A Rainy Night and My Favorite Trees
I was walking through the Flatiron district last Sunday night and it was pouring and I didn’t have an umbrella because I think people can be at their worst when they have umbrellas and I also don’t really mind having wet hair and wet clothes anyway. I especially don’t like carrying them. My pockets are for my keys and wallet and phone and headphones and chapstick, my bag is for my books and my notebook and a pen or two, and that really only leaves my hands for the umbrella, which is NOT the way I want to use that real estate. So yeah, no thanks.
Plus, why the hell would you want to pass up this opportunity? You can now do that thing where you run a bit and walk a bit and jump puddles and sometimes you truly nail it and sometimes you simply misjudge the jump and sink your heel into the edge of one. You can say things like oh motherfucker or SHITTT then, and if the world hears you and feels a need to reprimand, it might do so through the stern eyes of an older lady who, nestled safely beneath one of those god-awfully massive umbrellas, heard you say what she’d invariably describe to her grandchildren or neighbor as a supremely discouraging use of “M-F” or “S-h.” But no matter, you’ve bounced on before her finger-wag was able to be anything more than something you can smile past and found your way to an awning, one of the luxuries of a rainy New York, and perhaps the best vantage point from which you can plot your next few moves. It’s hard not to feel a little romantically escapist at a time like this, as if any moment three out-of-breath cops on foot will round the corner all bumbly and out of sorts and spot you down the road and maybe point with their batons and say things like There he is! and Come on, boys!
It’s not like that, though, because you know that all you really need to do is just get a few more blocks down that same avenue before you’re at your subway stop. But that doesn’t stop you from glancing at fire escapes and rooftops and wondering if they could factor in, or if need be, just how you’d put them to use, reassuring yourself, of course, that were this truly a life or death situation, there’d be no hesitation at all here.
You consider all this with your hands preoccupied with two slices of pizza that each cost a dollar and before you venture out again you do a slight head shake that used to work so well for your beagle, Henry, when he was wet and are happy that you aren’t wearing glasses that would surely catch so much rain and fog right up and be the most unhelpful of friends on a night like this. You do have a slight hole in one of your shoes, though, which jeopardized the way they resisted water, but frankly, that’s way less of a nuisance than when that same hole allows the unfettered entrance of a number of smallish rocks and pebbles on a dry day when the sun is out and you’re strolling through Prospect Park and keep having to shake it out.
And there, right at the entrance to a subway stop in Manhattan you’ve come best to know at night, on the rooftop of a relatively blah building in the corner that you know you could use a set of fire escapes and other rooftops to get to if need be, is your favorite tree. By itself, lit by lights you can’t see from the street, enjoying the wind tonight and as in love with the rain as you. Okokok ONE of my favorites you think as you swipe your subway card and walk through the turnstile and and head down the platform reaching into your bag to pull out your red notebook that holds so so so much. My FAVORITE trees in New York: you write at the top of a new page, scratching out the (Brooklyn AND Manhattan) you wrote after it because of course these are the two boroughs I’m gonna focus on. You realize then that you better wait a moment before you complete that list because your hand is wet and wet-hand means wet-page which means runny ink and you don’t want everything that book holds to bleed together merely because of one excitedly written list that already looks a touch sloppy because of the line through (Brooklyn AND Manhattan) that’s now all front and center. But that gives you time to think, too, and that’s a nice thing to do before you write a list in pen.
With 1) being a given, next to 2) you write “that one on the fire escape ladder in the East Village (Bowery?)” because you don’t remember exactly where it was on Bowery that you saw it. You know it was outside one of those absurdly named coffee shops that for WHATEVER reason gets under you skin, and you’ll surely stumble across it again. One of those happy, small trees that takes root in such an oddly beautiful place, one that is likely against some sort of city code but is beautiful enough that the world lets slide.
