Of Peter the Great, Joseph Brodsky wrote: "In a way, geography was far more real for him than history, and his most beloved directions were north and west."
North, because he moved the Russian capital from Moscow to his newly built city of St. Petersburg. West, because of his openness to European ideas.
My beloved direction is east.
I live on the East Coast of the United States, in New York City. I am anchored to this spot, having never lived elsewhere, except for college, when my direction remained east, but shifted north 250 miles to Cambridge, Mass.
In New York City I am an Eastsider. I was born on 105th Street and Fifth Avenue, I grew up on East 98th and East 96th Streets, and now I live on East 73rd. In the course of my life, I have traveled 32 blocks south and three blocks east, journeying from Fifth to Madison to Park to Lexington Avenues. Only a few blocks now separate me from the East River.
I did attend high school on the West Side of Manhattan, and I enjoy opera performances at Lincoln Center. But when the final curtain descends, I am happy to board the crosstown bus at 65th Street and Broadway and return to the East Side via the transverse road through Central Park. Once the bus reaches Fifth Avenue, I breathe a sigh of relief. Westsiders are a rough-and-tumble lot.
Pleasures of the East Side include the world-famous museums on Madison and Fifth Avenues. Watching a sunset is a joy as the golden light embraces the two-mile unbroken stone faade of apartment buildings along Fifth Avenue. This is one of the great views of the world.
East is my choice. I have no desire to change my beloved direction.