24 February 2011

Like Atoms in Space

When I'm riding my bike along the East River at dusk, it seems as if all of New York City is in motion. With me on the pavement are other bike commuters, recreational cyclists, joggers, dog-walkers, and the occasional couple canoodling on a bench -- and they, too, will soon move on.

On the river beside me, the ferry on its way to New Jersey, the river taxi coming from one of the airports. A few minutes earlier or later, and I might have seen one of the evening cruise boats, or the huge Department of Environmental Protection ship moving slowly but inexorably along the water.

On the other side, the FDR drive, headlights and taillights speeding by in both directions, and now the flashing lights of an ambulance, just as quickly gone.

Overhead on the bridges, subways and buses bringing people home from work, or in for the night shift, or just out for the evening. Trucks: produce, clothing, books and beer and all the other things you can buy in the big city.

Even higher, a helicopter choppering its way downtown, headed maybe for the landing pad at the South Street Seaport, or maybe going on to cross New York Harbor for Staten Island or New Jersey, or maybe just aiming for a spot above one of the bridges to report on the traffic.

And far above that, airplanes aiming across America or out over open water, carrying passengers to Cleveland or California or Korea, a million stories in the sky.

The high rises on the other side of the FDR, with lights flickering on inside: such temporary landing places for all this bustle, seeming, in this magic hour of transition from light to darkness, to possess little more permanence than a park bench.