8 million stories in the naked city
I arrived a little earlier than usual on the last week of my year of travelling prolifically. Wednesday is the first anniversary of my first day on the job. Life is pretty different now than it was a year ago. It’s hard to get my head around it.
And with luck, it’s not just the last week of the year of travel. With luck, it may be my last solo New York trip. If all goes well with inspections this week, we have sold our house, effective about a month from now. We are in a mad panic, trying to find a school for AJ, a place to live, and trying to figure out how to get rid of about half of our stuff. It’s daunting and I will be working from home for the duration, although we’ll be back out here to do some research in a couple of weeks.
So this may be my last week in the West Village apartment and I’m determined to enjoy it. I spent a lot of time outside today. I got sidetracked on the way to buy groceries by a street fair on Eighth Avenue, wandering up through Chelsea before heading back to my favorite market where I bought this cheese:
Megadeth doesn’t really seem like cheddar to me. I’m not sure what I’d prefer. Swiss? Gorgonzola? A nice goat? My purchase of this cheese was the result of the following conversation with the cheese man, who looks like he might have been friends with Jerry Garcia and who smells of weed.
“Can I help you find anything?”
“I’m not sure. I’d like to try something I haven’t had before. Do you have anything to recommend?”
“That’s pretty hard since I don’t know what you’ve tried before.”
“Good point. The problem is, I only remember the cheeses by their song lyrics.”
He grinned. “You like a sharp cheddar? Really sharp? Here, look at this.” He came out from behind the counter and led me over to a pile of orange cheeses. “It’s so sharp it’s crazy. It crumbles when you cut it, but man, it’s good.” I dropped a piece in my basket, the first time I have ever bought cheese in that market based on something besides the quote on the label.
I took a more direct route home, as I was piled high with produce. Grocery shopping is definitely not as convenient without a car. But shopping here is a lot more fun. I might not mind going a few times a week.
After I put the groceries away and cooled off, I headed back out. My plan was to hit the High Line, which begins only a few blocks from the apartment. I hiked toward the river and climbed the stairs and was met with a sea of people, mostly tourists. I soldiered on as far as the first bridge, where a man in a white dinner jacket was playing the Bach Cello suites. I stood and listened for a while and then turned back. It was too crowded to be enjoyable and I was forever wandering into someone else’s photograph.
Back on the street, I headed instead for the Hudson River Greenway, the park along the river. It was a beautiful night, the cooling of a warm summer day with breezes off the river. The sun was beginning to set on the opposite side. I headed toward the southern tip of Manhattan, thinking I’d walk to Ground Zero. But as I approached, I got sidetracked, first by children on an imaginative playground on a small pier, then by all the people sitting on benches overlooking the river. They were sitting alone and in pairs, reading books and newspapers, drinking coffee, watching the sunset. There were people kissing and holding hands, people fingering chords on guitars, people lying on blankets on the grass, propping their heads up on each other’s bellies. I followed a couple of indeterminate age — somewhere between 60 and 70 maybe, but in incredible shape. You could see exactly what they looked like when they were twenty and they still moved that way. The woman, who was wearing a purple t-shirt, a pale green skirt and red tennis shoes (a combination that somehow worked) was almost dancing around the man, in a fitted black t-shirt and grey pants, as she talked. I passed them and turned onto the pier at 10th st, which, unlike the rest of them, doesn’t seem to have a number. This pier is park. There is grass in the middle and some enormous plastic blobs painted red with white spots to look like toadstools. Every blob was spoken for. Some leaned against them reading, others sat on top. One woman sat cross-legged bouncing a white ball off her head over and over again until it fell off. Then she’d pick it up and do it again. Two children climbed their blob and rode it like a horse. A man stood among the blobs teaching a friend tai chi, their arms moving slowly and gracefully in the evening breeze. I continued down the pier, stopping to take a picture of the towers rising from Ground Zero:
And Lady Liberty, who looks rather small (and blurry) from here, but is still impressive, maybe because I can’t quite believe I share the same river with her:
As I walked down the pier, I began to hear music. I couldn’t quite place the sound, so I kept walking. At the very end of the pier is a structure that looks a more permanent version of a tent, with a white peaked roof and open sides. Under the tent, dozens of couples were dancing to vintage flamenco music as the sun set behind them. The whirling couples, the music, the beautiful sunset took my breath away.
I stood there for a long time and watched. It was so magical that I couldn’t tear myself away.
But eventually, I noticed the sun was going down. It was time to head back. I walked down the other side of the pier from which you have a nice view of the city, including the Empire State Building.
I’ve spent all week worrying about how things will work when we are all in this new city. How will we handle the logistics. Things are so easy in the suburbs. This, though, is why I am here. Because there is magic everywhere if you only open your eyes and pay attention. I wonder why anyone in New York ever goes to the movies.
And the cheese? It was delicious.