The morning of my departure from NYC, I had a rare and unexpected chance to listen to my ipod. (Child-free for a few hours!) As per usual, I listened to a podcast of Fresh Air. Terry Gross was interviewing Jay-Z, an artist I've heard of, but barely heard. The show ended with "Empire State of Mind." And that was that. I spent the rest of the day swimming in nostalgia. It had slipped my mind for the past decade or so, what a cultural center I live in. New York City is not chopped liver. For months, I've been mourning leaving my friends. But I thought I'd leave New York itself with no more than a big sigh of relief to have blown that ginormous popcorn stand. Not so. (And, really, I have to ask, what are the odds? Jay-Z on Fresh Air?)
Then, to top it all off, it was a knock-out of a day. The buildings of Manhattan, in vista, can evoke magnificent cliffs: solid, immovable, majestic, static. All the action is buried down at the bottom of the canyons along endless miles of streets and avenues. But given the right weather conditions, The City itself comes alive and is so beautiful any crust of jade you may have grown cracks right off. The sky was crowded with iron-blue bottomed clouds, almost overcast. But there was enough cheerful blue showing here and there to reveal the white fluff tops of the clouds and let the sun in. The clouds were moving fast across the sky, and that wind was hitting us down below, also, freeing Fall leaves from their restless branches.
The heart of the drama, however, was the light. Sun and shadow flowing over us all, as if the gods were saying, "You put on all your little plays, film your little films and tv shows, you want to see lighting? We'll show you lighting." A divine spotlight: Look here, now here, and now check this out. The Williamsburg Savings Bank glowing creamy, yellow-white against a matte background of variegated ominous blue clouds, not a speck of sky blue peeking through to mar the effect. Then the Willie B Savings Bank fades into shadow, blending in with all the other cliffs. And a flock of pigeons, flying their spirals, white patches flashing, gray feathers gleaming, is all there is to look at. Already the spotlight has moved on and a tree glows bright against the flat underbellies of the clouds, the golden yellow a perfect compliment to the stormy blue.
I ended up so mushy about it all, I posted an uncharacteristically emotional status up-date on Facebook, which triggered further weeping. "Good bye, New York. I love you." No jade, just a heartfelt farewell. Then we drove to get Forest at school and got on the BQE an exit earlier than usual, which brought us past the Statue of Liberty and an excellent view of the southern tip of Manhattan. I sat squeezed between two car seats veritably steeping in nostalgia until we hit stop-and-go traffic over Williamsburg. Doing the creep-crawl out of The City, yet again, had me cheering in short order. We're finally blowing this popcorn stand. Hot diggity dog!