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With Autumn Closing In

Underground, 53rd & Lexington


Been slogging through another New York City summer. I realized I was in the middle of it yesterday when I started out for a run and passed two guys working construction on my Brooklyn street. “They got restaurants on Court?” asked the one. “Yeah they do,” the other answered. “But more on Smith – all up an’ down the motherfucker.” This made me smile which caused the first guy to acknowledge me. “Big man .. you gonna run in this heat?” The entire exchange lasted all of thirty seconds but put an official stamp on my summer. I can now carry on to fall, knowing that I was here.

I get a lot of ‘big mans’ in this city though by my estimation there are many bigger. I got two in one day the other week walking through Times Square to the library. There was some kind of world record setting yoga sit-in going on with hundreds of earnest looking practitioners locked in to various asanas atop non-slip mats in the ninety-degree heat. I can think of far more yoga-like places than Times Square but perhaps that was the point. Still, they didn’t look so comfortable; a whole flock of muscularly emaciated types red-faced and sweating bullets in the afternoon neon while an instructor advised on their next contortion via microphone. I could use a few good asanas, specifically for achilles and lower leg pain and general anxiety. Would also take one for insomnia and hair loss if they’re passing them out. And yet I push on unenlightened and not even properly stretched, taking my ‘big mans’ where I can get them.

I said a long time ago that all one really needs to understand this city is a subway pass. Like much of my writing it was an over-simplification but one of my better ones. I believe the subway is the Great New York Equalizer. Feeling old, lonely or unattractive? Or perhaps you’re on a strong, beautiful and superior kick. It’s all there – the middle aged across from the decrepit and the disengaged next to the abandoned. The odd beside the truly weird, attractive abreast the stunning. Worried about the young ass-kicker who just boarded at Penn Station? Fear not, as there’s bound to be an ass-kicker’s ass- kicker joining the car at 42nd. The subway is like Perspective Theater, lending proper place and context to all. It’s a great place to remind yourself that you’re neither exceptional nor unworthy; just another denizen holding out for a temperature change.

I’ll be getting a temperature change at month’s end when I travel back to Northern California and San Francisco. I’d make an argument for this above most other annual American city-swaps. It’s difficult to espouse the charms (or flaws) of one place over the other but being allowed regular access to both is a privilege. I was working on a piece covering this topic (the Brooklyn/North Beach neighborhood shift) for a small San Francisco magazine and asked my mother for editorial and grammatical input when I finished. You could choose worse for an editor; her education as a Scottish schoolgirl included Latin. They didn’t mess around with the few they deemed suitable for higher-education in that country. She pointed out, gently, that I tend to use too many commas. Easily the solidest bit of advice I’ve gotten in the last several years. Now, if I can only make it through, the rest of this summer.

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