Madison Park After Dark
Last night I was supposed to leave early (read “on time”) to meet a friend at a bar halfway home to talk shop and real estate. But her plans changed and she ended up stuck at the office until 7. So I took the opportunity to get some extra work done and instead we colonized a pizza place down the street from the office.
After dinner, I decided to walk home. It was a beautiful spring evening, windy but not too cold. By the time I hit Madison Square Park it had dawned on me how much more pleasant it is to walk home at 8:30 than at 6:30. Those left in the park were no longer making a beeline to anywhere. The playground was packed. The dog park was full of pups and their owners chatting and barking away. Near the fountain, a fiddle player, mandolinist, and a couple of guitarists were standing in a tight quartet, facing each other and playing and singing an old song I knew. I walked by smiling and nearly ran into a man walking up the path on his cell phone. He was wearing beautiful shoes and dress pants, a crisp white shirt with the sleeves rolled up neatly, and an immaculate white apron that came nearly to the ground. He appeared to be carrying a small leather folder, like the kind your restaurant check might arrive in. I can only imagine what he was doing in the middle of the park at night with somebody’s bill. He was too well dressed for the Shake Shake. I stay clear of the Shake Shake when I walk in the evening, on account of the crowds around it, but I like the way it pulls people to the park. People are draped over benches talking and laughing. A couple stops to ask a young woman about her dog. A pregnant woman and her husband push a cranky toddler in a stroller around and around the fountain. “I know that routine,” I think, as the toddler starts to nod off and the parents start to relax. The foot traffic thins on the other side of the park. I pick a new street in Chelsea to try and it turns out to be swanky — an elegant bar, a Japanese housewares store so orderly that I am nearly afraid to breathe as I pass, a store that sells nothing but white furniture.
Closer to home, the crowds pile in. 8th Avenue is full of people wandering in and out of restaurants and bars, of bicyclists delivering things, people stopping to talk or shop. I think about how deserted my small Illinois town is on a Wednesday night at 8:30. It’s busier here at night than it is when I head to work in the morning.
By the time I get home, the bandage on my left heel has slipped and there’s a slow trickle of blood down my ankle. My feet are the perennial casualties of this city, which encourages exploration by foot. I get blisters every other week. Every other week I recover. I’m not sure what happens to this plan once I move here.