Skip to main content

The Long Days of This New York Spring

The guys downstairs closed their diner, broke down the newsstand, and tossed the pieces to the curb. The barbershop closed last week, or maybe two weeks ago, commemorated with an Irish wake of beers. The bagel shop tried to stay open but gave up. There’s one bodega open across the street, and a few guys are still hanging out there, drinking cans of beer out of paper bags. The florist has shuttered, and the shoe repair guy, too. The juice bar that was going to open never did. The pet food store is still open.

Around the corner on Broadway, the grocery store opens at 7 am, a time popular with older people and morning larks. This morning, the shelves were still well stocked with produce and meats, but not so much with bread and toilet paper. The pharmacy is open, and the liquor store, too. Other places may be open or closed, but at this point, everyone is told to go out for only what they need and then go home.

The park was pleasant this morning, even under cloudy skies. The cherry blossoms are peaking now. The few people who still enjoy morning exercise or have dogs can witness this thing called springtime in New York. It’s just as glorious as autumn in New York. Andy Warhol famously said, “My favorite smell is the first smell of spring in New York.” The birds were out in force, including mockingbirds and robins. One loud bird often wakes me up in the middle of the night. There are only two sounds sometimes - birds and sirens.




The days run together, as they may be where you live. Yet, people tend to settle into certain rhythms. The first thought, upon waking, comes the reminder that life on the planet has seemingly come to a halt, at least for humankind. The birds are busy collecting sticks for the nest. After breakfast, the “work day” begins. For some, works continues in some fashion but at a distance through telecommuting. For the newly unemployed or for artists trying to function outside traditional venues, the idea of a normal workday seems like a phantasm.

For many, lunchtime means Cuomo-time. The Governor of New York’s news conference starts at 11:30 am or later. He typically starts with “facts” - the number of cases, the number of deaths, the required number of needed ventilators. Then he offers his personal opinions. We need to use the time, he says, to find the “silver lining” - to pursue our dreams and buried aspirations or to connect deeply with families and friends. Our proud Italian-American governor reminds us that good pasta makes for meaningful and convivial relationships. He thanks our front-line workers - the doctors, nurses, mental care workers, delivery guys, grocery store clerks, EMS responders, and more. Then, it’s time “to get back to work.” 

After Cuomo time, we go back to work, whatever that means for each of us individually. At 7 pm, in a new tradition that started this past week in the city, New Yorkers come to their windows and shout their appreciation to the front-line workers. The practice is uplifting and convivial, as if we were playing parts in an elaborate Metropolitan Opera production.


After window time, it’s back to whatever we need to do to cope with a life lived indoors. Chatting with friends on the phone helps enormously. Conversations sometimes turn toward the topic of symptoms - the weird allergy at the beginning of March, the chills, a loss of smell, or a persistent cough. We may have had the virus or not, but with the lack of widespread testing, no one is sure. It’s hard not to be paranoid.

Checking in on social media can help, too, in small doses. One friend living out in a western state posted a remark that they were grateful they didn’t live in New York. I try not to take things personally anymore. There’s a comfort in the shared experience.


Sleep eventually comes. As with best meditation practices, I find it helps to focus on the moment. Dwelling on the past can drift into bouts of loss and sadness, while pondering the uncertain future can lead to crippling anxiety. It’s time to take a big long collective breath. The tragic twist to this respiratory illness is its ability to take away our very capacity for breath.

Live life from moment to moment, I tell myself. Stay here and now. Here and now means building a new interior life, in a life lived inside. Walk on occasion and enjoy the trees, but truly stay inside.

