Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Rainy Day

Sometimes the rain is silver. It happens every so often when spring has grown old, but her quick leap from immaturity to adulthood went by unnoticed until one morning you wake up under your blankets, damp and disgusting from the sweat that has snuck up on you, and the next few seconds are a mighty battle to release your limbs from the mess of linen tangles. Upon freeing yourself, you immediately bind up your hair in an awkward knot to keep it off of your nearly feverish neck. Neglecting your slippers, you stumble into the kitchen, and the draft in the hallway and the cool linoleum that kisses the bottoms of your bare feet are suddenly blessings, ignored at best, despised at worst through the dragging winter months. Out of habit you fill the kettle and light the burner, and though you are aware of the irrationality of consuming anything hot, the taste and familiarity of the tea trumps the oppressiveness of the heat, and you pour your cup in defiance of all things rational.

Then the thunderstorms begin, and the day is dark and gray, and the patches of brown earth in the city landscape become verdant sponges, and you glance out at the sidewalks and see a man in a baseball cap, swaggering along with just a T-shirt and jeans to protect him from the deluge that is cascading from the sky.

The day wanes on as you sit and stare at your computer screen, knowing that you have something to accomplish but forgetting what exactly, and the thunder growls, and the draft in the hallway angrily slams shut the bedroom doors and throws the stack of newspapers and bills on the kitchen table into turmoil. You snap your laptop closed and, ignoring the mess of papers on the floor, you rush to the window, puddles of seemingly infinite depth now forming in the potholes of the street and in the uneven spots of the sidewalk where one slab of concrete has rippled higher than another at the permeating force of great tree roots. Tree branches sag with the out-pouring of the sky, their leaves now a striking shade of green, and as the water rapidly pools and collects on them, spilling off in drops even thicker than before and plummeting nobly to the ground, you feel the corners of your mouth rise, slightly, slowly, your eyes widen and grow brighter, and soon the thongs of your flip-flops are nestled between your toes, and you pull open the front door, clutching the metal knob in your hand as a gust of humid air, saturated with the scent of wet pavement, wet dirt, wet cars, wet everything, greets you and lures you out into the wetness. Now you are covered, refreshed in the heavenly bath, clothes heavy and sagging like the branches of the tree. You look up and see a break in the blanket of clouds above, and streams of filtered sunlight mingle with the water, and the orange of the sun and the gray of the atmosphere blend together in a visual harmony of hues, and the edges of the clouds are fringed with platinum, and the brick of the buildings is infused with gold, and the rain, as it rushes down from exalted places and coats the earth below, is silver.

May in the City

There is something so romantic about walking through the city on a warm, blustery day in May, with your shoulder bag lightly thumping against your leg and loose strands of your hair teasing your face, having unleashed their long pent-up energy. Due to the wind rushing through the screen in your bedroom this morning, throwing about your gauzy white curtains in mad and wild raptures, and due as well to the thick gray blanket of cloud that has rolled itself out between sun and earth, it is a day that you expected to carry with it a certain chill, and so you layered yourself in a light jacket before heading out, uncertain if that even would be enough. But now, as you walk up and down the busy avenues, you pause and step to the side, not wishing to invoke the important fury of the tourists and businessfolk and homeless people around you, and you gladly free youself of your jacket, peeling it off and slinging it over one arm. There is a humidity in the air, and the balmy breeze evokes a sense of excitement and mystery, and the gothic buildings, only just speckled throughout the city, are now accentuated and seem to have multiplied, and the presence of their dark facades seems to spill onto the streets a sense of foreboding – delightful foreboding – romantic foreboding, with those tourists and businessfolk and homeless people apparently oblivious, rushing about with their briefcases, plummeting through intersections at red lights as cars and buses hurtle towards them, or lolling about with heads tilted upwards, bumping into each other and stopping in the middle of the sidewalk to raise a fancy black telescopic lens to their eye. Oblivious they may be, but they are part of the scene, clopping along at an amazing rate in heels that cannot be classified as “high” but rather monumental, sitting on the corner and rattling a coffee cup with a thin layer of change at the bottom, chatting away animatedly on a cell phone in languages you should have been able to understand if you had retained anything from school, arguing with each other in languages you never knew existed, nursing $5.00 cups of coffee, swinging monstrous bags that read “Saks” and “Macy’s,” calling to their beaming children who stumble along with monstrous boxes that read “Build-A-Bear.” And you are part of the scene too, and you wonder if anyone observes your actions as you wander into the park with your romantic cup of tea and your romantic apple with the sticker still on it, and, either ignoring the mild spitting of the sky or welcoming it as another bit of romance, you select a table and chair and pull out your journal and begin to write.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

A Manhattan New Year's Eve

“Our goal is to get on TV,” we decided as my two visiting friends and I emerged from the mouth of the subway station and burst forth into Times Square on the morning of December 31. Though the streets and sidewalks were not yet jammed with the adrenaline-high New Year’s tourists hoping to get as close a glimpse as possible to the legendary falling ball, there were certainly glimpses of what was to come. Little groups here and there had already begun setting up camp in choice spots throughout the square, armed with snacks, beverages, blankets, and, as I found out later from a fellow subway passenger’s newspaper, adult diapers. Just about every which way we turned there were reporters from news shows both big and obscure, and soon enough we came across a man with a CNN-marked camera and a woman, who may or may not have looked familiar, holding a microphone and preparing to be filmed. Coolly, casually (we didn’t want to look desperate or anything), we wandered into the path of the video camera, only to be immediately obstructed by some rather more obvious TV hopefuls who began jumping about and screaming as soon as the reporter woman began her report. We stayed calm, resisting even the desire to pull out our tacky 2008 flashing glasses. Instead, we smiled timidly in the direction of the camera, gave a little wave or two, and hid behind the jumping screamers.

