three times by nannies pushing baby-strollers while talking on their cellphones, and got tangled in the web of leashes by dog walkers. People in a hurry didn't think twice about pushing me aside in the subway.

At 84th Street and Lexington Avenue, a block from my apartment, I tripped into a pothole while crossing the street -- and tore a tendon in my struggling left leg. After strangers helped me up, I took the first bus to Lenox Hill Hospital. I had to wear an inflatable cast and use crutches for several weeks.

While I did enjoy the museums, parks, parades, shows and a lot of interesting people, I'd reached a difficult decision point. As a writer and landscape painter, I'd hoped that the city would provide lots of inspiration and opportunities to further my hobbies, but my struggle with Parkinson's left me no choice.

So, in July I moved back to Wading River to a house one block from where I used to live.

As I drove out of the Midtown Tunnel back to Long Island, I couldn't help humming the line "Goodbye, city life" from the sitcom "Green Acres."

I really don't regret making the move. I still firmly believe we should follow our dreams.

Reader Lou DeCaro lives again in Wading River.

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