The weather has turned cold in New York, seasonably cold, the way it used to be in October when I was a kid growing up. Today, it seems, we don't have four seasons anymore, or really cold weather where the ice floats down from Albany and stops up the Hudson and the East Rivers.
Just last week it was in the 80s in New York, that seems more the norm for Autumn in our age, but today was a throwback and woke cold and never went above the 40s.
Along the river there are still people walking. It's not so cold that they stay away, and there are still runners plying the macadam. But with the cold, the Puerto Ricans seem to be gone, hibernating perhaps until more tropical temperatures return.
I noticed tonight instead of Puerto Ricans a number of tall, heavily-coated men and women speaking Russian to each other and into cell phones. The promenade along the river is not far from the UN and maybe these Russians are from there, because to date I have not noticed them in my neighborhood. To that end, there are no Russian restaurants or tea houses. The nearest Russian Orthodox Church, an onion-domed affair very lonely among Manhattan's svelter spires is all the way over on 97th between Madison and Fifth.
But these Russians were swaddled in black great coats and warm astrakhan hats as unseasonable as the twits still insisting that with the mercury in the 40s, shorts and tees and flipflops were de rigueur. They walked in groups of two, separated from other groups of two, their hands stuffed deep inside their coat pockets, arms interlocked as if together they could stand-up better against the wind that wasn't there. The wind wasn't there but they walked as if they walked into it anyway, hunched over and purposeful, top buttons sealed shut like a bank safe.
My dog and I headed uptown, my dog Whiskey, just six months old, enjoying her first cold weather. She bounced amid the leaves and looked for mischief. After moments of bounding, Whiskey grew tired, and settled in to a proper mannerly walk, sticking close to my left side like a show dog.
We walked to the tall ship's mast of a flagpole which juts out over the FDR 20 feet below and the river five feet further than that. I leaned on the wrought iron and looked at the water as Whiskey panted.
A single Russian came over and leaned and stared with me. We had a moment of eye contact, then looked away, then the old Russian spoke in English heavily accented. "Nevsky Prospect deceives at all hours of the day, but the worst time
of all is at night... when the devil himself is abroad, kindling the
street-lamps with one purpose only: to show everything in a false
"Gogol," I asked?
"Yes," he answered. "Who else? The walk here, the city uptown here reminds me of the Nevsky Prospect. The light is not a true light. It's a false light."
I let my silence ask what he meant.
"False because nothing is as it seems. The rich, and there are so many," he motioned to the granite apartment houses that line the avenue along the drive. "The rich are poor. And the poor..."
I expected him to say that the poor are rich. But he didn't.
"The poor, are poorer."
"Yes," I agreed. "And you?" I asked, trying to bring the conversation back from the ontological.
"I am poorest," he answered. And twice he spit into the filthy water, then left me listening to the silence of the night and for the devil of the dark.