Leaving Times Square, we set off to further explore the city. I was the tour guide, a role which few people who know me may completely trust me with, but as these two particular friends of mine happen to be about as laid-back as I am, not to mention that they really had little choice in the matter, we all accepted my position with sufficient approval.

I had been in the big Macy’s store just last week with my parents during their Christmas visit (we had been quite surprised then at the excessive number of levels that Macy’s has), and as two of our current party needed a post office, Macy’s was the logical place to go. It would also have been the logical place to go if we had needed new wigs. Plus, I wanted to show my visitors the quaint, old-fashioned escalators. So, in we went, and then up, up, past the arm-and-leg-priced fur coats and the trendy accessories, past the children’s area with a whole section devoted to “High School Musical,” up to the top floor and the post office, and then down, down past the signs for various eating establishments located within the store, down to the ground floor where, our business accomplished, we promptly exited the largest store in the world.

On something of an afterthought, I led us into Bryant Park. I knew that the charming little Christmas booths were gone, but we were passing by anyway so in we went. The large Christmas tree in Bryant Park was a gift from Canada, and I recalled and shared that little fact when we noticed two Canadian Mounties standing in front of the tree and taking pictures with various tourists. As we stood admiring the tree and talking about Canada, a man with a Polaroid camera approached us and asked if we wanted our pictures taken with the Mounties! Few could resist such an offer. Thus we each wound up with a nice souvenir of Bryant Park and its friendly visitors from up north.

We wanted to see the Plaza Hotel up by the southern end of Central Park, and we were to pass by Trump Tower on our way. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that an average citizen could actually enter Trump Tower, but when one of my friends suggested it, in we went. While inside, we occupied ourselves with going up the escalators as far as they could take us, and then going back down again. Unlike Macy’s, there were no old-fashioned escalators, but, also unlike Macy’s, there was a rather cleverly designed waterfall flowing down an inside wall of the building. Though we would have liked to have seen Bill, from the first season of “The Apprentice,” back when people watched it, our visit to Trump Tower was not the disappointment that our visit to the Plaza Hotel turned out to be. Alas, the latter was closed for renovations, and we couldn’t go in.

We decided to walk through Central Park to get to a subway station on the southwestern side of it, and I found again, as I have found before, the juxtaposition of bold city skyscrapers and calming park trees a most intriguing visual arrangement. After traversing the park, we took the subway downtown, intending to visit the site of the World Trade Center, and, as we exited the subway station, I made full use of my innate sense of direction as well as my expert map-reading skills to lead us in exactly the opposite direction from which we originally wanted to go. I realized things were not going as planned when we found ourselves at the edge of the Fulton Fish Market, but by that time the lure of the quaint and picturesque wharf, as well as that of a woman throwing flaming torches into the air, was too much, and we continued on our eastward walk, pausing to snap a few shots of said fire-juggler.

I had been to this area once before, a few months earlier, in the heat of a late summer’s day while I, at my brother’s encouragement, stepped out in almost unprecedented boldness and independence to explore Manhattan by myself. Though the Fish Market had made an impression on me back then, it was nothing compared to what my friends and I now saw, as the sun dipped down, hesitantly approaching the horizon, casting its late afternoon brilliance upon the harbored ships and dockside buildings as they in turn threw their shadows far behind them. And there was Brooklyn just beyond the water, and that great bridge, stoic and silent, coolly illuminated by that falling winter sun. We lingered there, glad for the mistake that led us east instead of west. As we reluctantly left to head south, we noted with appropriate amusement a lit Christmas tree, hoisted high and tied up in the ropes of an old-fashioned ship.

Our next stop was Battery Park, and we walked all the way down, which wasn’t too far, except that at this point we were sufficiently tired, and that led to giddiness. So the tiredness and giddiness, coupled with the ridiculously strong, icy wind that had just begun, understandably made the walk a little bit more laborious than perhaps it might have been otherwise. On the way, we saw a helicopter land, and, our imaginations taking hold of us, we decided that surely someone famous, perhaps Hannah Montana her very own self, was disembarking from that helicopter and heading to Times Square to perform. Our visions were shattered when we drew closer to the landing site and saw a sign that read “Helicopter Tours.” Oh well.

We reached Battery Park and were again duly impressed with the beauty graced upon the scene by the sinking sun. Perhaps a little too impressed, because, after taking myriad photos of the silhouetted Statue of Liberty, trying to capture it as best as I could, I had the rather uncomfortable sensation of fried eyes.

My tour guide skills were again tested as I led us in circles around the park, attempting to find the subway station, which turned out to be exactly where I thought it wasn’t, and we eventually wound our way up to Rockefeller Center where we, ornamented with our previously mentioned tacky 2008 flashing glasses, got in a very slight bit of trouble by a police officer because we were sitting against a wall and eating cheesecake. He seemed reluctant to chastise us for sitting there, and we were happy to oblige him and eat our cheesecake standing.

It was somewhere near 7pm, and we, being the wild and crazy kind of girls that we are, unanimously voted to go home. We spent the rest of the night eating (stir-fry, cheese and crackers, cookies), drinking (sparkling grape juice, tea), watching Dick Clark’s show on TV, and laughing at nothing in giddy exhaustion.