The Summer Rolls in on the First Five Cars: A Warm Evening on the Battery

Though the unofficial start of summer arrives on Memorial Day weekend, now a week away, a hint of the season arrived on Wednesday afternoon this week. At some point, the winds shifted from the north to the south, and when it was time for me to leave work and go home, a wanderlust took over. Upon these southern breezes, I made an impromptu decision to skip my home stop on the downtown 1 train and to stay on till the end of the line.

For many months in the aftermath of the hurricane, the South Ferry station was not an option for riders of the 1 train.
The older South Ferry station has been recommissioned. Riders must sit in the first five cars. 

The end of the line seemed promising, not so much for the destination - the neighborhood of Battery Park and the ferry terminals - but in the actual subway stop itself. The 1 train currently ends at the old South Ferry station, the one that the MTA recently recommissioned in order to serve commuters to Staten Island. The hurricane of last fall had knocked out the newer and bigger one, turning it into "an aquarium," in the words of Governor Cuomo. Now the older station is unearthed, dusted off and operable. But due to its small size, commuters must ride in the first five cars to get off the train. Stepping off the cars into the gently rounded station feels like stepping off an antique carousel.

Decoration in the old South Ferry station, recommissioned in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

Once above ground, many choices present themselves for an impromptu jaunt around this waterfront neighborhood. A ride on the Staten Island Ferry is certainly one. Another would be a stroll around the water's edge through Battery Park and the Battery Park Esplanade. Another good choice would involve an exploration of the winding streets of the Financial District.

the intersection of Broad and Water Streets, Lower Manhattan

Sometimes, a good bar will do the trick, especially after a long work day. On this particularly dreamy late afternoon, I fell into convivial company upstairs at the Dead Rabbit, a watering hole (or more like a rabbit hole, if you order the right drink) on Water Street. The bar's ambience evokes an Irish pub of a hundred years ago. The experience feels like immersive theater, but in a good way.

The Dead Rabbit, exterior, 30 Water Street

The remaining light of the afternoon at the water's edge deepened my desire to extend the day. The sun appeared both enormous and soft, supernatural and nurturing. Before heading uptown, I slowed down the tempo to linger in the warm sunset.

the sunset in Battery Park

The impromptu decision to break from routine merely reaffirmed something I have come to know. Whenever a whimsical choice of staying or going presents itself, and sometimes that's rare, I am almost always glad, in retrospect, of the decision to go out, especially on my own. After years of solo walking and its resulting adventures, I long ago set aside any misplaced perception that a good time requires advanced planning and company. Even if it's just a little thing like skipping the normal subway stop, my world grows larger, just like this sun. And sometimes I discover new company, too, essential for sustaining a meaningful life in a city such as this.

Battery Park, with view of New York Harbor

While Fleet Week has been cancelled this year (the spectacle of sailors in their uniforms always reminds me of Our Town, the musical), we will have to find ways to compensate. Maybe the answer rests in casting off the personal anchors of expectations, not just for Fleet Week, but for other occasions. Make your own R and R. Work hard on the high seas, and when it's time to pull into New York Harbor, sail your own ship. On shore, you will meet others who have arrived the same way.

sailing, New York Harbor

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from Wednesday, May 15, 2013.