Friday, July 31, 2009

Walking in the Rain

As I walked up the picturesque streets of West Tribeca and Lower Soho last Sunday, I was aware that a thunderstorm was imminent. You didn’t have to be a meteorologist to figure this out. You could smell it in the air and you could hear the rumbling in the distance, more or less, coming your way. I kept walking anyway, because these streets, which contain everything from unrenovated warehouses to beautifully restored period buildings, are irresistible, and because when you walk in New York some sort of protection from the rain usually turns up. Whether it’s a simple overhang from an old building or an elaborate awning extending from a fashionable hotel or a Starbuck’s with a few tables and only one barista, you never lack for ports in a storm, so to speak.

Still, I did have a tough moment of decision as the impending cloudburst seemed to build. There I was sort of stranded at Broadway and Canal, in the middle of this sea of people that is always milling around among the tiny stores that sell everything from perfume to fishing tackle, and I could tell that there weren’t many coverings within easy reach if the downpour should commence. Was I better off heading down into the beckoning subway, or should I take my chances and push past this human swarm so that I could continue to enjoy my sidewalk spree? As a loud clap of thunder reverberated down a nearby block, I took to the stairs, finding myself in somewhat unfamiliar subterranean territory. I figured I should return home at this point but by what route. Should I take the R or W, knowing that I would still have a pretty good walk before returning home, or should I try for the J or the M, unsure whether it stopped at Fulton on weekends? I opted for the J, but, of course, it didn’t stop at Fulton after all. In fact, the last stop was Chambers, still a half mile from my home base at 85 John.

I climbed slowly up the stairs to ground level, unsure what I would find, showers or clear skies. As I ascended, I forgot about the weather for a moment and realized I was exiting amid the great arch of New York’s 1914 Municipal Building. There is something about the colonnade of that building with all its majestic, overpowering columns that invariably distracts and inspires me. Makes for a grand shelter from the rain, too, though at that point unnecessary, for when I looked up, the clouds had disappeared. I couldn’t help appreciating how brilliantly the wet streets glistened in the sun as I splashed back to my apartment, glad to be finishing my excursion on those narrow, mostly traffic-free city avenues that make the Financial District still another great New York neighborhood to explore.


  1. There's something almost umbilical about that part of the city, the Brooklyn Bridge entering into the civic center, itself at the gathering of the great thoroughfares...
    At the risk of carrying the metaphor too far, I'd say that Manhattan is placental, the source of breath and nutrition traveling out to all the other boroughs....

  2. I'm a little disappointed, because I thought you were building up to one of those "Singin' in the Rain" moments. Well, at least you "splashed back" home, even if the streets glistened.

    And ... now we know what happens when you cross an OB/GYN with a poet.

  3. What you really get is a retired doctor who thinks he's a poet!
    Hi, everybody! I'm trying to be as cool as the rest of you, commenting on a blog. I even tried to put my picture up but was foiled. Did anybody else try it and fail? Or were you all too "cool" to bother?

  4. Welcome, Catalina! Inspired by you, I have shed all my former "coolness" and inserted my picture above.