I’m back home after 33 days of if not total bliss, daily doses of beauty on the Italian riviera, the part known as the “levante.” We all know the drill of return: everything is so real. And in New York everything is not only real but more real: loud, dirty, unforgiving. Even if I can force myself to acknowledge some good aspects to being home―a performing washer/dryer (that dries socks in minutes, not hours), a stellar printer/scanner (with long enough memory to print a whole manuscript in one go)―more pieces of clothing than the ones you’d been wearing (and washing) for 33 days. The list is not long, though, at least not for me, not this time. Oh, let’s see: drinking morning tea in bed―a forbidden pleasure at the Fondazione. Watching movies at night on tv in bed (ditto). Reading The Times on paper (had to make do with the recycled news of the Herald Tribune.) I guess I could come up with a few more if I really tried.
But I thought I should try harder.
So I made an experiment. Instead of the gorgeous passeggiata along the Mediterranean, now consigned to memory, I took my daily walk on the Promenade along―well, parallel to―the Hudson River, on the Upper West Side where I live. I decided to take my camera as I did daily in Italy and see whether I could focus my eyes on pieces of beauty in the streets, enough to cheer me up. I pretended I was visiting the city as an enthusiastic tourist, instead of a lifelong, grouchy New Yorker.
I made a first stop walking down the hill to the community gardens at 91st Street and Riverside Drive, where spring was edging its way into existence.
Then took a shot of the river with a freighter in the mid-ground―recalling the freighters that sat on the horizon of the Mediterranean waiting to dock in Genoa. That didn’t quite work, mainly because of New Jersey’s dreary architecture in the background.
I looked for another angle but was defeated by the highway. Lordly as the Hudson is, it was not going to give me sublime.
I left the park and wandering home, I was surprised to see a plaque on the wall at 160 Riverside Drive that I had never noticed, in honor of Brooks Atkinson, the drama critic for the New York Times. I even remember reading his columns when I was growing up.
And a few steps farther, on the same block, 88th Street between Riverside and West End Avenue, a plaque to Babe Ruth. They seemed new. I couldn’t have been more surprised.
So I walked up to 94th street to compare with a much larger tribute to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, that’s been up there for a while.
Could New York be on its way to becoming London and recognizing its writers and artists? Rumor has it that our own building is going to have a plaque in memory of the painter Barnett Newman.
My excursion cheered me up slightly, but I can’t help feeling that this neighborhood tour, whatever its charms, will not console me for my sense of paradise lost.