Saturday, April 20, 2013

Rambling Saturday

Out my window above the balustraded cornices of brownstones across the street, the sky is a pale shade of blue and the smattering of cirrus clouds are painted in pink as the sun sets to the west.  An early dusk is settling in over Harlem. 

The late light is always welcome.  As the days in New York grow longer, so too do the adventures.  People of all stripes stay out later and longer as the city’s hum carries into the evening. 

Spring is a glorious season.  One of the only problems I have with it is never knowing quite what to wear.  The mornings are often brisk and the evenings cool, too.  I find myself walking out the door with a jacket but shedding it by the time I get to the office or to wherever I’m supposed to be after having left my house.  To wear a sweater or to not wear a sweater: that is a daily question.

I’m one to show my ankles as soon as possible.  I’ve been pushing the envelope for a couple weeks now, sporting Sperry’s without socks and cuffing my pants when the sun shines bright.  Many have already pulled out their short shorts and tiny skirts, chiffon tops, tanks, and neon hues.  The other day, I saw someone wearing a fur coat with bare legs; surely they had short shorts or a skirt on, but you couldn’t see them.  Or maybe they were just wearing the fur.  Better to bare legs and don a fur than befit the season top and bottom. 

After my morning and afternoon at the pottery studio, I met up with a friend to enjoy Hudson River Park.  We made our way to Pier 64, as I had learned earlier in the week from a gentleman at the block association meeting that the daffodils were just gorgeous and worth the viewing.  So we made our way west, passing galleries and empty bottles of vodka on the far west side.  We took pictures and had a photo shoot.

There was a trio of guys, all in jeans, doing random yoga poses, some more extreme than others.  A runner had let his Shih Tzu out of its stroller to enjoy the grass and stretch its legs.  Yes, people have strollers for their dogs in New York.  Some, including this one, are worth more than a months rent for me.  We walked back to the start of the pier on the sloping lawn, chucking as we caught the scent of the day: marijuana.  It is 4/20 after all, and a perfect day to enjoy some bud.  Harking back to our college past, we both laughed at how different our day would have been.  Neither of us keeps pot handy, so we just enjoyed those enjoying it around us. 

Lounging in the glow of a western sun, more people passed by.  The guy and his Shih Tzu zoomed past, the dog back in his stroller, head popping out, clearly enjoying the ride.  Dad ran really fast, so I suppose it made sense to push the dog along.  Some people walked by with their bikes.  Others rode them, which is not allowed.  After a while, having laid down, eyes closed to enjoy the rays, I heard a bike zoom by and yelled “dismount!” without moving form where I laid.  They kept riding; we just laughed. 

As we enjoyed the river, the daffodils, and the sun, we talked about our lives – as friends are wont to do.  Tales from last night and stories from in between the last we’d seen each other.  A story about sex, in which asking to be spanked later elicited an apology from the spanker for thinking they spanked too hard (after having been explicitly asked to spank) drew enormous laughter, and further story sharing. 

I cherish most the moments that are utterly New York.  Today was one of them.  I spend my Saturdays in a pottery studio with a bunch of women, most of them far older than me.  We have a blast.  A couple of weeks ago, one of the ladies was complaining that she had to go to get a mammogram.   She said she’d must prefer her husband have at her tits.  This was told to all by an 86-year old New Yorker as she molded clay.  This is not a story one could make up. 

Boston has been on everyone’s mind, and we wondered how something like what occurred there would unfold in New York.  It would be hard to shut this place down.  Boston did it with aplomb, and they should be proud.  As a New Englander, I’m damn proud. 

Something that drew a lot of conversation today was how the city was under Martial Law yet no one was calling it that.  The lockdown was the right thing to do, but my god, call a spade a spade: Boston was under Martial Law for an entire day.  And in the end, the bad guys were caught.  There’s also the shocking revelation that there are instances when people who are arrested do not have be read their Miranda rights.  This was startling to me.

But above the balustraded cornices of brownstones across the street, the sun has now set and the sky is now dark.  

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Unexpected

I was reading an article about Canadian politics when the C train pulled into the 135th Street station.  I stood up, as I always do, continuing to read the paper while exiting the train.  The paper was high in front of me and I walked directly into the pole.  I shook my head and laughed as people chuckled around me and found my way off the train.

The world is full of unexpected moments.  Tonight, one of mine happened to be a pole that never moves. 

