Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Summer in the City

Beach objects in Sagaponack. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011. Very warm summer day after the holiday weekend. City quiet, not surprisingly, as many are still away.

Summer in the City. Quite a few years ago, after we’d started the NYSD, I got into the habit of staying in town on summer weekends, just to take a break. In the last two summers, I never crossed a bridge but dwelt entirely in Manhattan.

I live in a perfect neighborhood for someone who wants to get away and stay home at the same time. It’s basically a “quiet” neighborhood for Manhattan because the Avenue is not a through street.
On the Upper West Side: Overlooking the Hudson River. 8:00 PM.
After dark, traffic slows to almost nothing. Out of the silence expressed in the soft and distant whirr of the city, you hear dogs, you hear children’s voices, you hear young people later at night, friends from the neighborhood meeting. You see people chatting on the sidewalks, on the corners, meeting departing. And then it’s quiet again. It has a smalltown-ness to it that is a relief.

On holiday weekends in the daytime lots of young families pass by on their way to the playgrounds in Carl Schurz. I have a terrace which I like not so much for its use but its accessibility. It’s my own private outdoors in the middle of the metropolis, my little garnish of LA living.
I like flowers and plants but my horticultural choices are dull; I know how little time I’m going to give it. Except the looking time. I just like to, every now and then, go stand in the doorway and look at the plants, trying to see if I can watch them grow.

The green leaves are beautiful. These are sweet potato plants and they are very popular in the city. They grow into soft and graceful vines that transform my sixty year old weatherbeaten terrace into a lovely little garden. At the end of the season, when it’s over I will pull four or five large sweet potatoes from the dirt.
Last Sunday afternoon about six-thirty I went down to the Promenade to watch the boats. I love this. I like to imagine how wonderful it is to be aboard, because I know it is. I chose that hour in the day because it is when many are returning to their berths and moorings after a day out on the water.

You can see the most amazing boats and ships in this channel, from tugboats to oil tankers to mega yachts to jet skis.

I stationed myself in one spot against the railing, across the Promenade from 10 Gracie Square with the intention of recording it with images.
My idea of the-answer-to-my-dreams luxury is a yacht, and down by the river I’m always on the lookout. This Sunday afternoon, however, I had a brief disappointment, just from looking north and south, that I wasn’t going to see anything to knock my socks off. It doesn’t matter; it’s Father Neptune’s passing parade no matter what, and it’s all interesting under the circumstances. What you see is the pure pleasure of being out there, no matter the transport.

Although the tugboats always remind me of that scene in Doctorow’s “Billy Bathgate” where the mobster’s legs are being planted in a tub of cement preparing him for his last swim. It was in this same river.

It was a beautiful evening, with the sunset on the other side of town, You can see by people on the various boats that the air is warm, although not humid. The Promenade itself had lots of people out for a stroll or a bike ride or walking the dogs or the babies. The whole family is present in one place or another. And, of course, lots of beautiful, loving dawgs. There are moments that are ideals. This was one of them.

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