NYT-Bestseller Andrew Gross and His Westchester “Vortex”

Personal perspectives on living in the county we all call home.


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On a recent trip to Cape Cod, my wife looked around from the deck where we were staying. “You hear that?”

I listened, but didn’t hear a thing. “What?”

She smiled happily. “Nothing.”

Not a car going by. Not a plane. Not a sound anywhere.

Nothing.

I remember when we used to enjoy that sensation around here. We live on a pond in Purchase, which I describe as a kind of “vortex” for me, a place I go when I need the gods of inspiration to be kind. Where once you could hear the tiny ripples coming across the surface, the sparrows chirping in the trees.

All which can still be heard, except now mostly above the rumble of landscaping trucks coughing their way up Anderson Hill Road. Or over the steady whoosh of traffic zooming by on I-684, suddenly visible due to the amount of trees lost from recent storms.

“Just pretend it’s the surf,” my wife, a yoga teacher, calms me.

But it’s not the surf. It doesn’t sound like the ocean at all.

It’s cars.

Years ago, I used to work with a bestselling author who lived on the Hudson, and the first time I visited him we sat looking across his lawn and pool at the peaceful river. All of a sudden, there was this earth-shaking rumble. The trees shook. Suddenly, the southbound Metro-North zoomed by, right in front of us. “How the hell can you live with this?” I asked, stunned. “A train just went through your backyard!”

He merely shrugged. “It only comes by every half an hour,” he said. “The rest of the time, it’s beautiful here.”

For 25 years, we’ve lived within a couple of miles of Westchester County Airport, rarely ever noticing a plane. This summer, due to changes in the wind, they’ve altered the take-off patterns and everything’s changed. Suddenly, our bucolic vortex has become a deafening superhighway for commercial and private jets, passing over us so low, it’s as if our kitchen is a navigational checkpoint.

But there are still days...with no trucks rushing by. No planes overhead. The kind of day that makes it all worthwhile. The vortex is open for business.

We call them Sundays.

Like the one in early May. I closed my eyes outside and could just breathe in that old, familiar calm. 

Then suddenly, I’m blasted out of my chaise by the loudest guitar solo I’ve ever heard: The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” 

It’s from Manhattanville College, just across the street. A women’s softball game. The clang of the bat. Cheering. A bass vibration louder and closer than any jet.

“Just pretend you’re at Woodstock,” my wife says, the house shaking.

But I don’t want to be at Woodstock. I want my vortex. 

A truck rumbles up Anderson Hill Road. A JetBlue A320 goes by overhead. 

I sink back in my chair. Reflexively, I do a dramatic, circular strum on my air-guitar, just like Pete Townshend. Maybe they’ll play Hendrix next. 

 

 

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