Until today there has been no need to turn on the air conditioner other than the small one in the bedroom just before I turn in. And even that one I have kept on low. It provides a cooling white noise, which helps mask any city sounds that may make their way to the tenth floor of the apartment building.
It is summer in New York but I have been getting off easy weather-wise. I have been here when it was too hot to wear jewelry outside. My silver cuff bracelet absorbing heat and taking on the personality of a plugged in iron on the cotton setting; oh, the heat is coming, I know this. But once again today, I will be able to walk through the park after work and sit by the boat pond reading a new copy of The New Yorker.
The relative ease of the summer heat this year has allowed for many long walks with no particular destination in mind. The walk itself is the goal. I wear no headset or earphones. I don't text or talk on the phone. I am an observer of the city. It's the reason I come. Come so often that it feels as much like home as anywhere I have ever lived. I am made of glass and the city is the sea that bumps and rubs and with its friction shapes me. Turning me into something new and unexpected. Something I never was.
The other evening, walking on the Upper West Side to meet a friend for dinner, a woman fell right in front of me. A slender woman around 40 who, it appeared, only eats enough to keep from fainting. Not an uncommon look in the city. A small crowd surrounded her, asking if she needed a 911 call. She righted herself and that is when we saw the blood on her lip. She felt her mouth, then looked down at the sidewalk where her tooth had landed. A vendor left his rack of tie-dyed cotton skirts and brought her his folding chair. She took a seat, a stunned expression on her face. A police officer came over and placed his hand on her shoulder, asking if there was someone he could call. She seemed embarrassed by all of the attention, so as we each realized she was now in good hands, we continued on. I headed south, others north, east and west. But we had shared a moment.
Later that night while on the subway I stood hanging on to the pole, watching a group of young men out for the evening. At 59th Street a lovely, exotically made up young woman got on. Her eyes were made up like a feline. Her waist, tiny, was cinched and laced in black leather over a white blouse, her pants tight and black and her heels high. One of the young men, his cap on sideways, made his move. It looked like love. The clock was ticking. What was her stop? How much time might he have? By 77th Street he had her name and phone number and she slipped through the doors. His friends were impressed.
When I got off at 86th street a filthy, barefoot, homeless man was sleeping at the top of the stairs. A sign rested next to him. A cardboard cup in front of the sign had a few coins at the bottom. The sign read, "help me but don't wake me.”
Yesterday afternoon I hiked through the park and was about to cross Bow Bridge, one of the most graceful structures in the city it arches over the lake where slim boats are rowed by families or lovers or couples on first dates. A full on wedding was taking place on the bridge. Bride in fluffy white, flower girl in fluffy pink.
I paused for the "I dos" and the kiss, then continued on over. On my left, in the cool green water, a man tumbled out of his boat leaving his date sitting alone with a bottle of wine and two glasses and a picnic basket. He is obviously embarrassed as a crowd gathers. Camera phones are pointed at him from every direction. She grins at him, stands up in her summer dress, and joins him in the water. The crowd claps and the two of them dog-paddle the boat to shore.
I am asked all the time by my friends in California what it is that I like about the city. Do I see a lot of theater, they always want to know.
Well I do. But not always on Broadway or Off-Broadway or in the tiny downtown venues. I find it on my walks. Every day.
And it simply takes my breath away.