A sunny outlook, in whatever direction

Peter the Great's favorite direction was said to be west. He moved his capital from Moscow to St. Petersburg, the city he founded, to secure a Russian window on the West.

Favoring no one direction, I go in all directions, though not at the same time.

From north to south, New York City measures 36 miles. From west to east, 16 miles. Born at 105th Street, raised at 98th and 96th Streets, I'm now living at 73rd. My progression through life has been south (32 blocks) and east (three blocks).

Lying on the couch in the living room the other night, I realized for the first time that I facewest. All these years, while reading and listening to music, clouds have been passing overhead, west to east, moving from land to sea.

In bed, my directions are north (head) and south (feet). The bedroom windows face north and east, providing welcome breezes in the heat of summer and bone-chilling temperatures in winter.

On my way to work each morning, I walk west to Fifth Avenue and south through Central Park. Many mornings I see the sun's golden rays reflected in the windows of West Side apartment houses.

My office in SoHo faces north and west. On sunny days in mid-afternoon, when sunlight embraces the granite pavement and cast-iron buildings, I can't resist leaving my desk to stroll north to Houston Street, and then south back to the office along Greene Street, the sun on my face. In New York, you need to seize moments like this, for tall buildings cast city streets in shadows much of the day.

When lost in a foreign city, I ask for directions. "Go north," a direction-giver may say. For a New Yorker, north means uptown. I go "uptown," crossing a medieval bridge in search of the cathedral.

Losing my way along a country road, the direction-giver says, "Go south." South, for me, is downtown. I proceed "downtown" through flower-filled fields, hoping to find the stream.

I am not good at following or giving directions.

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