Making the move

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Sunset, Hudson River. 8:30 PM. Photo: JH.

Monday, June 24, 2024. It’s very hot here in the City with the temps in the upper 90s on a sort of cloudy Sunday mid-afternoon. I had to take the dogs out, and so we took our regular route down to the riverside. I have two males and a female, so it’s a multi sniff-and-lift-a-leg jaunt for the two boys.

It all starts with Rosemary dog, aka Madam.

Only once for Madam, however, who otherwise has her own route and time. She often likes to stop and sit mid-walk. So she does. Just stops and sits. Which means everyone else has to too. Even in this heat and at the riverside (where there actually is a soft, abeit, breeze). Not cool, but not hotter. Nice. The boys are used to her stopping, and can sniff longer in one spot. I’m not. Although I am customarily annoyed. Doesn’t last on any count, however.

It’s not really a long walk on a Summer day like today — because of the heat (which is not to be confused with “warm).” This is oven-time, Sun or clouds. Our regular route is the avenue to Gracie Square to the John Finley Walk (riverside) south along the riverside to 83rd Street with the Brearley School on the south corner on the riverside, and 10 Gracie Square’s south exit on the north corner.

Then up the block to the Avenue. By that time the sniffin’ and the dumpin’ have been satisfied and “treats” await their return to our shelter.

Meanwhile, down by the river.

Halfway through the new year, we’re now looking at Summer coming in. For years, June is the beginning of the haven in our adult lives.  It was when schools let out, and depending on your age, you were looking forward to its gifts — like swimming, traveling, outdoor sports, outdoor parties.

The official social activities — fundraisers — mainly quiet down, and New Yorkers who can, head out to beaches and the mountains seeking leisure activities, as well as the official stuff.

As a grownup you remember a lot of things about the season. This morning looking through my personal diary notes, I found a letter of response that I had written to a longtime reader asking me about my moving from Los Angeles to New York (which occurred in late 1992). I don’t recall or have record of the reader’s specific interest but my response should clarify it.

The letter:  


I do recall those times in L.A. I was not a native. I moved there from New York when I was 37 to commit myself to a career as a writer. I got my first introductions to Los Angeles and Hollywood under auspicious terms and circumstances, and that, along with Nathanael West’s The Day of the Locust, persuaded me to make the move.

I had several dogs during the time I lived out in Los Angeles. Three of them returned to New York with me and lived out their final years here, including Rum Rum, pictured here.

I loved it out there. I never loved any place I’ve lived in my life more than LA.  It was an extraordinary environment to live and work in and it dripped of modern history all around. I was forced economically to come back to New York in ‘92 and the conditions were so meager that if they didn’t work out (the contact I’d signed to write a book for someone) I wouldn’t have enough to go back to LA. I cried, literally, when I knew I was leaving because I loved that place so much.

So when I got back to New York, I also serendipitously fell into an assignment that turned into an entire career as a social whatever-you-want-to-call-it. History is my interest, what I am drawn to, like a magnet, and it’s all only to grasp something about ourselves as creatures in a community and a life.

When I was first back in the city I couldn’t stand the noise, the rush, the running to catch everything. I forced myself to look for beauty knowing it could never match Southern California (or Northern for that matter). I did that to clear my mind and accept my fate of the moment. As it happened it was all a good thing.

However, it is also true, apart from my now advanced age, that New York has changed, and most noticeably over the past eight or ten years. And the changes continue to intensify. The manner, the mode of living among those who are very rich is not the only culprit although it contributes to it (New York has become unaffordable for ordinary working people — this is a FIRST in the history of the city. Even Brooklyn has become unaffordable).

The culprit is sociological. The cell phone is the central element in our day to day behavior. People are entirely distracted and often placing themselves or somebody else in harm’s way (or death!) while devoted to this little device. “Hi! Whatcha doin’?” (CRASH!!) This behavior and techno-socio transfixation has changed everything for us. Everywhere. It is rarely glamorous these days. Not that it has to be, but the New York that you celebrate in your imagination and experience ain’t there anymore.

Blair Sabol wrote about the city a few weeks ago on the site. She called it. It’s odd and off-putting. I tend to think it’s just another aspect of our deterioration as a society and a community. To me it’s tragic, to my business partner Mr. Hirsch who is half my age and in the midst of a new life as a married man and anticipating fatherhood, it is just The Way It Is and has to be accommodated in some way.

I understand that. But in the meantime, the world we’re looking at here in New York is growing more challenging for everyone and in no small part because our society is making some kind of major shift. You can see the evidence on the street, in New York. And because the last mayor closed many lanes, making main thoroughfares narrower (he closed blocks of Broadway north of Times Square), and the bicyclists now have them available all over town. And those riders who do not follow any rules, having native instincts of entitlement which evidently renders rules unnecessary –for them, are all over the place.

The roadways are jammed and a very real hazardous threat to the pedestrian. And there are more people here including many more tourists — who can still be spotted as looking like outta-towners.

What I attempt to do for the Diary is to show some good human efforts and accommodate a lot of the charities who do good things (mostly) for the people of New York and the world. Because that is New York too, and in some ways more than ever – which is most important for all of us.

The benefit gala (black tie, etc.) is probably fading because it’s been done to death. They’ll still need to raise funds for their projects and philanthropies to help our neighbors. There will be changes made to accommodate the newly rich who aren’t into the “old ways” and prefer walking around off-hours in a super-casual, even teenage way. This will all change and reorganize but at this moment, it’s all about the crowds (and the madness thereof).

Nevertheless, I should add that having left LA behind and my living there to the fates, I have in this “second” go-round looked for and discovered the wonders of this city with its vast and vastly varied populations, the real melting pot of tomorrow’s generation. Plus the especial access to people for whatever reason, business, social, fandom —  is extraordinary because so many are interesting, talented, and … accessible.

Other than that, we have a very nice Friday afternoon out here where the day reminds me of LA on any good day — 70s, slight breeze that adds an occasional frisson and very quiet in my neighborhood by the park on the River on East End Avenue. So now you know. And many thanks for your readership all these years.

Ed.’s note: the last paragraph obviously refers to Frank’s letter which was delivered on this month of June seven years ago …

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