Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sunup to Sundown on the Bow Bridge

Winter parts from New York City in drips and dribs until one day the last slush pile melts and not only are days longer and the sun stronger, but perfume is sweeter, stories more believable, and true love more conceivable. It’s undeniable that some new thing has arrived: spring. Those who have stalked underground passages to avoid snow and wind re-greet the street, ice cream sales increase, cafes canvas sidewalks, evening-goers take an extra cup of coffee and handholding, pensive kisses and naps in lover’s laps all flourish.

For a few magical early spring days the city is steeped in love, some spots completely soaked, and none more so than the Bow Bridge in Central Park. It links the Ramble to Cherry Hill and was crafted from cast iron just before the Civil War. Thin wood planks surface the bridge and the feminine slope invites pondering. Joggers, birders and dog walkers are common. As are weddings, newly befallen lovers and crestfallen ones too. One nippy April morning I arrived at sunup, intending to stay the day, my only objective to observe.

6:17 a.m. A fire alarm sounds, traffic echoes and a woman in water shoes passes with a poodle. She’s smoking a cigarette and coughs going up the bridge.

“What’s his name?” I ask.

“Bach,” she says. “He’s the meeter and greeter of the park.”

A woman ruffles through a recycling bin while a bald man videotapes.

Beige gutters are sketched with sand, cigarette butts, Cheerios, a reddened popsicle stick and the rim of a baby stroller’s wheel. An alabaster railing cool to the touch speckles with pigeon poop and grit and gaps in a floral balustrade reveal droopy willows and the Ramble beyond. Canadian geese flock northwest and a large snowy bird swoops to the pond and wades to shore—egret. From under the bridge comes ruffling and every so often a pigeon. A mallard with a glossy green head paddles by. The building tops on Central Park West go gold.

An old man pulls doggy treats from a fanny pack to feed two goldens, one has a horrible wound on his face. “Perfect day,” he says.