I needed some adventure after staring for 8 weeks at the stair in Philly. My long-time friend in New Jersey had offered to show me New York City if I managed to get up that way. It turned out that it was only a few weeks after super-storm Sandy had hit, so we did do some disaster cruising, for which I have no pictures, because at the time, though we were driving past dramatically uprooted 200-year-old Oaks, I thought no one would be interested in seeing more 8 foot tall tree roots and ripped up sidewalks after seeing similar shots for the past few weeks on TV. I just today recalled that when this friend visited Detroit in 1967 with her parents and sibs it was shortly after another disaster, the summer riots/rebellion, and back then I drove us kids through the city gawking at blocks and blocks of burnt houses and trashed stores. I think I had been driving for only a few months at that time. I imagine if I had told the parents what trip I had in mind, my mother would have questioned my wisdom. What if I’d had a digital camera on that ride?
At any rate the storms were gone on the Sunday when we drove across the George Washington bridge. Manhattan was enjoying November sunshine. A fair slew of New Yorkers and visitors had the same idea we had, taking a walk on the industrial-artifact-turned-park called The High Line.
I guess I was expecting something grittier, but loving care and careful design have turned the old elevated railway structure into a mile-long gallery of plants, architecture, views of the city and, of course, people-watching.
The volunteer organization responsible for this transformation selected interesting small trees, shrubs and ground covers, that had us wishing for a smartphone between us so that we could look them up. The clever paving allows water to reach the soil below and opens up slots for foliage to poke up. New York’s artists, always eager for exposure, have found sanctioned
ways to display their work:
I hesitated, but he encouraged me strongly, so I said, “Well, all right,” and sat down. He showed me how to hold the little thing. It didn’t feel strange; vague memories of my half-year playing the string bass in junior high must have helped, but it sure sounded strange and screechy when I pulled the bow across the two strings. The musician repositioned my arms, directed me to use a different pressure and the screech turned less abrasive, 120 grit maybe instead of 36 grit. “How long have you been playing?” I asked.
“Two years.” he said, and I was starting to tell him it would take me longer than that to be able to stand my own sounds, when he interrupted: “I have to find bathroom. Stay here. I be back.” and disappeared, leaving me on display with his case open before me for tips. Leslie and I cracked up for several minutes in hilarious disbelief. Tourists and natives stared, but what they found strange was probably not a Caucasian with an Asian instrument (it was New York right?); rather they couldn’t believe anyone could have the gall to ask for their money while abusing their ears so violently. Time dragged on as I practiced my bowing technique. The racket I was making embarrassed me, but for some reason it seemed important to not waste my one chance to play an instrument with such a sensuously spooky tone. Needless to say, not one nickel was thrown my way. Eventually the owner returned, smiling. He handed back the bills I was putting in his case and told me I should keep learning. Then we continued to the south end of the line with its framed view of the Statue of Liberty.
Then to lunch.