Tuesday, September 20, 2005


seasons turn

It's dark as a cockroach in the backyard. All of the lights in the building across from us are out. In the distance, the flat honeycomb of the Mack-Cali tower still glows with activity, but the sky around it is leached purple, like an ugly apron. The only tree left in the courtyard is visible in silhouette. It looks like black cracks in the sky.

Here in the living room, faint orange light shines down from the stovetop. I can make out the remains of dinner on the kitchen island: a jar of peanut butter, a bottle of balsamic vinegar, a green collander we bought in Woodstock, Vermont, a lemon. Pans lean in the dishrack. On the floor, six empty bottles of seltzer water stand in a rough pyramid. They are candlepins for the cat.

A wind is blowing in from the north. It smells like birch and dust. The wind is sweeping down from the middle of the sky, turning calendar pages as it blows. Since it is no longer warm enough for the fan, I switch it off. In the courtyard, the wind is shaking the branches of the tree and twisting the cracks in the sky into purple diamonds. In forty minutes it will be autumn. The wind is blowing past the midpoint of a troubled decade, and pushing down toward the next, turning book pages as it blows.

There is a hurricane in the Gulf again. I have been following its progress on the Internet. Elsewhere, Los Angeles has defeated Texas. Oakland has defeated Minnesota. Joe Crede's walk off piece in the bottom of the tenth leads Chicago over Cleveland. Yahoo reports that there have been seventeen named hurricanes this season, still four shy of a record set in 1933, a year I associate with Carl Hubbell and the screwball. I have seen grotesque photographs of Hubbell's left arm, twisted like a tornado, like overcooked pasta, after defeating Washington in the World Series. The great hurricane of 1933 raked the Atlantic shore during the pennant race, tearing islands from ribbons of sand.

Three red beacons set to warn airplanes crown the beehive. One by one, office lights blink off below. The brick chimneys across the courtyard massage the wind, and send it streaming like a message through the window, turning web pages as it blows. I am sitting, facing north in the blue light of my flat-panel screen, watching the last minutes of summer flow between the branches of the courtyard tree, over the terraced rooftops of brownstones, through the half-constructed windows of hollow developments on the basin, over the red stone walkways of the waterfront park, past boats, ripples, slipstreams and the arms of Lady Liberty, and up into the soft cotton sky.

If the first 12 minutes of Keith Jarret's "Vienna Concert" were put to words, it would probably look a lot like this.
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