Related post: Walking Through the Age of Coronavirus March 21, 2020









Popular posts from this blog

Circling the Met: A Springtime Visit to Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art

For a double feature of art and nature, the Metropolitan Museum of Art happens to be conveniently situated in Central Park. The front of the museum faces Fifth Avenue, its monumental wings stretching the blocks between E. 80th and E. 84th. The sides and the back of the museum are within easy walking distance of several prominent landmarks within the park.  Cedar Hill in Central Park Before a visit to the Met, consider taking a walk around the museum beginning on the southern side. A walk in the park can serve as a good preparation for a museum visit, because looking at or noticing the shapes and colors of the built and natural environment can enhance the art experience. Cedar Hill in Central Park The path south of the 79 Street Transverse leads to a scene at Cedar Hill very much like a panorama, with a vast wide-angle expanse of green grass and hill. Take the first path that leads back over 79th Street to the southern side of the museum. This path brilliantly disguises the motor traffi

NYC Re-openings and Travel Advice

What will open, and how will you get there? This list will be updated following official announcements. UPDATED October 10, 2020.  Many favorite local destinations have now reopened.  Hand sanitizer dispenser at the Marble Hill station of Metro-North's Hudson line Openings  - General Information and Popular Destinations    • Restaurants: Consult this NYC Department of Transportation map  (updated link) for restaurants currently open in NYC. Starting September 30, NYC allowed indoor dining at 25% capacity. • As of September 25, outdoor dining in NYC has been extended FOREVER. • The  9/11 Memorial  reopened on Saturday, July 4. Visitors must wear masks and keep social distancing practices. • (update) Libraries: NYPL. T he library will allow a grab-and-go service at 50 locations.   • Governors Island reopened July 15 with advance reserved tickets.  • The High Line  reopened on July 16, with several rules and limitations in place, including timed entry passes - available July 9. Entra

Early Voting in Washington Heights, and A Walk

Early voting for the 2020 federal election in New York began on Saturday, October 24 and continues through Sunday, November 1. The weekend was overcast and autumnal, with the bright yellows of fall on display. In New York City, thousands of New Yorkers turned out at the 88 early voting locations and waited in long lines, many stretching around the block.  A line to vote in Washington Heights. The line stretched around the block multiple times. Madison Square Garden in Manhattan and the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn were two of the well-known sites, but most voting places were typical neighborhood places such as schools, churches, and hospitals.   The scene outside the entrance to the Russ Berrie Medical Science Pavilion, one of the early voting locations in Washington Heights. In Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan, two early voting locations were within a short walk of one another, causing some confusion for voters emerging from the 168th Street subway station. The Columbia Universit

The Lonesome Metropolis: A Walk from Grand Central Terminal to Rockefeller Center

As New York City reopens, why do the attractions of the great metropolis still look mostly deserted on a summer morning? A morning walk from Grand Central Terminal to Rockefeller Center sought to address this question. As it turns out, there are several adequate explanations. But for what happens next, there are no right answers. Grand Central Terminal, 9:40 am. Wednesday, July 22, 2020. Many neighborhoods outside of tourist New York are still buzzing along. While some residents of wealthier neighborhoods have largely decamped to mountain cabins, beach houses, and other second homes, the less wealthy have nowhere to go and may still be working. Just visit Washington Heights or Corona or Flatbush, and you’ll see sidewalks full of shoppers and summer evening street partiers. Those who fled the city remain only a fraction of the total population.   Grand Central Terminal, 9:40 am. Wednesday, July 22, 2020. Other renowned parts of the city such as City Hall and Brooklyn Bridge have been fr

North Towards Autumn: A Day Trip on the Metro-North Hudson Line

The peak of autumn colors in New York City tends to fall sometime in the days following Halloween, but those anxiously waiting leaf change can simply travel north.  Near Beacon, a view of autumn colors from the Metro-North Hudson line One way to speed the fall season is to take the Hudson line of Metro-North north of the city and watch the greens fade to oranges and yellows and the occasional burst of red.  Autumn light in Hastings-on-Hudson Weekends during the month of October are ideal times to make the trip. The air tends to be crisp with bright blue skies, and the Hudson River glimmers like a mirror in the light of autumn. As the Hudson line hugs the river for much of the distance north, the train ride alone provides plenty of opportunities for sightseeing. Try to grab a window seat on the river side of the train car for views of the Palisades and the bends of the Hudson Highlands later in the trip.   Autumn leaves on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail in Hastings Still, October is a gr

From Manhattan to the Bronx: A Walk Over the Henry Hudson Bridge to Henry Hudson Park

