Tuesday, August 18, 2009

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

August is a month that is unkind to this city. Summer's heat catches up with us. The air can become a bit stale. The sweet scents of springtime reach a maturity that does not encourage deep inhaling.

Tempers can be short. Hairdos can be twisted and frizzy. Attention spans can be tested.

I live near an intersection in which three heavily trafficked roadways intersect. Broadway, Amsterdam Avenue and West 71 Street. The complex choreography of vehicular and pedestrian motion is directed by various traffic lights. Not all participants follow the directions.

The above photo shows a yellow taxi whooshing through a walkway as some walking workers returning home try to share the space. It is twilight and the soft colors of early evening give a bit of atmosphere to the picture.
Here is another view of the homecoming crew. Just behind them you will see a city bus on its way down Broadway, and just to the left of that bus is one of two little "subway houses" that provide entry to those wishing, or required, to ride the subway trains. The station's below ground train platforms are hot, very, very hot. It is a blessing when the air-conditioned subway train arrives and its door click open.
We New Yorkers pretend to ourselves that we get used to summer in the City. Some of us so wish that we could give the month of August a miss.
I did not have to work today and gave myself a pretty agenda-less day, with only a few errands, and some phone calls to friends, and a bit of reading and needle crafting.
Mid-afternoon, after the midday heat, I went out for a short walk. I returned to find a huge traffic jam at the intersection I showed you. Trucks, cars, firetrucks, ambulances, police cars, pedestrians, bicycling persons. Horns honking. Sirens shrieking. Two police women were valiantly attempting to direct the traffic flow.
Tempers were rising.
What had happened? Was it the subway? Was anyone hurt? We New Yorkers know that bad things can happen.
Well. What had happened was that one of those fast-moving yellow taxis had tried to make an unauthorized left-hand turn from a lane reserved for buses, and had been cut off by other traffic. Having no where to go, the taxi had crashed through the supposedly protective iron fencing around the traffic island and crashed into the subway house.

I am delighted to report that only minor injuries resulted. What concerns me is that we now have proof that those iron fences are no protection to pedestrians about to enter the subway stations.

The above picture shows the yellow police tape that has now blocked off the accident site. In the background is another NYC landmark, Gray's Papaya, purveyor of delicious hot dogs and legendary papaya juice. See the sign proclaiming a Recession Special.

Here is another view of traffic continuing up Amsterdam Avenue.

And another view of folks looking at the site of the accident.

And finally, here is the southern, or downtown, entrance to the subway station. The station remained open for passengers throughout the afternoon excitement. Our city just keeps going.
I know that I will have to continue to take the subway, and will continue to look in all directions before crossing any street. Unless my attention is diverted. Accidents can and do happen.
Best wishes to all.


  1. "There are eight million stories in the Naked City; this has been one of them."

    And it's a good one, too. thanks for sharing.

  2. I enjoyed this glimpse into your surroundings Frances. Fascinating to those of us from much smaller places and to whom visiting New York is a dream.
    Thank you.

  3. I visited NYC regularly when we lived in Philadelphia - and I remember the brutal heat and humidity of August. It sounds as though you managed your day off very well and were able to avoid the worst of the heat.
    Big cities are wonderful, yet dangerous places. I'm glad you're street smart!

  4. Great to see NYC pavements and street scenes. Glad no-one was hurt by the taxi.

  5. Goodness heavens! I hadn't realised you lived so centrally and with all of NY happening below you...it would either fascinate me or drive me mad...
    Very glad to hear no-one was hurt, what on earth was the taxi driver thinking of?

  6. Stay safe Frances! Love to read your insights into your city.

  7. I find it hard to imagine what it must be like to live in a big city Frances, but your descriptions are so vivid that I do get a very good idea. Not sure I would like it for long, but fascinating none the less. We were recently in the city of Edinburgh, it was heaving with tourists, hot and humid, but not nearly as exciting as NY!

  8. This sounds so like Paris in August. Most of the Parisians get out and leave the city, but the tourists flock in, the trtaffic gets worse and worse, and accidents are a 'norm'!

