In the morning the pigeons lined up on the street light like urban gargoyles watching from above. Yellow means slow down or excrement on your hood.
I went to work, emails and all. Here’s a spreadsheet, a memo, a post-it, a paper clip, an automatic staple machine, a printer, a pen, a yellow pad, a phone call, a voicemail, a calendar reminder, a conference room, and so on.
For lunch I went to the Jefferson Market Library to apply for a library card. I have recently become addicted to audiobooks but don’t have the funds to support the habit. The New York Public Library has over a thousand titles available for streaming. I just finished Heart of Darkness. Next, five volumes of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
Once a market, a courthouse, and an abandoned building, the Public Library agreed to open a branch there in 1961 when the city threatened to tear it down. Including the Main Branch, Jefferson Market may be the most beautiful library in New York.
Devoid of noisy tourists, it has quietude to its advantage, something every good library needs, and a sense of reverence for the books the building stores and protects.
It’s more like a church than a library really, but then again, every library should be or already is a place of worship.
Library card in hand I went back out into the day with air slightly warmer than skin so that walking felt like being embraced by a lover. I walked slowly down West 11th Street and saw a graveyard I had never seen before.
It belongs to the Congregation Shearith Israel. Established in 1805 it was the first and only Jewish congregation in Manhattan until 1825. As such, all of Manhattan’s Jewish community burial needs fell to them for twenty years. This particular cemetery was designated for victims of yellow fever, strangers, and suicides.
Back to work, but enough of that.
At six I met my friend Wyatt in the park beside the 72nd Street 123 stop. The man who plays old jazz standards while riding his bike had parked on the bench across from ours. Edith Piaf emanated from his portable stereo. Behind him rose the audacious Dorilton building replete with balustraded balconies, monumental sculptures, and a slate mansard roof. Its canyon of a recess makes it seem like twin mountains being cleaved by a river. The sinking sun warmed the red of its bricks, gleamed off its white limestone.
We sat for awhile, catching each other up on our respective lives. He is realizing himself as an artist. I recently returned from a sojourn in Savannah.
We grew hungry, walked into three restaurants but found them wanting. The fourth, an all you can eat sushi place on West 72nd had what we wanted, cheap and portable food. We ordered and walked to Riverside Park to eat.
This is a real photo without augmentation. This really happened.
We ate beneath a canopy of trees, promised to read each other’s writing, made ambitious goals, and set calendar dates. But as soft as the air was and as pleasant as the conversation remained, we had tickets to Lincoln Center.
A high school friend of Wyatt’s with whom he had sung in choir now belonged to Roomful of Teeth, a vocal assemble, who were performing Sinfonia for Eight Voices and Orchestra by Luciano Berio with the New York Philharmonic that evening. The piece traced the ascent and decent of mankind, a long climb and fall to be sure. At times the eight voices of Roomful of Teeth sounded like sea crabs scuttling over each other. And then the way leaves look when the wind blows through them. And then the party in the apartment upstairs. And then the way you imagine the figures in a Bosch painting might sound if they could muster an utterance.
We were in the cheap seats which I like better anyhow. The sound is richer having had time to ricochet and reverberate around the room until coalescing into its intended whole where we were up in the rafters. I closed my eyes, let the music seep into my ears. There was something liquid, tangible about it, as if an outstretched hand would feel it traveling through the air. I didn’t dare, worried I was right.