I stand on our balcony and look down. Two boys are hard at work.
The balcony is on a pier on the river. It’s a bright blue day with the glowing Manhattan skyline spread out on one side. The Verrazano-Narrows bridge is strung like a pencil sketch on a bright blue canvas on the other side with little beads glinting in the sun at the base that are really cars passing from Staten Island to Brooklyn on this sunny day.
The magnificence of the skyline and the slowly moving glinting dots on the precariously strung bridge, seen from this distance, seem like evidence of both the grandeur of human civilization and human hubris to a casual observer.
Straight down below me is a narrow strip that goes all around the apartment building filled with mulch and motley stones and bits and pieces of what look like wood shavings. This is soil for the transplanted shrubs meant to take root here and make this building beautiful.
Every season I see the gardeners come by and uproot them and replant the strip with other plants more suitable for the season.
This isn’t a place where plants, not in the season of their bounty, can lie dormant until next spring when they bring out a new green shoot. Hardworking gardeners with electrically operated machinery periodically tear them out, level the ground and replant the plots with new plants that have been grown from seed elsewhere to beautify this place.
Transplanted plants are perhaps eagerly sent here because their beauty matches the beauty of this place, some perhaps carefully bred for this very reason.
This area is beautiful. Signs on placards all around advertise that it is ten minutes from Manhattan’s financial district. Pictures on the walls of the lobby depict men and women suitably dressed enjoying a drink against the magnificent view of the river and the skyline–smiling neither too much, nor too little–just enough.
It is late afternoon and the boys keep criss-crossing the strip of concrete that covers the boardwalk. The mulch borders one side and the railing on the river’s edge borders the other side of the strip. They pick a stone each very carefully (or maybe a wood shaving) from this makeshift soil, walk or run across the strip of hard ground and throw it in with all their might into the river across the railing.
Continue reading Boys will be boys
The sky lit up with a million iridescent fragments last night lighting up the dark surface of the Hudson and the hundreds of boats that had gathered there to watch the July 4th fireworks in reddish, whitish and bluish hues. There were crowds all along the edges of the water, on the piers facing Manhattan from the Jersey side, on the boardwalks and on the tops of buildings. Continue reading Magic spaces in a globalized world
I was watching some very young kids playing on a pier next to the Hudson on the Jersey side a couple of evenings ago. Summer evenings are great for watching people in a place usually as cold as it is here all year round. The air was balmy and the mood pleasantly mellow.
One tiny person toddled over and stopped right in front of me and just stared for several minutes. At that age, the world is full of amazing wonders. It looked like s/he would like to say something but didn’t quite have the words for it yet. Another kid, barely older, followed this one to see what was up. This second one had the confident air of command. “Say hi,” ordered the second to the first. “Ba ba” was the response and they both dawdled along to more important work.
Continue reading Trapped characters at dusk
I’m sitting at a coffee shop today and a girl walks in. It’s the kind of coffee shop in Manhattan that is only meant for coffee and food. There’s hardly any place to sit. Yet, I’ve been lucky enough to perch myself at the only ledge with some bar stools against the glass overlooking the street. People are walking along the sidewalk almost brushing my nose at breakneck speed just beyond the glass. It’s not very far from several train stations. Continue reading Meeting of no significance
Today was rainy but it’s Summer at last in the city. Days are longer, people are less huddled on the streets and the buildings of Manhattan get to show themselves off dazzling those who have the leisure to look up.
Yesterday we thought it would snow. The sky turned as gray as slate, the sunlight dimmed, the ducks took shelter under the piers, the water of the river looked like a solid mass.
In short, life seemed like the cloud before the silver lining except that the silver lining never really came. No snow really happened.
A little bit of solid snow fell from the sky which you could spot if you looked carefully at a dark patch. The little snow was blown around helter-skelter in a way that you could tell it wasn’t rainwater. Enough to check off the list of some earnest young holiday tourist in these parts who could say seen snow in NYC–check on his notebook.
Continue reading Holiday lights in Manhattan