Walka Walka Walka

13 Feb

I walked to work on Wednesday.

I entered Central Park through the Women’s Gate, near Strawberry Fields.  Within two minutes, I was deep enough into the park to have left the roar of the city behind me.  I was surrounded by mist and bird calls and tiny muffled sounds.  There were snow drops and spaniels and hurrying commuters and me, slowly making me way to the end of the park, wallowing in the beauty.

By the time I made it to The Mall, the sun had burned through the morning mist and returned the park to the land of shadows and bustle.

From Grand Army Plaza, I walked straight down Fifth Avenue.  Gawking at all the fantastically stylish women tottering on their sky-high heels I felt a bit like Bill Cunningham, and a little dowdy in my sensible shoes and too warm coat.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Fifth Avenue when it belongs entirely to New Yorkers (there was a brief period after 9/11 when it was our and ours alone).  There were a few disoriented tourists bobbing about like bits of flotsam on the relentless tide of commuters, but in general, it was too early for any stores to be open and the avenue was owned by people who make New York their home.

You can tell New Yorkers by the way they walk, as if they’re listening to, as E.B. White says, the poem of the city, the music of Manhattan, each foot striking the pavement at the downbeat of the city’s great internal engines, a song that can be heard even over the music in their headphones.  New Yorkers don’t run into each other.  Like magnets, we respect the other person’s invisible field of resistance.

Many miles later, I arrived at work, sore, flushed and happy.  I often arrive at work sore, but generally it involves a mental pain, a slow-burning anger at my fellow New Yorkers’ uncivilized behavior.  But on Wednesday I was happy and relaxed, my mind felt buoyant and light.  I was ready to face the day.

On Sunday, Isaac and I took a walk.  At our house it was warm and sunny, so I suggested we go explore a small town perched on the banks of the Hudson.  It would have fantastic vistas and lots of hills to climb (which always makes Isaac happy). We were both feeling a little overfed from the previous night’s dinner with my parents and desperately in need of a little exercise.

I had made pasta with beans and rabe and caramelized mushrooms, and chicken thighs with a barley, pea and lettuce sauce¹ and a salad² of warm squash and caramelized onions.  And though it was all healthy, it was all a little heavy, especially since it was preceded by a cheese course and followed up with a lovely, local tart and ice cream.

We arrived in Stuyvesant and stepped out of the car, and then we were very nearly blown back into the car.  It was just a wee bit windy down on the river. But we persevered and walked up and down hills, devouring the views and discussing how hard it must have been to live through winters on the river in the past.

Upstaters, unlike New Yorkers, do not walk much.  But both are alike in that when they are walking, they barely ever take note of what is going on around them.  So, when we’re out walking in a place where one does not normally walk, like say, on the shoulder of 9J and we run into someone else walking on the shoulder and enjoying the view, eyes meet, heads nod and hellos are exchanged.

A few hours later we arrived back at home, our faces chapped by the wind, my hair in knots, but feeling lighter, and happy.  We warmed our hands around steaming cups of tea and rewarded ourselves with ginger biscuits.

And then we climbed into the car and left our house to come home to the city.

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¹ It was a Jamie Oliver kind of night.  This dish is from his latest book Jamie At Home, a Christmas gift from Isaac’s sister, and a good book full of beautiful recipes and silly words.

² Thanks to Robin for turning me on to Jamie’s website, which I didn’t even know existed.  If I had a prize to give for helping me with dinner, you would get it.  But since I have no prize, I hope my gratitude and my parents’ happy bellies is enough thanks. Oh and here’s the recipe I kind of followed, but I didn’t use cheese or prosciutto or bacon.  Instead I made some caramelized onions and seriously delicious dressing with olive oil and walnut oil and mustard and three kinds of vinegar and a dash of lemon juice.  It was wonderful.

8 Responses to “Walka Walka Walka”

  1. Julie February 13, 2009 at 11:38 am #

    This was just beautiful. I love these little paeans to New York City.

  2. bloglily February 13, 2009 at 3:31 pm #

    OH! You are such a lucky woman. Thank you for this. xoxox

  3. Pauline February 16, 2009 at 10:10 am #

    I really enjoy reading your blog even if I don’t leave a comment. You’ll always know that you have one loyal reader. I can’t imagine living in Manhattan but you make it sound quite appealing.

  4. ann February 16, 2009 at 11:11 am #

    Julie — Thanks. New York is a wonderful muse.

    Lily — You’re welcome :-)

    Pauline — Thanks for your kind words! Manhattan is a lot less scary than it seems. I love it.

  5. Sarah February 16, 2009 at 12:18 pm #

    Love this post. So peaceful, so lovely, and the food sounds delish.

  6. Lucy February 16, 2009 at 2:29 pm #

    Ann, I am completely blown away that you had that park to yourself. I always thought that Central Park was full of people all the time! Beautiful shots that capture the stillness. Our big park is always teeming with people. I’m very happy to see this post today.

  7. Christina February 18, 2009 at 11:35 pm #

    I love that abalone shell sky in that second picture. I can never get over skies like that.

    I’m glad you have the opportunity to walk to work and feel the morning pulse of the city now that you’re at your new place. It really sounds like the idea situation for you.

  8. ann February 21, 2009 at 4:29 pm #

    Sarah — Thanks! The food was good, but the walk was better :-)

    Lucy — Mornings are when New Yorkers get New York to themselves. Its magic if you’re not too late for work to slowdown and enjoy it.

    Christina — I love that sky too. I made it the background on my blackberry. It makes having one just a little bit more palatable :-)

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