  9. It's official. You are my mini vacation! I live in what I believe to be a glorious town but this morning when I was looking at all the pictures I still have left to hang and the curtain and drapes still in their boxes.. I just wanted to run away!
    I ran to you! I think it must be so awesome to live where you live, to see what you see and hear what you hear.. So different from my little town of 2000, maybe 2500 neighbors.
    I can't wait to hear about the Broadway plays and such. Do you go to them? I bet it's wonderful.
    Thank you so much for my little vacations. =)

  10. Thank you again for the glimpse of one of my favourite cities (though we visited in the more bearable October).
    My husband had a altercation with a yellow cab while crossing an intersection and nearly landed on the hood!
    He enjoyed some loud swearing and gesticulating " I'm walkin'here! I'm walkin' here!" (a la Midnight Cowboy).
    Almost worth the near accident.

  11. Wonderful insight into the city life you live. I live in a city too, but a very different city with a population of less than 1,600. Yes, that is right, less than sixteen hundred souls share my city. You probably have than many and maybe more just on your block.

    Glad no one was seriously hurt in the accident, although I bet an ego or two was badly damaged.

  12. This may seem like a sweeping generalisation but whenever I think of where you live I get the impression of noise, noise and more noise, mainly traffic noise. Accompanied by the smell of traffic of course, and can only imagine how stifling it must be when heat is added. Interesting post, always interested in reading about how others live, especially when it's so different to my way of life.

  13. Two thoughts immediately spring to mind reading this post; firstly, it's suprising there are not more accidents given that so many people and vehicles are competing for the same space and secondly, once again I'm impressed at your serenity in the midst of such busy surroundings. I loved the photos which really get to the heart of where you live - that 'recession special' says it all about these times.

  14. All things considered, it is very lucky it wasn't worse, I've been in a bad taxi accident myself, my driver was totally at fault. I stay out of them. The helicopter and plane accident this month was only a few blocks away from where I work and stirred up my 9/11 memories. It does seem like August is the worst time to be here.

  15. Hope it cools down there for you very soon, Frances. It is almost lunch time here and how I'd love to have one of those delicious hot dogs and some papaya juice. Yumm!! :)

  16. You've captured the essence of what I imagine it must be like there in August so well! Love the twilight pic of people coming home from work, I can so easily picture the warmth, sounds, smells, lights, pretty things to buy in the shops that I remember from that part of town :-)

  17. Mmm bit scary how those metal rails wouldnt protect you and thank goodness no-one was hurt. I could just feel the heat in your post. City life is def not for me! but love to visit NY one day.

  18. Francis, take care crossing those awful roads. Did you know that we have no air-con on the London underground, and there is £1,000,000 prize for anyone who comes up with a viable system? So far no one's come up with anything remotely possible. The trains are such a snug fit in the tunnels.

  19. It is such a contrast to life in the English countryside. How ever much I think our village Square is a racetrack, an intersection where people go all over the place, your city seems like Wacky Races at times. But I do love NY.

  20. How do you manage to stay so calm and serene Frances with all this going on around you! Your photos of the street scenes are vivid and alive and take us immediately to your great city. I lived in London and can echo what lampbeadworker says about the underground not having air-conditioning! It all seems a million miles away from the relative quiet of the Suffolk countryside. Thank you for sharing the experience - and stay safe.

  21. Thank you for the story of your walk in the city. I have never been to NY and maybe I never will now. I would certainly never come in August, I bless the UK climate. On German TV I saw that their temperatures today are reaching 37C.

    Your posts are the nearest I come to understanding the real NY, not the one from SATC; Please, continue to write them.

    Take care in the traffic.

  22. Well Frances I went to see the film Julie and Julia and liked it a lot. There were a few things that were not right for the Paris of the early 50s, for example the metro Porte des Lilas was still in its old fashioned style, but the sign “sortie” was not, it was from the late 60s and a store bag Julia used while shopping in a store was from the 70s. Some of the background music was not from the early fifties either but from the early 60s, that only a Parisian would notice and a good film editor should have checked but the movie was good. One thing though I learnt something about that senator McCarthy – he sounded paranoid, like the people who go to those hometown meetings – was he a Republican by any chance? I have to read more on him and I don’t understand why the American people let him do his evil deeds. Where they are scared as they are now? Also I read on the NYT about the 100 century old trees that fell in Central Park after that bad storm and I am very sorry – we love to walk in the park when we go to New York. I’ll also be careful when I go to that subway station which we use when we visit your town. Being from Paris, I like large international cities, and I love New York, for sure.

