A few weeks ago, I moved to Inwood, a neighborhood in the northernmost reaches of the island of Manhattan. I was immediately struck by its friendliness, with many people introducing themselves and asking if I needed anything. In the little time I have been here, I have stayed close to home and have left only when it was time to go to work.
I like walking up and down the hilly streets and rambling down past the baseball fields to Spuyten Duyvil Creek with its views of ducks, geese, and the pretty Henry Hudson Bridge. I have seen several Red-tailed Hawks flying about the hills, and a Snowy Egret and a Great Blue Heron in the waters. A few people have spoken of seeing a Bald Eagle and a baby Bald Eagle soaring over Inwood Hill Park. I look forward to seeing the eagles as well as some wise old owls as the shadows deepen into winter.
While walking in the park, I can begin to perceive what the island must have looked like in the 1600s.
I wish I had learned about Juan (Jan) Rodriquez in school. I knew about Peter Minuit purchasing Manhattan for a few guilders and trinkets (always the "trinkets"), but I didn't know about Santa Domingo-born Rodriguez. Working as a translator, in 1613 Rodriquez set sail on a Dutch ship to Manhattan, and he stayed while the others returned. He became the first non-native to live here. Earlier this year, street signs went up to commemorate the co-naming of Broadway between 159th and 218th Streets as "Juan Rodriguez Way." This area is heavily populated by Rodriguez's fellow countrymen from the Dominican Republic.
This is an exceptionally verdant part of the island, with an abundance of trees - an old growth forest within Inwood Hill Park on the west side, gracefully-worn steps and small meadows in the proximate Isham Park, and to the south, the towering Fort Tryon Park. The Cloisters, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's medieval branch, sits atop the park, suffusing the surroundings with a sort of mystical presence. I often feel far away from the city.
In some ways, I feel like I moved into a different time, perhaps the 1930s, the time of Inwood's expansion. The Cloisters opened in 1938. The A train expanded to 207th and Broadway in the 1930s. Like many of my neighbors, I live in an Art Deco-style apartment building dating from the era.
I live near a couple of luncheonettes, with real lunch counters, and they serve egg creams. I often wake to the smell of bacon wafting up from below. The experience is reminiscent of the memorable third act of David Cromer's 2009 staging of Thornton Wilder's Our Town (1938), the moment when the audience is suddenly transported into the sensual memory of the kitchens of their youth. I saw the play at the Barrow Street Theatre in my old neighborhood of Greenwich Village, and I'll never forget that Aristotelian theatrical moment when the audience inhaled the smell of bacon at the same time.
It's autumn. I will not go so far as to say I have moved to Grover's Corners (hey, it's still New York City, not New Hampshire), but I am reveling in this transitional time and place that, for me, feels both exceptional and normal.
I am in my autumn, too.
It is time.
It's hard to say goodbye.
I am so grateful for having the chance to share my discoveries of New York with you. When I started Walking Off the Big Apple in the summer of 2007, I was looking for a way to make myself feel at home in the city. Like many of you, I came here from another place. I've met wonderful people along the course of these adventures, including coming to know several readers as friends. I learned a great many things. We have walked far together.
I'll leave the site up for the immediate future in case others come across it and find something of use here.
It's been so great. I will miss you.
I wish everyone a happy autumn in New York.
Update: April 2014. Who knows? This website may be updated from time to time. You never know.