Friday, April 15, 2011

Spring Tease

Spring in New York City can best be described confusing. The week before I wrote this post it snowed. The one day of sunshine and warmth I describe here was followed by a week of cold, rainy weather.

Take a walk with me.

It’s a Spring Tease.

After a long winter and a few seasonal false starts, Upper West Siders woke on Saturday to what looked like the real thing. Out the door we went, walking an extra block to get the paper; stopping longer than usual to chat with neighbors we met on the sidewalk; enjoying sips of coffee under the rare sight of blue sky. Dog owners with little breeds hurried to Riverside Park. The big dogs roamed free in Central Park, benefit of the before 9 a.m. off-leash rule. On this morning that rule seemed more like a suggestion as golden retrievers, lumbering Newfoundlands and their socializing humans lingered past deadline just this once. It was the first real day of spring in New York City, after all. Who could be blamed…?

Morning ease on that first day of spring quickly changed to bustle. It was as if from 59th Street to 110th Street early phone calls and text messages had gone out en masse declaring this to be the day one should abandon ideas about sleeping in, getting laundry done or catching up on work. No, Upper West Siders had a more pressing duty: get outside!

The line at Levain Bakery lengthened to reach the sidewalk. Shoppers on the second floor of the 72nd Street Duane Reade hurried through their chore, too tempted by the view of sunny Broadway through floor-to-ceiling windows to linger more than necessary. The usual jostle in front of Fairway was in effect. The difference was the energy - more movement, more chatting and a lot of smiles. Starting on common ground, “Beautiful weather…we deserve this…it’s going to be a great weekend…” casual conversations sprung in every direction, taking off naturally between strangers the way they do at intermission during a particularly good play. Something wonderful had happened and it was only going to get better.

Actual Spring, not the one on the calendar, was a great day to “people watch” on the Upper West Side. As the crowds grew along the West 70s so did the opportunities to be startled, interested or amused. A multi-tasker, power walking while listening to an I-Pod and reading Maupassant, brushed past a group of tourists learning about “The Mayor of Strawberry Fields” from their guide. A couple on Columbus Avenue drank coffee from mason jars then, moments later, a bike rider glided past, also drinking coffee from a mason jar. (Might this be a new trend and if so might it be inspired by the proliferation of beer growlers?) A young woman in old roller skates wiggled past the line forming at Shake Shack. An astonishing array of state-of-the-art strollers made their way into and out of Crumbs on Amsterdam. Six times the scent of marijuana accompanied people walking casually along the street, suggesting either that smoking pot is practically legal in NYC or that many of our neighbors have the medical o.k for it. Other sights ranged from the silly (a pug wearing sunglasses and a gold harness) to the more earnest (political and eco-aware messages on shirts, buttons, backpacks, stickers.)

Welcome, spring. It’s been way too long.