Spring Fever …or something like it

Wonder what it is about Park Avenue that brings out the most gorgeous looking dogs in the city. It must be the broad sidewalks making it easier for people to walk their dogs. But these dogs look good, quite the sight to see as I make my way back to the bus terminal at the end of each day with a smile on my face.

I am starting to recognize some of these dogs and their owners. I know which owners are getting friendlier, brought together by their dogs bonding over an evening promenade.

Walking straight up from 32nd Street to 40th Street along Park Avenue and then turning left on 40th to walk straight into the Port Authority is, I believe, the longer way to go. When I timed myself along this route I clocked 30 minutes, and I am a fast walker, albeit a very distracted one when this is my chosen path.

When I am in an incredible hurry I zigzag wherever I can, left on 34th, right along 6th Ave, left again on 36th, right on 8th and finally – Port Authority. I can cut 7 minutes off my time when I do this. But it isn’t as interesting as the leisurely stroll along Park Avenue and Bryant Park.

The other day I was strolling along Bryant Park, the first leg of my right angled walk, in the morning, humming the Raag Bhairav scale, and lingering on the Komal Rishabh, and was startled at the sense of overall peace and oneness I felt while doing that. Something about that note awakened my senses to a palpable sense of belonging, felt in that instant. I heard my inner voice saying, “I love this place, I love this city!” I am amazed at the familiarity, at seeing the same people walking along the same paths everyday, smiling because I look familiar to them. If they were to bump into me at a restaurant or a movie they would probably wonder where they’ve seen me for awhile, as would I, and then we’d walk over and say, “Hey! Fancy seeing you here, don’t I see you cutting across Bryant Park everyday at 5:30 PM?”

And I didn’t just dream that incident up. It actually happened to me when I went out to lunch with some co-workers and found myself staring at this person on the table across from me. He was staring as well, in between bites of his sumptuous looking California Pizza. It finally occurred to me that he was a bus mate. It must have struck him at the same time because we spoke up at once saying we knew each other from the bus. We had never spoken to each other while on the bus and here we were like old friends.

There are so many such faces all around, people to whom I feel vaguely connected even if I know nothing about them. It makes me feel at home, as though this is the permanence I missed before, as I felt I was skating through life, unable to put down any roots anywhere and not sinking into any experience. I once caught sight of myself in a photograph, sitting on a chair somewhere. I was leaning forward and not back, ready to spring, to leave at any moment. None of my pictures ever show me leaning back in a chair or relaxed and at ease with myself. But in this gorgeous city I feel totally at ease. Its streets and avenues feel like hallways and corridors of a much loved home. Perhaps the kind of home where an extended family lived in days of yore; uncles, aunts and an entire spectrum of cousins. That’s how the city feels on a balmy spring day in April, after the heavy coats have come off and the Mr Softee trucks have appeared on every corner. The lady who sits within the Mr Softee truck by my corner smiles at me when I fuel myself with a milkshake before starting my thirty minute walk every evening. She recognizes my face and is always amused and surprised by the flavor I am going to demand each day, flavors that range from vanilla,, butterscotch, strawberry, banana, cookies and cream, banana etc. She tries to read my mind and guess what it will be.

I love such interactions with total strangers. The one advice from well meaning souls that’s hard to heed when one feels so much at home is the one about not talking to strangers. I love talking to strangers, rather…love it when they talk to me. Like the man who was relishing his ice cream cone and met me in the elevator ride to work. He was telling me how he had a big dinner planned so decided to go for the ice cream cone for lunch; his way to budget his daily calories and to keep that waistline- in line.

And of course, there’s always the requisite weather talk, the vacation talk, the gardening successes – elevator, bus and water cooler buddies regularly providing the baseline tone in the background adding a certain richness in timbre, a slice of their lives forever embedded in my memory cells, becoming an inseparable part of me.

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