3) and 4) are interesting ones because you don’t know how to order them – which, by the way, you make clear in the notebook: These two are a tossup, and depending on the season or whether my curtain is open or which ones leaves/blossoms are colored a certain way, they can flip-flop positions. They are, of course, the blossom tree that’s right out in front of your apartment which shines so powerfully pink in April and the larger tree across the road who has all the Autumn colors you love the most. That tree makes you want to start on another list for a second, My FAVORITE Autumn tree-leaf colors: but come on, how in god’s name can you make that list? Red is the best, unless there’s red/orange, unless there’s orange or orange/yellow or red/orange/yellow. No no no you think, stay on track and just love that tree for what it is, green or red or orange or yellow or naked, and be perfectly ok lying there in bed hearing it rustle. One of you with a book and an English muffin, the other vividly colored against the sky, but both of you happily in the middle of some sort of ritual.
Then 5) which is perhaps the easiest one because it’s the one you know the best but also the one whose role in your life is probably through. You had a lovely run, the two of you, and like an aging third-baseman who did everything you ever asked of him on that special corner of the infield for so many years, his time is now up. When you run past it now and you see it happily standing there with a little dance in its branches and some new people underneath it, you feel like it’s waving to you like old times and all you can do then is tip your cap right back to it. Thanks, you think, those were some special times weren’t they old friend? It’s the one in Fort Greene Park that you’d read Harry Potter under and would sleep under and wake up with your head on your backpack a bit hungry, in search of a bagel and some coffee or maybe an apple.
I was still wet when I got off the subway a little bit later but a few stops earlier than I normally do and made my way to my favorite little wine bar (another list for another day) that has one of my favorite fireplaces (another list for another day) and some of my favorite meatballs in New York (another list for another day). I wanted to write what I just wrote about trees.
It’s chilly outside, one of the times of year I love the most in New York, as the city readies itself for Thanksgiving, which is just the very best of all holidays, and then Christmas. White Pine and Norway Spruce and Douglas Fir trees will be filling the streets in no time and snow starts coming down (those glorious sentences: it’s supposed to snow tonight! or it’s snowing! or they’re saying at least a foot!) and lights flicker in windows and on balconies and people let themselves love and give a little more as beautiful songs about all those things—Christmas trees and snow and Christmas lights and loving and giving—are everywhere.
And it also means the welcome return of Mets beanies with pom poms and mittens and hands in deep pockets and people walking arm-in-arm for love AND warmth. Hot chocolate, of course, and a new personal favorite winter tradition of mine: piña coladas—one, because why not, two, because I had them in Puerto Rico last winter and that was a special time for me, and three, because I make the best ones around.
I’m back home now, some candles burning on my desk that overlooks trees 3 and 4. On the train here, two men got on, one with a guitar, and one with a left-handed bass that looked shockingly like one Paul McCartney had slung over his shoulder in that amazing photo of them running on to the field at Shea Stadium in 1964. And, perfectly, they played All My Loving.
I opened my door and did a few things: quickly showered and changed into some dry and warm clothes (my personal war on umbrellas feeling yet again vindicated), made some breakfast tacos with ham and a little bit of hot sauce and pepperjack cheese and some eggs and tomatoes I had bought at the farmer’s market, shook myself a gin fizz (who doesn’t love a good egg white to texture their cocktail?), and when I was racing between my computer and the stove—one to change the music and the other to get the tortillas out of the oven—I did that thing where you have thick Mets socks on and a slick floor so you run and slide as far as you can and even though you went far, you probably went a couple of inches too far and nicked the side of your big toe on the fridge.
And as the day went from a rainy escape with a bag of books to favorite trees, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, to a fireplace and wine and then to the Beatles, a gin fizz, a nicked toe because of a great slide, and some night-time breakfast tacos and some warm tortillas, I find myself happily eyeing my bed. Another string of the most normal moments—ceremonies and celebrations of the highest order—that make me rejoice in my own happy, quiet, thankful way.