New York in August is solitude personified. The air dances a breezier dance; the rhythm and blues go bluer, drifting into Fall rebound.
One breed of lucky New Yorkers are away; the other lucky ones have New York to themselves.
September in New York: shake the blazers and school uniforms out of their summer plastic prisons and welcome a feast of friends coming home-sweet-home for happy times.
There was a flower store in my once-upon a-time-Carnegie-Hill neighborhood.
It was once 92nd and Madison, and eventually moved across the street to the other side of Madison.
It is no more.
I went into the store frequently with my mother: among her passions were entertaining and anemones.
The owner’s daughter was going to be a newcomer at my school.
No one wants to walk into a new school alone; I offered to go with her.
I met Diane at the dawn of her formidable first day of school, and liked her immediately. We walked to down Madison Avenue together.
We stopped for my friend Wendy along the way. Wendy and I walked at our usual New York pace, which didn’t always include respect for traffic lights.
We slowed our walking down, after we left Diane on the sidewalk, looking terrified.
Diane and I became lifelong friends.
Later, I entered the open-ended world of the New York work force; Diane remained in her family’s world of flowers.
Diane and I have often said that we would love to combine elements in each other’s lives. The idea of working in a family flower store seemed so simple to me. Diane could leave early if she needed to; go shopping on a quiet day; meet her son at school, and surround herself with tulips, roses and their wonderful Latin names.
I love September; it always reminds me of New York.
Diane and I both have September birthdays, and celebrate them together, whenever possible.
In 2001, September honored New York with a perfect, beautiful day. Terrorists countered with the unthinkable: “September 11th.”
The flower store was now a cornucopia of funeral arrangements, weeping friends, and neighbors’ shattered existences. It seemed endless, punctuated only by back to back memorials and incredulity.
Security was no longer secure.
After 9/11, I came to visit Diane for my birthday.
She still lived in the East nineties.
We took a walk.
Where was everybody?
The Metropolitan Museum was barricaded by police and terror that never struck. Waiting… For what?
We stopped by a local fire station, where photos of young firemen were tacked on walls. How could such young souls suffer time slashed so short?
We had one birthday dinner at Shun Lee Palace, with my family. My parents were no longer with us, but the presence was heartfelt.
The waiters were nervous, but glad to see us.
The restaurant was quiet, and we were a welcome semblance of days gone by.
The next night we went to Nicola’s with friends.
Nicola’s had always been fun.
They hosted a young, good looking crowd, and it wasn’t unusual to see one of the owners, passing a joint around a table of “regulars.”
Now, it was crowded and tense.
In the ladies room, one of the women queried, ”isn’t that the governor of New Jersey at the big round table?”
She meant Pataki, the Governor of New York, and, “yes it was.”
On the way to our table, we stopped to talk to him, something we never would have done before.
It’s inscribed in our New York DNA to leave celebrities and politicians alone.
Someone offered suggestions as to where the next attack might take place. Airports, bus stops, the food supply, the water? No one knew.
He actually listened to us, seemingly eager to hear our theories.
Where had all the authority gone?
I still love New York in September.
It is a melting cachepot of all that is wonderful: the diverse majestically merging, and the memories, like flowers, both in bloom and doing a u-turn in the eternal cycle of mystery and beyond.
”Amaranth, Amaranthe, Amaranthus:” English, French, Latin, the floral symbol of “immortality” that knows no bounds.
Thank you New York, for being “you.”
I’ll see you in September.