Autumn in New York


This morning we ate apples that had fallen off a tree in Central Park. Yum! When you visit New York, you can take edible-flora tours that will introduce you to many more delicious plants in our urban oasis.

I saw neither palanquin nor rickshaw nor anyone riding a camel or elephant in the park today, but I might have seen every other non-motorized form of dry-land mobility. There were bicycles, tricycles, quadricycles, and unicycles. There were lengthwise tandems and parallel tandems. Some had sidecars, and some had trailers. Some were ridden erect and some supine.

There were in-line skates, scooters, skateboards, and roller-skis. There were wheelchair athletes and wheelchairs being pushed (not to mention strollers, baby carriages, and jogger-friendly baby carriages). There were horse-drawn carriages and horseback riders. There were pedestrians, joggers, and race-walkers in a race (the last looking almost as silly as I do). All were enjoying a glorious fall morning. The loser of the Democratic primary run-off was even campaigning with (and for) the winner.

This afternoon, I waited in a very long line at Hertz to rent a car; in New York, it’s more expensive on weekends. Then I managed somewhat less than four miles per hour between Lincoln Center and the entrance to the Henry Hudson Parkway. In other words, everything was normal.

I merged into 70-mile-per-hour traffic on the parkway (in a 50-mile-per-hour zone), and we headed north to a chamber music concert in the Hudson valley. We passed no indications of any aftereffects. There was no apparent security as we passed over one of New York City’s main drinking-water reservoirs, and no one was being stopped and searched on our way back into Manhattan.

Perhaps our trip was a fluke. At the concert, we spoke to one person who lives in the valley and does jobs in New York. What had taken him less than two hours in the past was more recently taking him four.

Another concertgoer lives a couple of blocks north of the site. He was kept from his apartment for a week. When he returned, he found that, although there was no damage on September 11, debris had clogged the rainspouts. After it rained, the building suffered water damage. The co-op that owns the building has also had to negotiate a lower rent for a shoe store in their retail space. The retailer can’t afford the old rent, and, humanitarian reasons aside, the co-op doesn’t think it would be able to find a new tenant under current conditions.

The music was great, the local apple cider yummy, and the colors of the changing leaves spectacular. That’s not all that’s been changing.

The New York Times seems to have finally settled into a post-September 11 version. Each day, they run a new section called “A Nation Challenged.” The title was a source of jokes almost from the start, and, now that much of the news therein concerns Afghanistan, some wonder which nation is being referred to.

That section includes the highly regarded “Portraits of Grief,” giving every victim of September 11 a few paragraphs, a headline, and, usually, a photograph. The “Portraits” are not limited to World Trade Center victims; the Times has also been running mini-bios of the Pentagon victims and will probably add those who crashed in Pennsylvania.

I draw that inference from the daily statistics of dead and missing. Here are today’s, as of 5 pm yesterday:

– At the World Trade Center 4,263 missing, 460 confirmed dead (410 identified), 157 dead on the two planes (including 10 hijackers)

– At the Pentagon, seven missing, 118 confirmed dead (117 identified), 64 dead on the plane (including five hijackers)

– In Pennsylvania, 44 dead (including four hijackers)

The statistics run at the end of the news summary and index devoted to just that section (and the Times has also been covering the injured, devoting a large story this week to one hospitalized burn victim). The bottom of the front page of the “A Nation Challenged” section provides a daily overview of events.

The front page of the main news section also covers the latest major developments, but the Times is now devoting most of the main news section to other news of the world, the country, the state, and the metropolitan area. From the outset, the Times has carried at least SOME other news. It’s nice to see that it has grown to reclaim most of the paper.

Nevertheless, September 11- or anthrax-related news finds its way into all of the sections of the paper. It’s to be expected in the “Metro” and “Business Day” sections, but it also makes it into “Dining Out” (effects on restaurants), “Dining In” (comfort food), “Real Estate,” “The Arts,” even the very rare “Cars” (driving away from the city) and the more common (but less readable) “Automobiles” (Humvees).

The Times printing plant can handle only four late-breaking news sections. Normally, those would be the main news section, “Metro,” “Business,” and “Sports.” With “A Nation Challenged” added, they’ve combined “Metro” and “Sports” into a single topsy-turvy section, each with its own front page. Flip it over to get the other.

Weather (with “meteorology by Pennsylvania State University”) has been flitting around from section to section, as it has in the past. As usual, it has the local statistics and forecast, a national weather map, statistics and forecasts for cities around the world, and, for this season, a northeast fall foliage map, showing where the leaves are green, showing some color, near their peak, at their peak, or past it. What’s new is a daily weather map of Afghanistan.

It’s been freezing in the mountainous northeast of Afghanistan for quite some time, but no one seems to be fighting there. Kabul was warmer than New York today, with a high in the 70s. Jalalabad was in the 80s, and Zaranj was in the 90s.

In New York, that’s tar beach weather. Tar beach in New Yorkese for a building roof, where we are wont to sunbathe, with or without clothes. There are other clothing-optional spots around the city. The 1981 edition of the “World Guide to Nude Beaches and Recreation” has a large color photo of nine nude people posing on a large sand dune with the twin towers in the background. Alas, that sand was used in the construction of Battery Park City, but there’s still a nude beach at a park in Queens named for a 19th-century social reformer.

There are beaches in every one of New York’s boroughs. Brooklyn & Queens offer access to the Atlantic Ocean, the Bronx to Long Island Sound, Staten Island to New York Bay, and Manhattan to the Hudson River (or, for the maritime correct, the North River).

With so many beaches and so much waterfront property, New York is subject to hurricane damage. They don’t hit here often, but, when they do, they can be very destructive. One of the city’s old airports ended up under water when one hurricane struck.

So, last summer, public-service ads began appearing in the subways to get New Yorkers to pick up information about hurricane precautions and to register for hurricane insurance. As best I can tell, no one did either. That may explain our current blase attitude towards anthrax.

Fuhgeddaboudit!

TTFN, Mark