Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Garden of Song: 'Autumn in New York'





            Billie Holiday sang "Autumn in New York," a semi-sweet lyric with a great first line: "Autumn in New York, why does it seem so inviting?"
            Some other memorable lines from the song:
"It's autumn in New York that brings the promise of new love
Autumn in New York is often mingled with pain
Dreamers with empty hands, may sigh for exotic lands..."

            We paid an autumn visit to New York last week.
            Here are some impressions of a few action-packed days -- also traffic-packed, parking-challenged, debate-filled, city-stimulating days -- which I may characterize as the
 good, the bad, and the spectacular.
            I'll start with the worst: Do not drive to New York City at the end of the Columbus Day weekend. Attempting to do so yields those moments (and hours) when the ego shrieks inside, "Never Do this again!"
            This is s probably a big "not to do" at the end of any three-day weekend. (Maybe not at the beginning either.) Anne and I have in earlier years discovered that both Thanksgiving and Christmas mornings are great times to drive from Boston to New York City, before anybody is on the road to Grandma's house for a holiday feast. (Except us.) Late afternoon on Columbus Monday, however, must be the pits. It makes you want to change the name to Indigenous Americans Day and prohibit all travel by any vehicle not available before 1492.
            Since we had been on vacation all week because of the visit by our daughter and her boyfriend, the end of the three-day weekend somehow escaped me. "Stupid!" I said, pounding my head on the steering wheel as we slogged through the third (or was it fourth?) hour of the Connecticut Turnpike.
            OK, we make it, but things get, in their peculiarly Big Apple way, worse later that night -- it gets late soon, unhappily, after all those hours on the road -- when we try to park at our Airnb "accommodation" (hostel? room? ad hoc B'n'B?).  To take the crowding load off the grandparents'  townhouse we had decided on this debut initiative.
            On the scale of good, bad or horrendous, I would describe the experience as "OK." If you plan to arrive at your destination with no other need than to put your head on the pillow, Airnb is probably more than all right. If the arrangement offers convenience at a reasonable cost, what more to do you want out of a sleeping place? Our room was fine, it offered superior window view over the northern tip of the Bronx, and our hosts couldn't have been kinder.
            But they could not however provide us a parking space. If you need to park a private vehicle on the streets of New York City, what you are likely to experience is endless driving, or crawling along residential side streets, eyeballing how close you are to that hydrant, or this driveway, and deciding almost always you're too close for parking. So we give up and head for the parking garage only to discover it closes at 11 p.m. and we are now gated out. In the end, following our host's reluctant suggestion, we park on a leafy corner next to a partially obscured "no parking" sign (see photo above).
            In the morning (early) Anne is greeted by a summons from the killer New York parking gestapo.
            In that same "safe," "desirable" residential neighborhood, now on foot, we encounter the barking-cop voice at the traffic signal's walk light. When the light is red a recorded voice shouts an angry-rude New Yorker "Wait!" "Wait!" every ten seconds or so, reducing an otherwise peaceful public space to a crowded hallway of unruly first graders. Is this what keeping the peace has come to in "fun city"? City buses also have recordings where a male cop voice shouts "no"-this and "no"-that a half dozen times at every stop.
            On the other hand, the buses run regularly enough to be useful (more than you say for most other cities). 
            Well, of course, lots of good to report as well.
            Autumn in New York is beautiful, in part because any threat of a sweltering, humid, urban-jungle weather day is now likely past. You can walk around comfortably and enjoy the urban texture of mid-town, townhouses with expertly wedged landscaping and floral color, leaves turning, the dense and varied street scape,
the dramatic skyline, and the nonstop diversion of a lively parade of humanity down every avenue.
            We walked along Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and eventually made our way up to the newly opened Roof Garden... where the views are, simply, exhilarating (top three photos). This was the spectacular part of the day. As the song says, unexpected pleasures of "Autumn in New York" such as these make you feel good to be alive.
            We'll leave the last lines to Billie:

"Its autumn in New York, its good to live it again.
Autumn in New York, the gleaming rooftops at sundown
Autumn in New York, it lifts you up when you're run down
...
Autumn in New York, you'll need no castle in Spain
Lovers that bless the dark on benches in Central Park
Greet autumn in New York, its good to live it again."