A man dangles out his 10th floor apartment high above Vanderbilt Avenue, squeegeeing his windows as a crowd watches from below. “Not worth dying for if you ask me,” the dude says to his date at the outdoor table on the packed street. “I dunno. Clean windows?” Her eyebrow goes up like a Venetian blind. They return to their plate of tacos. NY has got its groove on. You can feel it in the air.
On weekdays New York hides, the subways barely occupied. The Midtown streets are empty. But Saturday in the parks, the city puts on its party shoes. A string trio plays Mozart to a gathering on a brownstone stoop. There’s be-bop by the ballfields and jazz at every bend. A toddler dances to his mother’s syncopated beat as Wayne Tucker jams Grand Army Plaza. A protest blares just across the way. What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now! New York has got its groove on. It’s happening everywhere.
Sun going low over Prospect Park, the meadow still is jammed. Blankets, masks, smiling faces, a silver Mylar balloon escapes into the dusk-tinged sky. Breathe deep. The smell of autumn’s last grill permeates the air. Five Hassidic Jews peddle by in tandem, dark suits and tallises trailing like flowing scarves. They disappear into the falling night, the lights of their Citi Bikes blinking like summer’s last fireflies. New York has got its groove on. They vanish ’round the curve.
America’s nearly done turning its palette maple and gold. Snow dusted the hills last night. The world keeps spinning, everyone’s spinning, no one saying a thing. But New York’s been here before, we’ve seen it all, we turn a tin pan ear. We bundle up, we soldier on, we take it all in stride. So much lost, no end in sight, but there’s music in the air. New York, New York, oh how you’ve got your groove on. We’re not leaving. We’re not going anywhere.
Editor’s Note. The reporting in this story is based on travels in Brooklyn and Manhattan October 16-18, 2020. The writer returned to WeWork Manhattan after Labor Day, where 100% masking is required. He rides the F train twice daily, where masking is required by law. New York’s Covid 19 positivity rate currently stands at 1.1%, the 4th lowest in the U.S. following Maine, Vermont, and Massachussetts.