At the tiptop of Manhattan Island, Inwood Hill Park offers picturesque views of the Hudson River. For one of the best views, follow the marker at Shorakkopoch Rock (see map at the end of the post), the legendary place where Peter Minuit was said to have bought the island for 60 guilders, and follow the ridge up the slope. The path leads gently higher and higher, with views of the Salt Marsh down below and then the underside of the Henry Hudson Bridg e above. This spot along the ridge is well known among birders, as the height and the proximity to the Hudson River allow access to treetops and places where birds like to go.  View of Henry Hudson Bridge from Muscota Marsh in Inwood Hill Park. Look for the path on the left that leads up and under the bridge. This post will explain how to cross the bridge on foot. Keep going around the bend and past the bridge. A few spots of open pavement at the edge of the hill provide good views of the Spuyten Duyvil Bridge, a swing bridge

Museums in New York Open on Mondays

Please see this post for current announcements of reopenings . Please consult the museum websites for changes in days and hours. UPDATED September 23, 2020 Advance tickets required for many museum reopenings. Please check museum websites for details. • The  Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)  reopened to the public on  August 27 , with new hours for the first month, through September 27: from 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday to the public; and from 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.  on Mondays for MoMA members on ly. Admission will be free to all visitors Tuesday through Sunday, through September 27, made possible by UNIQLO. See this  new post on WOTBA for a sense of the experience attending the museum . •  New-York Historical Society  reopened on  August 14  with an outdoor exhibition, "Hope Wanted: New York City Under Quarantine,” in the rear courtyard. The exhibit by activist Kevin Powell and photographer Kay Hickman will highlight how New Yorkers weathered the quarantine

Purposeful Pastimes in a Pandemic

The disruption of everyday life in this pandemic can lead to confusion, immobility, or a lack of concentration. I know this has been true for me. Certain activities that in normal times would be effortless and fun now seem suddenly too hard or irrelevant. For me, this includes writing anything longer than a paragraph. I also painted a small scene of the streetscape out my window but it took me over a month to finish it. I’ve now identified a handful of activities that are easy for me, and I’ve managed to rationalize them by finding meaning in them as well. The first, of course, is walking. While staying home is the preferred course of action during a pandemic, a solitary walk in a nearby park is acceptable within the current guidelines. I find these walks in nature absolutely necessary for physical and mental wellbeing. Taking pictures of birds can also be fun, educational, and meaningful. While the Great Egret, Red-tailed Hawk, and Northern Cardinal are common in these

A Morning Walk from Penn Station to Times Square

Penn Station to Times Square New York City entered a new phase of the reopening on Monday, but you would never know it from a morning walk in Midtown on the day after.  At 34th Street and 8th Avenue, an outsize reminder of the public health crisis from Montefiore Medical Center After running an errand near Penn Station, I decided to take a walk up to Times Square and Broadway before heading home from 59th Street and Columbus Circle.  34th Street looking east toward the Empire State Building I wasn’t altogether prepared for the sights and sounds of this time and this place. Like many other New Yorkers, I have rarely left my neighborhood for the past four months.  8th Avenue at W. 38th Street After exiting a quiet Penn Station near 8th Avenue and W. 33rd Street at what would normally be the end of rush hour, I found myself suddenly dropped into a city (mostly) bereft of crowds.  A few commuters near Port Authority and The New York Times building, 8th Avenue and W. 40th Street Yet, I had

Walking It Off: Coping with Holiday Stress During the Pandemic

When I began this series, “Pandemic Posts from the Pause: New York City in the Age of Coronavirus” in March of 2020, I could see the first young greens of spring from my window. New Yorkers were told to stay home then and away from others. As someone who enjoys walking in the city, I knew that I would need to sacrifice many things this year. I was not going to give up walking. I quickly figured out that I could safely go to Inwood Hill Park near my house and wander the trails in the old forest. In March, I could breathe in the spring air away from others. There was little else to do during those early days of the “pause.” New Yorkers suffered greatly at the beginning. In a few months we were able to get the numbers down and to manage some semblance of human interaction, at a distance and masked.  Now, with the beginning of the holidays, the city and nation faces the existential threat of the virus’s return, the political assault on democratic norms, and the ongoing threat of the clima