It was a weird day for many reasons.   After a block association meeting on 21st Street and Tenth Avenue, I walked up Eighth Avenue from 23rd Street to Columbus Circle.  I was on the phone for half the walk, but found myself enjoying the cast of characters that cavort the avenue. The heart of the block vagaries happens from about 38th Street to 50th.  There’s a solid mix of tourists, commuters, and locals, with never enough room on the sidewalk. 

The locals stand out more in the crows than tourists.  I laughed out loud as a father walked out of the pizza place on the northeaster corner of 42nd and Eighth to find his kids in a tussle.  He stopped them and said, “Guys, come on, lets hide on mom!”  “Over here,” he giddily yelled as the kids ran towards him.  I hope the person a few paces behind me got a glimpse of her reaction. 

As I climbed further north, school-aged youth skipped in wonder and with delight, marveling their way up and down.  I caught a few eyes from passersby and I even noticed a few people in restaurants looking out at me.  I wasn’t dressed special or anything, just being myself, making my way uptown.  Sometimes a walk can make you feel good.

When I reached Columbus Circle, I was happy to see Christopher atop his pillar glistening in the night.  All the scaffolding has come down after the “Discovering Columbus” exhibit and the restoration is complete.  It glows now. 

I sat for a bit, reveling in the crisp spring air, reflecting and enjoying the subtle sounds of the city.  As I made my way back south to exit the circle, a couple was dancing.

She was wearing a white tulle tutu-type dress, wrapped in colored lights.  He was in a black tux, sporting a baseball cap.  She had white point ballet slippers on, laced up to her knee.  They sashayed around the circle, making their way to the southern entrance.  Their timing couldn’t have been better. 

A Broadway party bus, where one side is all glass and people sit facing one direction stadium style, was circling the Circle as she ran up the ledge and leaped into his arms.  He caught her and they spun several times.  Everyone on the bus erupted in applause.  I couldn’t help but smile and watch.  If there weren’t windows, I’m sure we’d have heard the audience gushing and cheering.  Standing by the curb myself, I noticed the tour guide grinning at the unexpected: that impromptu wonder that makes his job better, and damn easier. 

The pit that had loomed in my stomach for the past four hours disappeared during my walk and time experiencing the City.   Of course I was saddened and angered by the events that unfolded in Boston earlier in the day. 

I left my office for an hour and a half to attend a meeting.  I hadn’t checked my email to notice the three news alerts I received from the Washington Post.  (For the record: I get the New York Times delivered to my house, but receive breaking news updates via email from the Post.  Go figure.)  My friend and colleague broke the news to me outside as I was coming and she was going.  I was shocked, but it took seeing it in print for the pit to engulf in my stomach.

The world can be a sad reality. That reality is often delivered at an ever-increasing speed.  Sometimes we don’t get to process how we actually feel before being inundated by others pontificating via 140-character statements, meme photos, prayers, or page likes.  

I’m settling in tonight knowing those I know and care about are safe.  Life is a journey in the unexpected.  Surely there is a quote by someone famous on one of those black and white cards that says something of that ilk.  But I haven’t seen one recently. 

Today I’ll remember something sad but also take comfort from the idiosyncrasies of life.   Always stop to enjoy the dancers and be sure to lower the newspaper from in front of your face while exiting the train.    

Monday, April 8, 2013

That City Called New York

            Sometimes I wake up and forget I live in the best city in the world.  Or at least that’s how I see it.  The textures, the people, the surroundings – they all add up to create an environment that breeds creativity, fuels ingenuity, and sparks change.

            There are so many types of New Yorkers.  EB White, in his brilliant and timeless 7500 word essay “Here is New York” said it best:

There are roughly 3 New York’s. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size, its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter--the city that is devoured by the locust each day and spat out each night. Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something...Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion.

That passion is unrelenting from those of us who still wake with an unknown, who still yearn for more, who still wonder aloud, and who still seek to do better. 

            We complain about money and development, about change, and about the train that never comes.  But we live here.  And aside from the fare increases and the litter, we love it.

            The bars that become regular and the diners where the coffee is endless are there simply because they belong.  The meetings that never end because of people with new ideas and the passion that brought them here still burns.  It's not something that should ever be slowed or stopped.  

            Tolerance is a word that’s abused.  Acceptance is better, because it is inclusive.  New York strives to be inclusive. 

I really can’t imagine being anywhere else.