Tulips and hot dogs on Third Avenue

I didn’t mind not having to think about who I was going to get to shovel the snow (what little there was this winter) after I moved out of my single-family Brooklyn brownstone with its 50 feet of sidewalk frontage and into a Manhattan apartment building with a full maintenance staff. Seeing it fall from the 23rd story window of my temporary apartment during a snowstorm in New York in late January was very nice.  Since most of these Manhattan buildings do have a maintenance crew, the sidewalks  are all magically cleared within no time at all, and getting around here is infinitely easier than in Brooklyn.

However, now that the daffodils and crocuses are beginning to bloom, I’m wistful that I no longer have the backyard I had in our Brooklyn brownstone.  It’s not that I did much gardening, which I didn’t.  It’s not even that I spent much time actually sitting outside in the yard.  By mid-April until October, the mosquitoes take over and feast on any humans not slathered in repellant.

But on days like the ones we’ve had recently, when the temperature is above 60 degrees, I did like to keep open the screen door  from the ground floor kitchen into the backyard and feel the air, hear the birds and smell the garden.

It so happens that the tall modern building I’m temporarily in has sliding windows that only open about 6″, so any thought to throw open the window and let air in is impossible.  Of course when you open the windows even 6″, you also let in the noise on 3rd Avenue.

When I walk to the subway, I aim for the more scenic side streets in Murray Hill.  They do have row houses with window boxes, tree pits with flowers popping up, and flowering trees,  but there are simply not enough houses with plantings, compared to the apartment buildings, to make the air smell like spring.  The closest you can get to a sensory experience of spring is from walking by a Korean grocery store with a large floral display out front. The hyacinths are extremely fragrant.

Tulips coming up in a tree pit on East 38th Street

I know it’s easy to romanticize about what you know longer have and I don’t mean to give the impression that downtown Brooklyn is Walden Pond or some other extraordinary idyll.  Trust me, it’s not.  But there is a ratio of the built environment to the dirt environment that favors the dirt.  There are simply more (at least for the time being) low-rise buildings and trees.

My new apartment overlooks Riverside Park and when I was there yesterday, I could see the clusters of daffodils in the park, in different places, from my 11th floor windows.  It’s quieter there than in Midtown, where I temporarily reside, so there’s a chance I might even hear some birds.  But, of course, the experience of spring is going to be very different when it’s experienced through an open window and from a distance of about 100′.  However, at least I’ll be able to open the double-hung windows pretty wide and I don’t think mosquitoes fly up to the 11th floor.

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