Monday, February 06, 2006

Walking, again

" ... gray clouds part like a fleece jacket unzippered ... "
Manhattan skyline from George Washington Bridge

Firehouse door, Canal and Allen streets, East Village


Anatomically correct kitty statue, 79th Street and Park Avenue, Manhattan


Today
Manhattan was mine
seven leagues
20 miles
a trail of footfalls
from North Jersey
nearly the length of the island

Crossing the George Washington Bridge
haven't felt a hammering headwind like this
in a long time
it's a cunning sparring partner
threatens to sweep my feet from under me

Walking down Hudson River path
wind roaring in my ears
my eyes water
can't hear myself think
gray clouds part
like a fleece jacket unzippered
on the gusts
a hint of spring

I leave the riverside
to escape the wind
walk east down 83rd Street
to Central Park
Choose a serpentine path
blasted through bedrock
deserted
runoff from yesterday's rain
drips from an overpass
cars and taxis zip by

Cross Fifth Avenue
Madison
Park
Lexington
Third
Second
First
Downtown-bound

Reach Gramercy Park
memories of my grandmother
summers spent as a kid
not far from the little bar
where O. Henry wrote
"Gift of the Magi"
and Babe Ruth bragged
over beer and cigars

Cut back west to Third Avenue
head down to Canal Street
Chinatown
hucksters hawking
fake designer bags
and wind-up toys
and God knows what

Sun setting
streets emptying
People rushing home
to see
the Super Bowl kickoff

Streets turn quiet
purposeful Chinese ladies
head home from shopping
men shut their stores
and I head to the Manhattan Bridge

A dark, mysterious span
over the East River
not a soul on the footpath
wind blows dust into my eyes
subway trains clatter by
deafening screech of metal on metal
sparks cast a greenish light

To my right
the Brooklyn Bridge
twinkling like tinsel
strands of angel hair

On a whim
I don't double back
across the Manhattan Bridge
I'll head into Brooklyn
city of churches
instead
and take the Brooklyn Bridge
that lacework fortress
back over the East River

Back in lower Manhattan
the financial center
Wall Street
all dark and quiet
no deals going down
all the tourists gone
a few drops of rain
(hungry ghosts weeping)
I see the ghost
of Bartleby the Scrivener
(he still prefers not to)

Head up Allen Street
which becomes First Avenue
after Houston
past crowded bars
sports banter wafts outside
men out front smoking
excitedly talking
the world's biggest football fans
some just for this day

I stop at my friend's sushi bar
the place is a crypt
kid reading a book
at a corner table
leaves as I arrive
just me
and the waitress
and the cook
and the radio
I quietly sip my beer

Return from the toilet
to find someone sitting next to me
some college girl
young enough to be my daughter
I try to make small talk
amid cavernous silence
rebuffed, ignored
she turns away without a word
"Don't flatter yourself
you just happened to be there"
(I feel like saying)
but I finish my beer
pay the tab
tell her
"Enjoy your dinner
and keep in mind
life isn't nearly as serious
as you make it out to be --
but you'll find out"
and back out into the night

9:30
trudge uptown
losing steam
ankles sore
carefree stride well behind me
walk past the carriage horses
along Central Park South
no business at this hour
drivers talk among themselves
in conspiratorial whispers

I reach Columbus Circle
nearly fall asleep on the A train back to the GWB
I get off the train
the station quiet as a catacomb
up the stairs
onto the street
into the darkness

Half-moon perched
atop one of the GWB towers
wind still howling
even stronger than this morning
not another soul
walking back to New Jersey

21 comments:

g said...

Thanks for taking us along on the walk. Howling winds on Super Bowl Sunday. I particularly liked the image of the skyline. Wouldn't it be interesting to read the blog of the college girl we met in the sushi bar. By the time we reached the GWB I might have suggested we take the bus back to jersey.

Chris said...

Love the images this depicts- makes me want to get outside

Even though it's turned colder...brrr

Beth said...

i look forward to your new york walk posts. this one is beautiful. every line i can feel, so many familiar places, i can even smell the spring on the cold gusting wind. wonderful!

miki said...

"like a fleece jacket unzippered "it is an interesting expression! Kitty statue looks like Manekineko's face.

Michael said...

Hi g, Chris H, Kim, Miki,

Thank you all! I was so dog-tired by the time I got home that I thought I would describe my walk in free verse. I'm not sure it works, but there are parts of it I like.
Yes, Miki-san, the kitty statue does look like a manekineko!

crosshatched said...

great walk-poem----missing nyc!

Michael said...

Hi crooshatched,

Thanks! I liked your about the NYC taxi...

Michael said...

ooops... i mispelled your name, crosshatched. Sorry!

Green said...

Oh, I miss New York!
Even though I never lived there I feel like NY is my sort of city.
Thank you for taking us there.
Who is the artist who created that cat statue?

Michael said...

Hi Greensleeves,

If you ever come to New York, I would be happy to show you around. As for the cat statue, I read the plaque that carried the artist's name, but unfortunately I don't remember it. His name is Spanish, though, if memory serves. I'll have to look next time I pass by.

LBseahag said...

AHHH!!! That took me back to some great memories...i love NYC...when i get back there this year, you and i are so gonna meet for some coffee...okay?

Michael said...

Absoluely, LB! Just let me know when.

Jules said...

Wow, nice one michael. I can feel my sore feet, cold air in my lungs, and a pleasant ache in my legs. Thanks for sharing!

mrsbeach said...

Michael,

Taking these walks with you is so good for me, the pictures are great, and you are chicken soup for the soul.
You are the cats meow...

Take good care of yourself

Michael said...

Thank you, Jules! Yes, I love these long walks. I think they've really helped my medical situation, if in no other way than by putting me in a decent frame of mind.

Thanks, Beachy! I hope Larry and his mom and dad are doing well.

anu said...

WOW Michael, i am feeling so refreshed.

Someday i hope to visit your great city and if and when that happens, i shall print your poem out and take exactly the same route :)

Michael said...

Hi Anu,

I have a better idea: Let's walk it together!

Kitty said...

I enjoy seeing the visual shape your words form as you've centered them on the page.

Michael said...

Hello Kitty,

Yes, I noticed the shapes, too. I hope centering text like that makes it easier on readers' eyes.

Patry Francis said...

You make me long for the city.

Michael said...

Thanks, Patry! The more I discover about the city in whose shadow I grew up, the more I love it.