EVERYONE’S A CRITIC (April 28, 2011)

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.

6 responses to “EVERYONE’S A CRITIC (April 28, 2011)

  1. Ah. The guy probably likes Muzak and Lite beer

  2. The pictures are beautiful…As for the “gloom and doom” guy, it
    must be raining in his world all the time,,,no sunshine or sunsets…I prefer to ignore his remarks and enjoy your gorgeous pictures. Thanks for sharing a bit of the beauty there with your fans,

  3. Roger Strong

    He certainly wasn’t a jazz fan! Trumpeter Humphrey Lyttelton once said that good jazz made him want to shout out loud at the sheer joy of it. Perhaps your photos of the sunset don’t do the actual event justice but down here in New Zealand where there is much less pollution we have some stunning sunsets.
    Enjoyed that-thanks for sharing it with us.

  4. Beauty is sometimes blocked by common perception. I wish this weren’t so, but living where you live, pollution is almost always considered in air quality and the effects of the sun in our atmosphere, as sunrises and sunsets are only refractions of light in and around the molecules in the atmosphere.

  5. Sounds like you may have had an encounter of the third kind with “The Old Codger”!

  6. I don’t go for the doom and gloom either. I love your pictures and your way with words. I also love sunsets and find ‘peace of mind’ as as stand there just looking . I’ve been lucky enough to see some of the most fantastic sunsets, and also sun rises, in tropical countries.

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