Yesterday was a sublimely beautiful day in New York. The temperature was finally asserting itself and reached the low 70s after a cold and windy March. The entire city, feeling like it had been cooped inside in too-small-apartments for too-long, seemed to have tip-toed out of work to catch a bit of sunshine through the humid haze.
A dear friend of mine who works in the rarefied precincts of the city that mere advertising agencies can no longer afford (only banks and nail-salons can locate in certain regions) sent me a photograph from verdant Bryant Park.
I wrote back some dirty reminiscences of the area in the bad old days of New York.
"I remember when Bryant Park was sealed off by plywood barriers," I wrote, "And the Public Library was teeming with the homeless."
She texted back, "It's hard for me to imagine this area being bad. I watched a few episodes of the "Deuce" on HBO and it was pretty vulgar."
"I watched ten minutes of an episode," I told her. "I was waiting for Curb Your Enthusiasm to come on and I watched one scene of the Deuce where a pimp pushes a 300-lb prostitute out of a window. That was enough for me."
"That does seem like enough," she admitted.
"My luck," I wrote somewhat lugubriously, "I'd be walking down the street and hit by a 300-lbs whore in hotpants.
"That never happened to me, but I did get him on the shoulder by a grapefruit falling from a 7th story window-ledge where someone was keeping it cool. My knees buckled and I thought I was being mugged."
There are people, of course, who are nostalgic about the old days in the city. I am not one of them.
Of course, I miss things like low rents, and fewer entanglements. I miss cheap little restaurants and places that aren't so wound up with bs and pretense. I miss local stores and life pre-chain stores and the malling and mauling of New York. I miss the days when there were 100 agencies and you could get a job at lunchtime if you were pissed. I miss Checker cabs with jumpseats and the cruddy old Coliseum at Columbus Circle and the Knicks when they were winning more than 19 games in a season.
But I don't miss the threat of muggings. I don't miss the break-ins and crime. I don't miss the prostitutes and threats and the drug dealers. I don't miss Bryant Park when it was needle park, and 200,000 heroin addicts and 2200 murders. I don't miss driving through the Bronx with white-knuckles because who knew if you'd ever make it out alive if you got a flat.
But today's a sunny day, and the temperature is nice, and the wind is wafting. My friend is sitting in the park, in the sun and presumably smiling.
Kids are playing ball in the parks and old ladies have shed their heavy Winter coats for slightly less-heavy Spring ones. And New York, for all its present woes, is a nicer New York than it's ever been. Just watch for falling hookers and grapefruit.
You can never be too sure.