Monday, June 22, 2020. The first day of Summer. Also the summer solstice: when the Sun is on the longest path across the sky, giving that particular day the most daylight in terms of hours and minutes.
Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day in New York with the temps rising to 88 and the humidity putting another 8 degrees on top of that. The skies above looked as if the Master of the Clouds was sketching across the blue.
I don’t know the lady on the bench reading a book, accompanied by her dog. She looks like she’s “relaxing” on the avenue, with her boots off, resting her feet, and what looks like some lemonade, and four bags. You can see from her costume and her four smart-looking bags (and her doggie) that she’s a rather elegant-looking woman, maybe once a fashion editor. And then, why is she relaxing there on a stone bench in front of a church on Fifth Avenue, and not at home…? Maybe she’s waiting for someone to pick her up and take her out of town for the weekend. In New York these days, another question arises no matter the costume, or gender: does she and the pup have a home of their own?
A good friend of mine who has been under lockdown — so to speak — in the desert of Southern California, called yesterday to ask how’re things over here in Noo Yawk. She’d heard it was pretty bad and the city looked terrible.
I’d heard those reports from others outside of New York over the past few weeks. Is that because the visual media is making that claim? I dunno; I don’t watch television. Well, I told my friend calling from LA, New York doesn’t look terrible at all. If anything it’s been looking like it was instantly abandoned leaving nothing but empty business buildings on empty streets and avenues and few cars on the road.
In fact, however, JH sent me these photos for the Diary and there’s the story on a weekend afternoon in New York on the first day of Summer.
An activity: going to the market. Late Saturday afternoon around 5 p.m. I went over to Citarella on Third Avenue and 75th Street to pick up something for dinner. There’s a wait in line to get in as they keep the place geared to social distancing. At the storefront, people in line were separated by six feet or so — as is the norm.
When I exited about 5:30, a massive stream of people on bicycles were peddling up Third Avenue heading north, covering the entire roadway and in numbers stretching back five or six city blocks. Hundreds, and then thousands of cyclists. And moving at a healthy speed. Many were holding small cardboard signs. Black Lives Matter.
I had to wait eight minutes before I could safely walk to the other side. It was interesting to watch. This was a trip of pleasure; you could see it on every cyclist’s face. Of the thousands, there were recognizably few faces of color, and mainly people who looked maybe 45 or under. They were all very sturdy cyclists enjoying the perfect weather, the open five lane road on the Upper East Side, and a project they believed in. Unfortunately it was the one time that I didn’t have my camera handy because it was a spectacular sight, added to it by the speed.
And right after I finished typing that last paragraph, coincidentally, I could hear voices shouting in the near distance to the north. Protesters? It was after 8 p.m. and I hadn’t heard them arrive or during their stay near Gracie mansion.
I went to the terrace and there, only two blocks away, carrying large orange signs (couldn’t make out the message), were about a hundred people, maybe less, again mainly younger (teens, twenties, thirties). They were marching down the avenue toward 79th Street; shouting slogans — again which I could not understand — until it was the distant almost rumble sound of human voices en mass, on an otherwise very quiet, still light Sunday evening in Manhattan on the first day of Summer.