27 September 2005

Zones

On my 40-block walk to work, the neighborhood seems to change completely every ten blocks. I leave my apartment and see people like me, dressed in office-casual clothing, setting out for the day. Middle-aged men and women in sweatpants, still tanned from the Hamptons, hurry into the Reebok gym for their morning workouts. Brown-skinned nannies push their charges, like tiny maharajahs in their Bugaboo strollers.

Ten blocks later, acting students gesticulate boldly to their friends on their way to Julliard. ABT dancers, their hair pulled back in tight, elegant buns, stand perfectly erect, waiting for the light to change. A young male dancer with porcelain skin and big eyes, wears a white tank top.

Fordham law students run, late to class. Doctors from St. Luke's stand outside in their scrubs, enjoying their morning coffee and cigarette. Patients step carefully off the M11.

It's suddenly seedy at 57th Street, an apartment building, boarded up for several years, traps urine and beer underneath its scaffolding. How is such prime real estate allowed to lay fallow for so long? I am suspicious.

The pods from a black locust tree are scattered all over 50th street. A man in a gray t-shirt sweeps them up. Ex-junkies, getting out from their morning dose at the methadone clinic, make their plans for the day, loudly. A young Indian woman speaks quietly into her cell phone, covering her mouth with a flyer that an Asian man with a moustache handed her on the corner of 46th Street.

An old white man pushes a shopping cart full of tin cans to the grocery store. A black man carries a dirty sock, dripping with water, to the trash can, delicately holding it away from his body, with two fingers.

Tourists arrive and depart from Port Authority, wheeling suitcases that twist and fall over on the curb. African immigrants carry tremendous bundles of handbags and videos, in gray blankets they hold above their heads. Construction workers in Cartright jackets and Timberland boots are on their first coffee break. Later, they'll be welcomed at Bellevue Bar, where members of local unions drink for half price.

Slowly, in the 30s, the street resolves back to office workers in their casual clothing, rushing now to make it to work on time, pausing only to yell at the traffic cop who is directing cars into their crosswalk. They leave the street, enter tall buildings with elevators that take them to their offices. Mine is on the 7th floor.

2 Comments:

Blogger PG said...

Oh my! This vignette made my arm hairs stand on end - it is so alive, so beautifully described! There should be a book full of small city descriptions like this...for us armchair NY addicts.

Gretel

4:44 PM  
Blogger Excellent Walker said...

Thank you so much!

8:29 AM  

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