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New York in this season exists principally out of doors.
Some New Yorkers live to get out of town in the summer, to country homes and beach rentals and European villas far from the din of this metropolis. Then there are those who wake up one sweaty morning and realize: The city belongs to us now.
This time around, the season was like many before it — just hotter, wetter, smellier, more crowded and louder. We stuck it out. We loved it. It was cooler than Paris, anyway.
New York in summer exists principally out of doors, on baked stoops or broiled sidewalks. You grab what space you can and call it your own, using radiant body heat to keep away encroachers.
In other seasons the outdoors is an obstacle you pass through on the way to your destination. In summer, it’s the theater and the concert hall and the runway and the erogenous zone all wrapped in one. Why would you want to race through it? To get to … Hudson Yards?
New York in summer hits you first as music. It’s the blare of a boombox or Bluetooth speaker, an acoustic guitar on a stoop or an ad hoc conclave of congueros in the park. Follow the Drifters up on the roof or under the boardwalk, or grab a few Ramones and hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach.
Or make like Garland Jeffreys, the Brooklyn troubadour, and run wild in the streets: “In the heat of the summer/ better call up the plumber/ and turn on the street pump/ to cool me off.” “Autumn in New York” has its place, but let’s face it, it could as easily be moved to Kowloon.
For New Yorkers of a certain vintage, New York in summer is the sound of the old WBLS-FM — specifically, of one massive speaker placed outside a clothing shop, so that when the station gave its call letters in stereo, all you heard was the voice of God booming “W … L ….” Or it’s the equally old Schaefer Music Festival in Central Park or the slightly more recent Dr Pepper music festival on the pier or Celebrate Brooklyn! in Prospect Park or the Metropolitan Opera at the Williamsbridge Oval in the Bronx.
It’s also food. Come August, the plump tomatoes of your winter dreams finally fill the farmers’ markets. The corn stacks as high as an elephant’s eye. Some Yelp readers from out of town booked up this year’s hot restaurants, so why not slice up some juicy heirlooms, crumble on some feta and call it dinner? It’s too hot to get filled up.
There is a skill to navigating New York when the temperature humidity index rises above 120 degrees. Breathable shoes are a must. Buses blast their heat from the front grills, so avoid walking near them. Coconut is the flavor you want from the helado cart, though rainbow will do in a pinch. Be careful whom you kiss; more bad decisions are made in summer than any other time of year.
We hear stories. Our ancestors tell of dragging mattresses out onto the fire escape when it got too hot to sleep indoors, or of plugging things called turntables into the base of a streetlight to rock the party. Once upon a time, summer was a carefree season when no news happened. The dog days, they were called. Or so we’re told.
This summer, the news never pauses, and anxiety loves company. You’ll find it at twilight in Greenwich Village or Sunnyside or Coney Island, around people too hearty to abandon this festering hive. Thanks to Airbnb and all the hotel construction, the city no longer empties out in summer, despite the exodus. But so be it.
Our ticks don’t carry Lyme disease. Usually.
Questions remain. Is it O.K. to cool off on the High Line or the Circle Line, even if you live here? Will cargo shorts ever fully recede, or are they like global climate change, a catastrophic force that we could stop if only we had the collective will power? Does anyone buy those discount tube socks at the street fairs that seem to take place every weekend?
Don’t sleep on these questions. Already the days are starting to get shorter. Summer in New York goes nowhere at a snail’s pace, and it gets there all too quickly.
On the other hand, remember this: September is the absolute best time to go to the beach. They don’t tell you that in “Autumn in New York.”
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