Ezy Reading: Postcard From New York: The Calm After the Storm

Evan Kanarakis

This past weekend Manhattan –and, indeed, the entire region stretching from the Carolinas to New England- was pounded by a rare spring storm that wrought havoc across the country. By the close of Sunday April 15th, some 8.28 inches of rain had fallen in Central Park, making it the second wettest day since record keeping began in 1869. You had to go back to September 23 of 1882 to find more rainfall in a single day.

This kind of weather invariably has a narcotic effect on me. With the skies so dark, temperatures down, and the constant, seemingly endless rhythm of heavy, pouring rain on the rooftop, I can’t help but remain cocooned under blankets for hours on end in bed, totally caught unawares that I’ve just about slept an entire day away. It helped I had a hangover, sure, but I was slow getting up either way, it’s no lie.

Still, given I was only in New York on a brief visit from Maine I was also trying to make full use of my time, and as such had scored myself a ticket to the matinee of a popular play that afternoon at two p.m. Given the severe weather it made this task less than easy. I won’t even begin to compare my drenched outing which killed two umbrellas, a pair of shoes and featured several tidal-wave rushes of water from passing cars onto the footpaths to anything near what many people experienced that day: severe power outages, serious accidents, and misfortune that we wouldn’t wish on anyone. It was merely a challenging mission. A new adventure of sorts. In the end I made it to the theatre, and given that two-thirds of this ‘sold out’ crowd hadn’t shown up, was able to enjoy the production from the middle seat of the first row. Not a bad outcome when the only additional cost was that I had to watch the play soaked through.

Afterward, I was headed back home in a cab to my friend’s place on the Upper East Side when I got a little mixed up as to where we were and asked the driver to let me out about twenty blocks short of my final destination. Thankfully, at that exact moment there was a brief reprieve in the rain, so I decided to walk the remainder of the way. It was around 7pm and what little sunlight had managed to fight through the dark clouds that afternoon was gradually drifting away with dusk, but even in that growing darkness it was an incredibly serene and peaceful scene. Normally busy Fifth Avenue along Central Park was completely and utterly deserted because of the severe weather –maybe just the odd cab zipped past every few minutes. Otherwise, save for the intermittent chirping of birds in the park getting ready to nest down for the night I strolled along in complete silence. On one side of the street, the deep expanses of Central Park. On the other, these towering, immense, impressive sandstone and granite-laden monuments of New York wealth- vast, lavish apartments and homes to the rich and richer.

As I walked along this wide, open avenue I peered into a few of the apartments. Every second window looked like a glimpse into the Palace of Versailles. Carpets of burgundy, ornate golden curtains, and vases and lamps and other shining artefacts that likely could also have found rightful homes in museums. Across the way, the Park was now descending into darkness, and but for the occasional glimpse of a skyscraper tip on the other side, you couldn’t be faulted for thinking this dense forest in the middle of such a busy city seemingly ran off into the distance forever.

And then, breaking this mode of thought, I was struck by the sudden sound of ringing bicycle bells and the slight whir of pedals grinding through gear changes now drifting into earshot. From all directions, some up ahead, a few behind me, then, as I crossed the road, spotting some more further down the street and in the next block, an entire community of Asian and Hispanic restaurant delivery riders calmly cycling through the wet streets with bags of food in the front baskets of their bikes to be delivered as Sunday dinner to those wealthy Manhattanites not keen to fix dinner that night. In the absence of traffic, and yet walking in the shadows of the familiar landmarks and signposts of one of the biggest cities in the world, this vision of dozens upon dozens of delivery boys on bicycle was not merely surreal but assuredly peaceful as well.

I finally got to the apartment, climbed again into my blanket cocoon and thought a while about what all those people had been ordering for dinner, and how far exactly those delivery riders would have to cycle back to their own homes on such a bitter and uncomfortable night.

Ezy Reading is out every week, give or take the occasional week…