Rome in August is unbearable. The strength of the sun causing you to go from one shady spot to another. Cool marble church steps in the shade become havens. Lethargy sets in and whole afternoons can while away dipping your feet in public fountains. Summertime in Berlin is said to be the most beautiful time of the year, a time when the young inhabitants of the city fill the open air venues in throngs showcasing their wealth of time and transforming the city into a bohemian paradise. I landed in New York after the 4th of July weekend, when everyone was still getting over their holiday hangovers, wondering if the heat, the crowds, the angry blasts of hot air that would rush up against me down on the metro platforms would be too much. I had sprung the trip on everyone like a good idea gone bad taking fruition to everyone’s dismay.
New York in July is hot but it doesn’t immobilize you. The metro trains are air-conditioned and the leafy sidewalks pleasantly walkable. My friends marveled at the extent to which I was zigzagging across Manhattan and the boroughs into the Hudson Valley and all in the heat. Common tourist attractions during the day were surprisingly empty. The High Line walkway one Wednesday morning was quite deserted except for school groups of photographers (little kids with big Canons) or drawing classes (bigger teenagers with smaller sketch pads). MoMA PS1 was equally free of crowds early Sunday afternoon and the south end of Central Park from J.D. Salinger duck fame was spotted with people but not overwhelmed. I took an off-peak North Metro train at 9:43 am Monday morning and didn’t have to share a passenger seat both ways. Chelsea Food Market had lunchtime lines but none unmanageable. The immeasurable mass of humanity was only slightly experienced walking through Time Square chasing a sunset photograph down to the pier.
The James Farley Post Office Building with its endless row of columns and steps, had the largest number of bums sleeping outside at 10am on a weekday. The inscription chiseled on the architrave caught my attention, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” It made me think of a time when the postal service was a noble profession. Inside, the post office was empty and looked neglected with a few police officers strolling or sitting around.
Ever since I first walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, I made it a tradition to walk across it every time I visited New York. I would tell all my friends visiting for the first time asking me as their American friend what they should do in New York to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. But now I realize, each time I walk across it, the bridge becomes less grandiose, less monumental, shrinking in stature and becoming less of a memory to relive. Most recently, I was with a friend who thought walking across the Brooklyn Bridge was an asinine idea in the dead of July and to just look at the miserable faces walking toward us heading off the bridge. She was right, everyone looked sweaty and miserable.
I bonded with a Southern Belle in the Kiehls Chelsea location as we were both from the South. Her openness and honesty showed me her small town (Savannah) roots and I left wishing her some New York luck.
I saw rooftop views of NYC for the first time and it was something my iPhone camera could not capture. The pictures were making the view smaller and it wasn’t a panorama that was needed. I couldn’t capture the feeling of being on top of the world, seeing what giants see.