Friday, May 11, 2007

Sun and the City

Summer (at least mine) has begun, and I figured no better way to start it off than with a survey of who was in my immediate vicinity while I was relaxing on Central Park's Great Lawn this afternoon at 2PM, in sunny 75+ degree weather. Almost made me think I was in California.

#1: This is the obvious one - about 5 mothers with their kids, all of whom were under the age of 2. Having a chance to stay home with the kids on a day like today must be a pleasure compared to most days. Not suprising, but definitely interesting that I didn't say any fathers around. I imagine they were at home preparing dinner so that their respective families could eat together when the moms got back from the park. Or something like that.

#2: A group of 15 high school kids came and sat nearby about 3PM, right after school got out. I don't think they all went to the same school, but they all appeared to come from similar backgrounds; that is, they were all caucasion and were fairly well off. At one point they bought 15 water bottles from the cart vendor nearby just so they could have a water fight. I felt like I was watching one of those moments that capture how New York City kids, especially privileged ones, are different from kids that grow up in other parts of the country. Plenty of kids have water fights, so it wasn't that. I can't exactly put my finger on it. Kids just seem to grow up faster here in Manhattan than elsewhere. Perhaps it's because most of them don't rely on carpools or yellow school buses to take them from home to school and back. By the time they're in middle school or the beginning of high school , school kids here take the buses and subways by themselves to get to where they want to. I wasn't able to go anywhere on my own until I got my driver's license, which was the end of sophomore year. Perhaps it's also because the whole city is the equivalent of these kids' school parking lot. Most schools in the city don't have a whole lot of room for kids to just sit in the grass, loiter around, etc. And going back home to apartments on a gorgeous spring day isn't an attractive option either. So, NYC kids hop on the bus and go to the park, or walk around different city blocks. And while they do that they see the 10 million different faces of New Yorkers; they see how people are always rushing around; they constantly suffer from sensory overload because of the noise of honking cars and buses squealing when they make a stop; the crowds of people that always materialize; and because of the smells of food carts, restaurants, cigarettes and more that all mix together. And by the time they go home at night they've done more and seen more than most kids growing up in the suburbs do in a month.

#3: The rest of the people I saw were folks that fall into the category of "I have no idea what you're doing here in the middle of the week, in the middle of the day when you could be somewhere else studying, earning some money with a paying job, or applying to places where you can earn some money through a paying job." Obviously, it's possible that some of the people in this category were indeed students or have jobs that allow them to go to the park in the middle of the day for a couple of hours. This group of people included two guys who came to catch a few rays and play some frisbee without their shirts on, not because the cloth would have prevented them from catching the frisbee but because they wanted to impress the two year old kids above referenced. One couple (as in boyfriend-girlfriend) was there with some towels and a couple of beers and looked like they really thought today was a Saturday or Sunday. Another couple (also boyfriend-girlfriend) was there who seemed so intent on getting a tan that they looked more interested in the sun than they were in each other. A bunch of other people were sitting on the lawn either by themselves or with others, just hanging out, reading books and enjoying the weather.

#4: It didn't really occur to me then, but in retrospect, I don't recall seeing any retirees hanging out in the vicinity. It's possible that they choose to get their tans at Sheeps Head meadow, a little farther south than I was. Or it's possible that they just weren't out today, or that I simply didn't see them. But maybe I'll see them tomorrow when, assuming it's nice out, I'll take my blanket to the park and read a book or play some frisbee or just take a nap. It is summer vacation after all.