This weekend has provided a little foretaste of spring, with temperatures briefly reaching close to 60F (15C) today. It didn't take long for New Yorkers to prove they could be just as nutty as Californians by stripping down to t-shirts and shorts and prancing around in the unusually bright sunshine.
But by the time I got out of the house (there was English football to be watched and something else which seemed important at the time, though I can no longer remember what it was), the temperature was dropping and I thought it best to wear my winter jacket, a decision that turned out to have been a wise one, as it was back down in the 30s by the time I got home.
It may have been that the unusual weather inspired me with some sort of wanderlust, because I ventured far north of my usual downtown haunts, all the way to 72nd Street, in fact, though once I was there I immediately found myself suffering from what might be thought of as existential vertigo and had to jump on a train, any train, as long as it was headed in the general direction of 14th Street.
But en route I made some useful discoveries, among them being:
1) The financial crisis may be grim indeed in most parts of the country and indeed in many parts of the city, but it seems to have had little if any impact on the Apple Store at 5th Avenue and 59th Street. You could hardly walk around in the place, it was so crowded, and it wasn't just gawkers; the line of people waiting to pay for the largely overpriced merchandise was at least 20 or 30 deep.
2) Central Park looks a lot smaller in the winter when you can see through the bare trees and realize that no matter where you are, there are buildings and streets not all that far away.
3) Although I've never been a fan of roller blades (don't ask me why; it's just one of those irrational, instinctive loathings that crop up from time to time, like mustaches or smelly chewing gum), it was really nice to see (and hear) the DJ sound system playing for a couple dozen roller disco types (and quite a few dancing in their street shoes as well) and the crowd of spectators they attracted. If I hadn't been wearing my winter jacket and carrying a fairly heavy backpack, I might have joined in.
4) I always thought "Strawberry Fields," the section of the park set aside to memorialize John Lennon, was a bit hokey, but while passing through I happened upon a group of people playing and singing nothing but Beatles songs with a proficiency that leads one to believe they have been out there for a long time doing the same thing for a couple decades' worth of Sundays.
5) While stopping to listen for a while, I made a shocking yet gratifying discovery: the first flowers of spring! With February barely a week old! They weren't fully in bloom yet, in fact, weren't really in bloom at all, but you could distinctly see the white flowers-to-be protruding from the unmistakably green shoots. I believe they were snowdrops. Definitely not crocuses, which are usually the first spring flowers I notice around here.
6) Central Park is sure an awful lot nicer when it's closed to automobile traffic.
7) No matter how beautiful a day it's been, or how springlike, a stiff north wind kicking up just as darkness begins to settle over the city can drag you right back into winter and make you not only glad you wore your winter coat, but also a little sorry you didn't wear you hoodie as well.
8) I've heard many negative critiques of the Time Warner Building at Columbus Circle, but every time I visit the shops there, even if (as is usually the case) I'm just doing so to get out of the cold, I find some new perspective or point of view to be fascinated by. Plus they have better quality restrooms than most shopping centers.
9) Times Square seems unnaturally quiet these days, and I don't think it's just the weather.
10) The building that used to house Barnes and Noble on 6th Ave around 21st Street is still vacant after a couple years. A bookstore and cafe were a nicer accoutrement to that part of town than an empty storefront.
11) There are more empty storefronts in New York than I've seen at any time in the last 10 or 15 years. But things still look more prosperous than most of the rest of the country.
12) If nobody can afford anything, why don't they lower the prices and rents already?
13) It was a good day. And soon it really will be spring.