Lots of fog in the past few days, much of it beautifully low-hanging enough to dissolve the tops of the towers on both sides of the river. Cormorants huddling on the pilings, gulls swooping, and a red-tail who seems to be making the neighborhood his home. Fingers of gold leaves from the locust trees lying in criss-crosses on dark wet stone. This morning, sudden silver bursts of fish jumping from the water right in front of my bench. I watched for a while hoping they were being chased by a seal who’d eventually surface. Seals from New England do winter in Jamaica Bay, but they don’t often come this far up the Hudson. I’ve only seen one here, about four years ago. Did not see one this morning. In the end I had to admit the predator was probably just a bigger fish.
Because I know you want to see it. Houdini was a Hungarian Jew, the son of a rabbi. Born Erich Weisz, he later spelled his last name Weiss because it was easier to explain. When he became a professional magician he called himself Harry after Harry Kellar, and Houdini after Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, two magicians he admired (though he later went on to expose Robert-Houdin as a liar, if not exactly a fraud).
Houdini’s buried in Queens, in what’s called the “cemetery belt” on the Terminal Moraine. (Really.) This is not the world’s best photo of his grave, but I had to take it from outside the fence, because when we went to see it, the cemetery gate was locked. That kept us out, though of course there’s no reason to think it’s keeping him in…
Two tween boys walking down the street pass a newly installed holiday display. One grabs the other’s arm, points, and in mock horror says, “Oh my god, WHERE is that bear TOUCHING him?” They both crack up and walk on.
I love New York.
Anyone remember that jingle? It’s from so long ago I can’t even say when. I’ve always been a big fan of libraries, especially the New York Public Library, my hometown system. Never as much as now, however. Because of construction in the apartment above me, I’ve been forced to flee and find other places to write. That’s how I discovered Malcolm Gladwell’s café (no, he doesn’t own it, he just writes there) and some other fine spots around the city; but by far the best is the DeWitt Wallace Periodical Room at the 42nd Street Library. The building where the reservoir used to be (there, a fact for free) with the lions, Patience and Fortitude, flanking the steps outside. You sit here surrounded by other hard-working people — some of them actually reading periodicals — and by carved moldings, high windows, and frescoes of NYC buildings, with faux-marble frames. What writer couldn’t get something done here?
carved ceiling 30 feet above our heads
high window and hard-working people
fresco with faux-marble frame
The grass is still green and thriving, but the leaves are fading, crisping brown at the tips, or turning glorious colors as they variously will. The air is cool, though not yet cold. The wind has started to raise sharper waves on the river. The gray slate pathway is dotted with gold and tan, this leaf-trickle soon to be a flood. Many of the migrating birds have come and gone. The local mallards and Canada geese are still here, as are the local cormorants, though bands of cormorants can be seen overhead heading to their winter quarters. Yesterday, to my surprise, a sloppy V of Brant geese raced chaotically south along the river. Way too early for them in the usual way of things, but climate change being what it is, they must have had a good reason for leaving the Arctic this soon. I hope they find a welcome where they’re going.
66th Street, south side, from the north side
66th St, north side, from the south side