  23. Hello Frances

    Another evocative slice of NY life - many thanks.


  24. For Vagabonde (and for the record):

    Joseph Raymond McCarthy was a Republican from Wisconsin, who served in the U.S. Senate from 1947 until his death in 1957.

    (Damn these journalists; they know way too much.)

  25. What a fascinating commentary. I could almost hear the sound of the city.
    " be careful crossing streets,
    don't eat sweets
    You can hear this lovely song "Button up your overcoat" on youtube.
    I would add, take care of your elegant and envied hair cut. "Twisted and frizzy"? Never!

  26. So pleased to hear that nobody got hurt, I can well imagine those crowded streets. The first time we ever went to NY was in the month of August, back in 1980 when NY seemed a very scary place.

    I am sure your recent experience will have been unnerving, I am always relieved to make my exit from the London Underground but I suppose it does not do to dwell on danger as they say the place where most accidents happen is in the home.

    Take care x

  27. Summer in the City indeed! What a delightful tale of a wretched time. You have missed your vocation, Frances, you love your city so much, even its troubled times and unhappy places, that I do think you should be working for the City's Tourism office. Travelling around Europe, perhaps, making presentations, sharing your blogs - coming to visit your friends in Purple Coo-land. I am sure the tourist trade would increase so quickly that the Recession Special sign would disappear faster than you could say Lehman Brothers. By the way, our NHS does work very well and if you are here promoting New York and you fall ill or break your leg, you will be treated at once with no questions asked, even if you have lost your money and insurance policies. Wonderful.

  28. i love hearing about new york, we went early september and it was very hot, is that restaurant the one featured in the film youve got mail? fliss xx

  29. This is a fascinating little peek into New York life Frances. I love the pictures full of motion and bustle. They contrast with my pictures of butterflies - not much happens here in the countryside. If a few youngsters make a racket outside the village pub it's very big news. Sometimes I miss the vibrant life in a city.

  30. I love the twilighty glow of the pictures...summer in NYC makes me think about having parties on roofs...I don't know why...too much TV maybe? lol
    I'm glad nobody was injured but I think being aware of your surroundings when you walk around is a good idea! Yikes! I still look forward to going to NY one day! ;-)

  31. Goodness I suddenly appreciate living a quite country life even more than I do usually! I'm not sure I could cope with the constant noise, though I suspect that one gets used to it after a while.
    In the midst of all this bustle and rush, your commentry leaves us with the sense that you are an oasis of calm and elegant serenity.

  32. Really glad noone was hurt but does sound a bit worrying.
    Hope the air begins to cool for you soon.

  33. Wonderful post you have shared with Frances. I just love reading about the City life you live in.

    Pleased to hear no one was seriously hurt in that accident, quite scary.


  34. Thank you for visiting my blog and your lovely comment - thank you also for becoming a follower. It is quite amazing seeing where you live - so very different from living on a country lane in England! A bit more exciting, I think!

    Pomona x

  35. Dear Frances,

    How I adore your blog! I've been a lurker for months now, but I had to say something.

    In fact, I love your blog so much that I paid a flawed homage to it in a recent blog post of my own entitled, "Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery."

    I love to think of you there, in my old West Side neighborhood and eagerly anticipate your next blog entry. You're wonderful!

    Annie at The View from 256

  36. Hi Jasmine, I couldn't email you re your comments on my blog as you haven't made your 'email' live on your blog. Regarding the image on 'Feltissimo' blog. I have just taken an ordinary photo with my old olypus camera and in photoshop used the Filter > stylize >Solarize. Its the first time I've used this and am very pleased with the results.
    Sandie at feltissimo and Rag Rescue blogs.

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