By Dan Levitz
The house is quiet. The only sound is a pleasing “whoosh, whoosh” from the little device that whips & heats the milk for the coffee. The kids have left for school and my wife for work. I’ll be the last one out the door and this…this is good. It’s a short ride to my job and, if all goes smoothly, it should be pleasant on this beautiful spring day.
Not long ago, I would have been the first of my family out the door and I’d be rushing to get an early express train to the City. When we moved here from Manhattan, my intention was a daily walk to and from the Chappaqua train station where I could clear my head and get a little exercise while keeping my Big Apple pedestrian mojo intact. I would reject the car-culture and remain true to my downtown urban roots.
“…if things go smoothly, it’s a great little drive. Our town is scenic, quaint, historic and bucolic.”
In my early days in Chappaqua, you might have found me on a Saturday walking to town to buy milk with my little daughter in a Baby Bjorn as cars flew by on 120.
I mean, this is how I carried my older son when he was a baby in the City, and I’d be damned if I would deny my daughter the same nurturing and effective mode of transport. I think we did that walk maybe two times in total. My naive idealism about relying on my own two feet proved to be fleeting.
We moved here in autumn and by winter I was driving everywhere including to the train in the morning. My vision of the daily walk to the station gone, I rationalized that the distance from my spot at the edge of the train parking lot, essentially located in Pleasantville, was roughly equivalent to my now dormant walk from home.
My daily train commute into the city has since been replaced by a short drive to my office in a neighboring town. I joke with my wife that the 1.3 miles of the commute that takes me through Chappaqua can only be referred to as…The Gauntlet! She says I can be overly dramatic, but I think as a term of action, it is spot on. As I mentioned, if things go smoothly, it’s a great little drive. Our town is scenic, quaint, historic and bucolic. These are highly appealing adjectives. However, if I’m to best The Gauntlet, a number of challenges must be overcome with honor and determination (I have no idea why she says I over dramatize things)!
My journey begins with The Audacious Left Turn of Departure! All that’s involved here is gently navigating the car past the children at the bus stop in front of my house and making the left onto Quaker towards town safely. I’ve mastered the repetitive left/right, right/left head-turn and, both directions clear, I make the turn and head towards town and The Infamous Bridge of Sighs!
Pausing at the red light by Hunts Place, I sip my coffee and feel the caffeine begin to percolate just a little in my brain. The newly renovated bridge can be challenging in a myriad of ways. Too many times, I’ve found myself sitting there unsure if it was my right of way or the giant Escalade’s coming from town. My awkwardness in these moments is punctuated by indecision: Brake…gas…lurch…peer…gas… brake!
Today however, the sun is shining on me as I traverse the bridge effortlessly and in good rhythm. As I pull up, about to turn left onto S. Greeley, I get the bluetooth going and start digging on a good driving song (Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things”). I sip my coffee and breathe deeply as I look ahead towards The Great Intersection of Indecision! It may be a confusing traffic pattern with the two-way stop, but folks here can be quite neighborly, and most drivers seem to approach it as cautiously as do I on this gorgeous Chappaqua morn.
As I continue forward, surrounded by picturesque Chappaqua in full spring bloom, it does feel natural to wax a bit poetic with my daily driving challenges happily in my rear view. I must admit that I feel privileged to be conducting my commute through such a lovely setting.
The ride up King is sweet. I turn the music up and reach for my faded Café Du Monde coffee mug. I make the right turn past Lange’s and the quick left by the Mobil station. I drive respectfully slow past Grafflin Elementary, now confident that the challenging part of the commute is over. As I bring the mug to my lips, I violently hit a pothole the size of Rhode Island. The hot coffee splashes all over my chest, and as I shriek, I notice the “check engine” light pop on. Sometimes you ride The Gauntlet, sometimes The Gauntlet rides you.
Dan Levitz is an art dealer & writer who has lived in Chappaqua for 10 years.