"spring is like a perhaps hand" e e cummings
Has Spring finally arrived in New York City? It's still a bit chilly, although the weekend promises sunshine and warm temps in the 70s. One of our warm-weather rituals is to gather the kids and assemble on one of the piers that juts into the Hudson from the area around West 12th Street. One has a recessed play area covered in artificial turf and a raised picnic area at the very end. We have about four or five families with kids in the 5-7 range . . . they attend school together, play sports together, and on these occasions, suffer through their parents' attempts to secure a tiny bit of adult conversation that by doesn't automatically focus on vomit, parent-teacher conferences or the woes of apartment living.
Indeed, since we're a thoroughly nerdy lot - a couple of artists, photographers, an architect, an historian, and two teachers - we usually end up chatting about politics, the war, global warming, art, or matters historical. Our latest chat-fest focused on the growing "underclass" of working poor in America and the increasingly unattainable "American Dream." And understand that we're not consciously picking topics; these discussions tend to reflect our genuine concerns and current reading selections. (For example, I've recently run through Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch.) I always emerge from these sessions refreshed, believe it or not, infused with energy. So after several chilly months of quick meetings at our kids' playground, plus a few dinners at neighborhood restaurants, we're celebrating the arrival of warm weather and looking forward to a pier outing, perhaps even this Saturday evening.
On these occasions, one of us usually remarks, "It's times like this that make me happy to live in New York." And I have to agree. Moreover, I think we enjoy more occasions like this - with an incredible level of intellectual intimacy and social camaraderie - than my friends who live in suburbia. Suburbanites, for example, with far more private space to which they can retreat, tend to be more insular - one of the more unfortunate byproducts of the middle class realizing its "American Dream," according to sociologists. (At least, that seems to be true of the adults. Kids will always congregate in some permutation of informal communal play whether it's in sandlot sports or sitting in clumps glued to the X-box. I experienced this growing up and I've witnessed this reality for my brother and his family in one of those "McMansion" suburbs of northern Virginia.) Our lack of private space in New York City tends to force us out and prompts us to be more social animals, unless one prefers detachment and isolation. (Our urban infrastructure is set up to handle that reality too!)
So here's to the promise of spring and renewal.
(A note about the photos: Both are digital shots, taken in my neighborhood. The flowering white tree and red-brick apartment building are across the street from my home. With a better camera perhaps I could have framed this sans street lights and traffic signals. Hmmm, I'll have to play with the image in photoshop and see what a little cropping and perspective work will do.)