Friday, October 06, 2006

At dusk in New York

I wasn't sure if it was because of the five hours' sleep I got last night or the surreal feeling I had riding the subway to work at 6:30 p.m. -- me heading into the office while just about everyone else in the car was heading home -- but I sat down at my desk and looked at the "America: The Book" daily calendar on my desk.

OCTOBER 06 it read in the upper right-hand corner. TUESDAY it said in the lower right.

I stared at it for a good 20, 30 seconds. I tried to remember what day it was on my own, thinking back to the schedule of the Mets-Dodgers National League Division Series. Didn't they play on Wednesday and Thursday? I thought. Today's Friday, isn't it? Finally, I picked up the calendar to flip the page, thinking I'd somehow neglected to turn it in three days, even though I was sure I had last night -- actually, 4:30 a.m. today -- before heading home. "Saturday," it said. Phew.

But here I am, hoping for a smooth, even quick night at the office. The walk down 15th Street was strange in the twilight, the flag atop the building spotlighted as I'd remembered it back in February when I first came here. Earlier, on the bus, we'd waited on the ramp into Port Authority because of the usual evening congestion and I gazed out the window at 9th Avenue below us, the river of red tail lights seeming brighter, clearer crisper on this cold autumn evening.

Walking to work in the winter won't be as fun as it has been this summer -- even on those stupidly hot days -- because of the decrease in gawkers. It's guaranteed in New York that if you're walking behind a good-looking woman, at least two-thirds of the men who pass you heading the other way will check her out. you can spot them as they approach, casting sideways glances without her noticing. If you're far enough behind her, you can catch them getting a look at her from behind, too.

And I won't see the pair of commuters -- car-poolers, or, more accurately, bike-poolers -- that I saw yesterday on 9th Avenue. As I stood on the corner waiting to cross, a gray-haired man in a suit rode his bike down the middle of the avenue, his backpack wrapped around the front, between his arms and the handlebars.

Only, it wasn't a backpack. It was a harness, a harness holding a dachsund, a dachsund staring intently ahead, enjoying the wind in his face, his front paws dangling from the openings in the harness.

That's a sight that will bring a smile every time.

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