The Field OfficeAugust 23, 2011
Time to Hit the BooksSeptember 5, 2011
Let’s face it, some days can be trying. I’m talking about those days when you’re in a funk and trapped in your own head, or holed up indoors for way too many hours because of forces beyond your control. (Gracias, Hurricane Irene—or as it would be pronounced by Mayor Mike, “Grassy-ass”. Bless his little gringo mouth for making the effort and, in the bargain, making me smile.)
And then there are days like today. Brilliant, technicolor, you’re-10-years-old-again-and-Mr.-Softee-is-coming-up-the-block days, filled with light and expectation. Days when details as small as the way the sun’s rays illuminate the ripples on the surface of the water are enough to make you thankful for existing at this precise moment in time and space.
Lord knows, I’m not always the most optimistic person. I worry about the future of this country and the planet. I worry about my family and friends. Hell, I even worry about the Yankees and the Knicks. (And in the case of the Knicks, that worry is usually warranted…)
But the existentially angsty side of me also shares cells with a supremely hopeful soul, one that bursts out in laughter at a dumb pun or a well-told story, complete with accents and hand gestures (I’m looking at you, Rocco…), or the perfectly timed eye roll of a pal whose expressions can reveal as much in one second as an hour-long conversation with other folks (Tammy). A soul that loves nothing more than being the passenger as a friend drives us across L.A.—or even down the Merritt—scream-singing our way through Pat Benatar’s greatest hits (Ms. Matthews).
[Editorial sidebar: Anyone out there who is looking down his/her nose at our choice of music clearly hasn’t experienced the total cathartic pleasure of belting out the chorus of “Promises in the Dark” at the top of your lungs while hurtling down the highway, saving yourself years of therapy in four minutes and forty-nine seconds. You’re welcome.]
Today’s random moment of happiness came courtesy of a walk along the East River, through Astoria Park, as I listened to music (an assortment that included the Beastie Boys, Lone Justice, Missy Elliott, Regina Spektor, Sonic Youth, Ray LaMontagne, and Jay-Z—see, I’m not completely square).
On this late August afternoon, the weather was perfect, and the park was fairly crowded for a weekday. In front of me, two big, burly guys wearing wife-beaters, gold chains, and oversized, low-slung jeans were being pulled along by a shih tzu and a pair of the cutest little French bulldogs you ever did see. Up ahead, I passed a young mother sitting on a bench, cooing at her sweeter-than-maple-syrup twin babies as they grinned and giggled at her from their stroller. When I reached the end of the river path, I turned east toward the running track and was met by the sight of a very senior Senior Citizen sporting Nair-commercial-worthy short shorts and doing jumping jacks with all of the vigor of a reincarnated Jack LaLanne. To my left, a blond surfer type was hoofing it around the track in an outfit that would make him a shoo-in at a casting call for a Vampire Weekend video (let’s just say there was a lot of madras). And then, just after I’d spotted that guy, I noticed this gentleman [click for a higher-resolution version of the image]:
On the grass, under two majestic trees—which, from the size of them, have survived a great deal more than a hurricane—this guy was standing with his upright bass. Why? Who knows. Maybe because. Why wouldn’t you want to play your upright bass while looking out over the Manhattan skyline on a day as gorgeous as this one. Do you really need more of a reason than that?
As you were, Upright Bass Dude and everyone else. And thank you.