Thursday, May 26, 2011
Old New York, Part 1
There are things you can't have in New York City. Many things. You can't watch the sunrise from a mountain top, hear the wind blow through alpine forests, or see the black of night. Much of what nature giveth, New York City taketh away.
The sound levels are very different here. I spoke to a friend recently from the suburbs who spent a night down the block - on the very same street where I live with the identical exposure. He said he could not sleep at all with the noise of constant traffic. The sounds of the city are only a familiar song to me - I sleep easily without window shades drawn and with all the city's ambient light and noise.
Here and there one can find tiny corners, places, culs de sac, alleys, parks, beaches, lakes, rivers - little pieces of the other world, the world outside cities. These special and often little known places in New York City provide magic carpets, that for brief moments can provide transport to a quieter, gentler city. I have shared these places with you over the years in this website.
I do love the city - the energy, vibrancy and stimulation are extraordinary. But the problem is that you can't turn it off. So for those times when I need respite and do not have the opportunity or inclination to leave the city, I seek solace in those special spots that hearken to a time gone by or a world apart.
The Greek Revival houses of Washington Square North evoke the gentility of a bygone age. Here, at the corner of Washington Square North and Fifth Avenue is a row house where I have often seen windows open, lights on and a handful of people milling about. This is the world of Henry James, 1881, setting for his novel Washington Square.
A couple relaxes with glasses of wine, one resting on the sill, complemented by the exquisite air of warm evening, which has, after a long wet and cool spring, arrived at last. There's a canopy of trees overhead and the yellow-orange glow of lamps. Everything is soft. Pause on this corner with me and enjoy the soul of old New York...
Note: If you want a piece of Old New York at Washington Square, see Part 2.