I live in a suburban community east of New York City, and my second-story window faces west-north-west. So while I sit at this computer, early in the evening, the most beautiful sunsets appear and change, minute by minute.
Although some natural wonders don’t stir me, the colors of the sky never fail me — and often I scramble to find my camera. (All the photographs in this blogpost are mine.) As the sky this evening shaded from blue to azure to orange to pink, depending on where I looked, I wanted to record what I was seeing — to marvel at it in future.
Before I turned to the sunset, I saw this vista:
A moment later, I was standing on the sidewalk, astonished by the colors — the rapidly-changing show put on (apparently) for my benefit, and trying to photograph it with as few interfering wires as I could:
As I was trying to find the best vantage point, I noticed an older man, neatly dressed, crossing the street, looking to see what I was doing.
I made eye contact, gestured with my camera, and said happily, “One of the pleasures of living here is the beautiful sunsets, isn’t it?”
“Well, that’s pollution!” he said, drawing the syllables of the final word out.
“Dust particles, I thought,” I said.
“No, it’s pollution!” he said, emphatically. “Once I took a philosophy course in the evening, many years ago, and the professor went to the window and said, ‘Isn’t that a beautiful sunset?’ and I said, ‘No, all that is is pollution!” and it deflated him!” He laughed at the memory of his triumph.
He was making me unhappy, but I continued. “Look, sir, we have done terrible things to this planet, and perhaps it is pollution, but isn’t it beautiful?”
“Yeah, it’s beautiful, but so is freezing to death,” he said.
“Ex-cuse me?” I must have stammered.
“Yeah, they say when you freeze to death, it’s really peaceful and serene.”
I had had enough. “Sir, I can’t talk to you any more. You are too dark for me.”
“Dark?” he said, incredulously. “I’m just talking reality!”
By then it was dark. I went back to my apartment, thinking that I had let this man’s corrosive words devour beauty. I am glad I got the photographs I have here, and a disheartening story to tell JAZZ LIVES readers — who are free to make of it what they may (although telling me not to talk to strangers is not the reaction I seek) . . . but that sunset is gone forever, even though there might be another one, just as lovely tomorrow.
This story is true. I wish it weren’t.