A useless personal guide for visitors to New York City
If you don’t want to get lost, don’t follow me. Otherwise: Get lost.
The Jackie Kennedy Onassis Reservoir
I start out walking towards the park. There are clouds floating in the sky and a light breeze is touching my bare arms and face. Today’s roundabout should be pleasant and I might make it back home without getting all sticky with sweat. On Third Avenue, two blocks from our apartment, I pass a hardcore vegan juice bar where members of the Badass Bikers get a 10% discount. I do not buy a juice now, but I will get one later. As I cross Madison and follow East 85th Street I try to remind myself to stay in the moment, to hear the cicadas and the rustling of the leaves in the trees, to not let my mind wander towards unhelpful thoughts.
(What is unhelpful? I have no idea. It’s going to be a challenge.)
I climb the steps to the reservoir and the city opens up. There is nothing between me and the apartment buildings on the West Side but water and space to breath, a view not cluttered by people and cars and garbage and more people and bikes and diggers and scaffoldings and more garbage.
(Stay in the moment. I told you it would be challenging.)
The sound of traffic on Fifth Avenue is filtered by trees. A gravel path follows the banks of this man made lake. At some spots branches reach over the trail, forming a perfect bow, providing some shade. Shoes crushing gravel, kicking up dust. A soft voice encourages to go on. You are doing it, I hear someone say. A woman laughs and claps her hands. To call back a dog?
Around the reservoir is a black iron fence. Tall grasses and flowers soften its rigor. The fence is not very high and people are leaning over to spot turtles and duck. Sometimes I stop and look for turtles too, but not today. In the middle of the water I see a flock of white birds. From where I am I can’t be sure what kind they are, but even if I were closer I probably wouldn’t be able to tell. I know very little about birds. They fly, sometimes they swim, sometimes they fly and swim, though never simultaneously. Some don’t fly at all. They come in many colors and shit on people’s heads. White herons would glide by our window at Lexington Avenue. Those were easy to recognize.
(Stay in the moment. Or does this thought belong to the moment too? I did not come here to contemplate my lack of knowledge concerning ornithological facts. Life is so confusing sometimes.)
Most people who pass me are runners. One man taps two pieces of wood together every few steps he takes. He wears a grey T-shirt with a number ten on the back. His tread is light and he is fast. I hear him laughing. He taps the wood and runs and laughs.
At the North East Side of the reservoir I stop to take a picture of the Midtown skyline and wonder if I should take this picture every day. Well, not this picture, obviously, because I can only take this picture once, the next one will be a different picture. A different picture of the same scene. Doesn’t the scene change too? I could capture the turn of the seasons in miniature steps, but should I?
(Stay in the moment. Take the bloody picture and move on.)
I take the picture with my back towards the trail. I hear her before I see her. The air she let’s out with every step she takes sounds like paper tearing. I turn around. She is wearing running shorts and a sports bra. Both shoulders lean over her right hip in a stiff twist. She can’t be without pain running like this. It looks like her upper body is pulled in a different direction by an invisible magnet and her legs are struggling to keep her on track. I am in awe of her resolve. She might be 70, or older even, but here she is; running along while gravity challenges her every step; a half naked Badass without a bike.
I don’t like to run. I need a slower pace to quiet my overstimulated brain. This walk will keep me sane, at least for today. An hour after leaving home I am back on Third Avenue to pick up a Hail the Kale smoothie, paying full price. Of course.