“The wanderer in Manhattan must go forth with a certain innocence, because New York is best seen with innocent eyes. It doesn't matter if you are younger or old. Reading our rich history makes the experience more layered, but it is not a substitute for walking the streets themselves. For old-timer or newcomer, it is essential to absorb the city as it is now in order to shape your own nostalgias.”
–Pete Hamill, Downtown: My Manhattan
Walking past Chelsea Park I come upon a dragonfly on the sidewalk. The translucent wings shimmer in the sunlight. It is a great blue darter. Or, rather it was. All speed and agility and yet, lying motionless on the sidewalk. Just remember death is not the end.
A girl shouts. The children are playing football today. The two teams are composed mostly of girls and a few boys. It is interesting how in USA football is a girl’s game at the junior level. As is hockey, the one played on artificial grass.
Hockey always reminds me of K. Super-talented K: a hockey player, singer-guitarist, and poet; possessing other talents that I am sure I am unaware of. Most recently we met at a French bistro in West Village. The second act to take the stage was a trio– two young women and a young man each with a guitar and the gift of a golden voice. “Perhaps one day we’ll be watching you”, we said as we paid the check and hurried towards our dinner date. The act had only sung one song. Yes, I did wonder what it must be like to watch people leave while you sing so sublimely.
Which naturally brings to mind the tender, melancholy of ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’– ‘Fare thee well, O Honey, fare thee well’.
They are serving two kinds of soup. A steady stream of people, many pushing carts filled with all their worldly possessions, come up to the table and then walk away slowly sipping from plastic cups held tight between two hands. For a few moments the carts and the burdens they carry are forgotten on the wayside. A couple of young men their eyes red from lack of sleep, hair in disarray too pick up a cup. They aren’t homeless. It is the economy, stupid.
An old man is talking while two young women with blue clipboards are jotting down notes. Someone laughs. The sky is clear blue. A man walking his pug goes whistling by. For an instant this could have been a picnic in the park, but it isn’t.
We had decided to meet at a street corner. It is only fitting as for years that is how it has been. Always meeting at places where two paths converge. Where the paths began was immaterial. What mattered was where they met and where they went on from there.
Walking back home, a flash of red and yellow in a window catches my eye and I walk right in, into a gallery in Soho. The exhibition is titled "Miro–Calder". A lifelong friendship formed in Paris and continued across continents consisting of lots of exchanged letters and postcards with playful drawings but not a word on the art movement, or about what they were working on.
Perhaps the reason why their friendship stood the test of time.
On 7th Avenue an elegantly dressed woman wearing dark glasses, probably in her late 60’s seems to snap out of her reverie. She looks up, spots me and smiles. I am not quite sure she smiled at me even though at that moment no one else was walking behind me.
On 16th street I climb up the stairs of High Line Park. I know it is a bad idea. Two lines in single file are crawling slowly in opposite directions. Most are tourists. The rhythm is altered. Most faces wear a familiar expression– you know how it is, we’ve all been tourists at some point in time. Many seem to be placing this city before their eyes over the one reproduced countless times in pages of books and on our screens. Some in the abandonment that comes from being a stranger in a strange city for a short time, openly stop and stare inside apartments rising up on both sides of the park. Curiosity is insatiable; especially when one is standing before something one felt certain one knew well since forever.
Stuck in pedestrian traffic, unable to maintain my regular pace I surrender to the inevitable.
The windows of the building on the east end of the street are burnished in gold. The sun is rising in New Delhi.