GRAMERCY, 2023, NEW YORK, NEW YORK, PHOTO BY SOKEN
The current, breezy days in New York remind me of spring when I was young here.
I was twelve. The air and sun filled me with excitement. I fell in love with pepper trees, maples, leafy, 100-year-old streets, and tulips. From my aunt’s apartment on Cornelia St., ten stories above sweltering Avenue of the Americas, I watched through tall windows as cars and pedestrians circulated about Sixth Avenue. The basketball court at West 3rd, which remains seemingly unchanged to this day, pulsed with intense, spirited, sweaty young men goading and bodychecking each other, their long green, purple, and yellow shorts swaying from their hips like curtains.
Now I walk southeast on Bedford St., a narrow asphalt road that peels north from Houston, runs through the West Village, and terminates at Christopher St. I pass a wine bar. People eat in a wooden shed built when Covid-19 came, three years ago. Friends, awkward dates, and young people, likely soon to lose connection with each other as they understand more of who they are—or who they aren’t—chatter with glowing faces. They sip Montepulciano wine. They eat meatballs in tomato sauce or a plate of truffle gnocchi and pass the spring evening in conversations they may or may not remember. Many of them look sad, anxious, and lost talking too loudly and too quickly. Others look fresh, sure of their judgement, their authority, and success. A little naïve. But bright. Hopeful. Innocent. Optimistic.
Meanwhile, breathtaking circuitry transmits to millions of electric devices photographs of missiles in Russia, the perennially indistinct expressions of politicians, headlines about economies, natural disasters, business developments, movies, and weather conditions.
I take media into me through sight, sound, and thought, just as I do the scenes of the people I see when I walk, with the difference that when walking I smell the scent of a designer perfume that conjures images of jungles, forests, and stars by the sea, or—near 10th St. by Jefferson Market Garden—steam from the subway vents, the stench of bad weed, and in the summer, the wafting odor of trash. I also feel the press of air on my skin and a lovely sense of movement—fluid, easy ambulation—sweeter now for my knowing that my mobility will likely diminish in the future and one day altogether end.
People’s interests differ. I like Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3. I’m happy I can hear it. I like camelia shrubs, too. I know a place—a hillside in the mountains—where there grows a grove of them planted by a Zen Master who, having brought seedlings from Japan, cultivated them so that now they proliferate un-aided, where before nothing lived but rough pines.
Montaigne writes, “We must tooth and nail retain the use of this life’s pleasures, which our years snatch from us one after another.”
Today in New York faint pink blossoms of dogwood trees open amid slender green leaves. Lush plumb blossoms bloom, too. A cherry tree reminds me of faraway friends.