NEW YORK CITY is a national treasure in so many ways. It is where the dreamers and visionaries, the immigrants from the world over, and everybody else are drawn, and always have been. My experience of the City’s people has always been extraordinary, and so positive.
It’s the simple things one remembers. A special family dinner at the Palm Restaurant, and my Dad, upon hearing that I’d never tried fresh Maine lobster, spears a perfect size piece, dips it into the warm drawn butter, and says “Here,” holding it up to my mouth with his fork. And he watches my face as I am momentarily transported elsewhere, transcendent, delightfully lost for a moment upon a gustatory flight of complete euphoria. And he smiles happily. It’s just one of those simple moments where there’s a “click,” and the knowledge comes rushing back in that happiness has always been not only possible but at hand, and life is better than good.
I remember how I could not even stand in the Village for three seconds, trying to make sense of a map I couldn’t even properly unfold (how in the Hell had somebody even gotten it, that way??) before some kind gentleman or lady would stop and offer, ”Can I help you with something?” And before I’d even said a word, I’d think to myself “You already have.”
Here’s the Sheeps Meadow in the City’s fabulous Central Park, painted on site. It is so named because in earlier days it once was. The sheep are long gone but the meadow remains, vast by New York standards of space, open and inviting in that special way that only flat open and green spaces may be. It is well beloved of the people; they stop there to catch some sun if they have a few minutes on their way between here and there, when the season’s right. They meet up to visit, share a picnic, and so on. And even when winter’s chill has again crept up on the City, their memory of the sunny days warms them inside, for they are reminded that the warm blue skies will surely be back, in time.
I bought a canvas at the art supply store down 57th Street, and had carried my paints and brushes, my imposing wooden easel and small folding red “camp” chair up with me, on the flight up. The cab drivers I encountered seemed to enjoy what I was up to, and went the extra mile to deliver me safely and soundly to the place of my next rendezvous with my muse.
Memories of New York City. They will not be controlled! They swirl and swell as symphony towards crescendo, recede gently to nearly inaudible harmonic chant. I recall my first visit to the Impressionist Gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which blew my mind completely and for always, and (then unknown to me) summoned me forward, in the kindest possible way, toward my own waiting destiny. I remember the huge Picasso hanging from the high ceiling on down, in the Four Seasons restaurant, which stopped me in my tracks. And, oh– Vincent’s “Starry Night”—a painting so… alive and expressive in the private language of its own haunting poetry, that… even as I sit and write, chills pass through me. I cannot help it. And the memories go on and on.
And as it happens the date on today’s calendar reads September 11, and that is not without its poignancy. But quite honestly, I realize that only after I’ve chosen the painting and am well into typing my thoughts. (I am not the kind that has ever thought in terms of “dates,” or even days of the week.) And much was taken from us that awful day, but not nearly so much as has been subsequently steadily stripped away from us “for our own protection” since, for motives that I can only see as a continuation of the attack.
No number of terrorists, whatever the damnably ingenious hijacked powers of destruction at their disposal, could even begin to truly tax and weary the brilliant spirits of our indomitable New Yorkers. And we do love them, for all of their magnificent quirks, outstanding idiosyncrasies, even their legendarily parochial arrogance, understood as so much distracting bold bluster hiding from view the most golden and true of too-tender hearts.
But there is no attack so fundamentally disconcerting as that from within, and in all fairness, responsibility for the dissembling bureaucracies, the “Homeland Security” nonsense that leaves me peculiarly insecure, and all the rest of it, belongs to the American People, and to our government, alone.
May we never forget that which is truly precious, remembering the sovereign right of the People to decide, on an ongoing basis, what the “freedom” our forebears fought and died for is to mean to us. Because it is we that are their heirs; it is us that they shed their blood and laid down their lives for. Our heritage is sacred, and he ball is now in our court.
Which brings us back, full circle, to a certain peaceful and sunny open field that is more than a little special, and that makes people happy just to be there. Even now, up in New York City, there it sits. In peace. God bless New York City and its people. God bless America. May we awaken, all together, to the living memory of the fine, proud, and brave people that we have been.
Amen. And Thank you.