★★★★ Orderly, clean-looking cumulus drifted by. The breeze was chilly but worth letting in the window. All but one of the honeylocusts on the block had gone completely yellow. Here was fall in its belated fullness. Strobe flashes came from the glass of a turning car or a balcony door swinging. Knots of teens in their hoodies filled the wide sidewalk. An NYPD van watched them from near the crosswalk, windows open, the passenger-side cop smoking a cigarette.
★ Chilly but sticky, a morning at odds with the season and itself. The clouds were everywhere, but thin enough that a contrail showed whiter through or against them. The sun cast fractional-strength shadows. Mid-afternoon was more tolerable, out on the fire escape, under sun further diminished. Then the daylight died entirely, and by the commute home, the cold was unambivalent and a thin rain was falling—so thin it seemed watery, despite already being water.
★★★★ Leaves on the trees still dappled the long west-thrusting rays of sun under the scaffolding. Spotlights raised vignettes of gleam and color all around. Even one Trump tower looked OK, for a moment. Textured brick on a townhouse looked like a nubby wool blanket; wide bars of light fell through the narrow slats of fire escapes. A woman walking and talking on a cell phone in the open keened with joy that sounded close to grief, echoing back news about someone's pregnancy tests. By downtown there was a little scattering haze, but a passing airplane was still a sharply snipped white-paper form overhead. A starling, rich motor-oil brown, less flew down than fell from a tree, landing on its feet and starting to jog up the street. Clouds spread over the afternoon. Breezes sloshed around easefully. The smells on the evening air were pleasant ones.
★★★★ A golden dawn led into a brilliant morning, almost dazzling enough to hide the dogshit on the sidewalk. A sweater was the right choice aboveground, but the subway was too hot for it. The blue of the sky suffused the stairs back up to the street; a streak of blue reflected in a passerby's shiny oxblood boots. The office was hotter than the subway had been. Outside was the kind of coolness identified with cleanliness. Cirrus wisps feathered back and forth on the sky. Now the light on the buildings was generous. Sunset was pink and blushing, and the day lingered as best it could under the circumstances.
★★★ The wind outside sounded like cars whooshing by, heard from the shoulder of the highway. Enough clouds moved in through the morning that the soap bubbles being blown at the community block fair failed to shimmer. Pedestrians were ambushed by a yellow vortex of honeylocust leaves, swirling a full story high, making them flinch and buckle. Sun took over for the three-year-old's naptime, then went away by the time he was awake for the block fair again. A five-piece jazz band played outside the bank, and a man in a checked cap danced quietly and extravagantly off to the side. Leftover balloons, black and orange, were being distributed to children and to the sky. "How come there's a huge wind?" the three-year-old asked, as he made the turn onto 70th into gusts. A portable boiler room trailer hummed by the curb, feeding thick hoses into an apartment building. The boy insisted on shedding his jacket as soon as he entered the playground, while parents or guardians thrust their hands into their pockets. The darkness lay heavily at four in the afternoon; there were still occasional thin patches of blue, but small ones and always somewhere else. The sun got under the clouds downriver at last and sent a coppery glare to flood the southern faces of the buildings. Magenta ruffles spread across the sky. By shortly after six, it was all over.
★ For a while, off in the northwestern distance, there was one rumpled gap of brightness behind the gray rain. Then gray covered all. The rain dripped more vigorously down through the grate onto the subway tracks than it had been falling above. Downtown, the rain had wind behind it and was heavy enough to require the umbrella, allowing the discovery that one arm had snapped and gone dangling. The darkness held all day. By the time the rain stopped, it was too cold to duck out onto the fire escape, even with a jacket.
★ Discouraging rain, dark and soaking. The plastic cover for the stroller had picked up a crust of thick black grime as it rode around unused in the bottom cargo basket. The rain eased off and came back on again. Outside the barbershop, a bent cigarette, dropped half-finished, trailed smoke eastward low over the wet sidewalk. A turn of the chair and it had burned out. It was too cold out on the office fire escape to duck out for a break without a jacket. The rain made sure to come on heavily again for rush hour. Little golden leaves made crumbling jetties or failing dams in the gutters.
★★ Purple sheets of dawn clouds went away, and gray, white, and blue vied for the skies. Humidity, chill, and brightness were in a marine or tropical-feeling imbalance: a little uncomfortable, a little comfortable, but only provisionally so either way. The sun ceded its share, then reclaimed it and more. Clouds gathered in the late west, edges rumpled and glowing like an illustration of gates to the mansions of paradise. Then the sun went lower and the mass of cloud was dark and grim. Later, in full night, light pollution cast bright auras on the low clouds as lightning glimmered and flared and eventually flashed. A hissing downpour arrived, and the patterns of light fuzzed away.
★★★ The morning was a slightly discolored blue, like an antiqued piece of painted furniture. Haze scattered the light and made the east not even white but colorless. Downtown, a bit of mist—real or fake—floated over a damp and squalid crime scene being staged for cameras in an alley. People in the office huddled in outerwear at their computers till the smell of the heating system spread over the room. The afternoon light up Amsterdam was strong but bleak, even where it found red and green ivy spreading over a building eight stories up. Only at the end did it turn rich and golden, just before it went out. Dinner was organized and early, but nightfall was earlier.
★★★★ The apartment door banged in its frame where it stood, and howling sounds came from down the hallway. Time to switch to socks that would cover the ankles. Sunlit pieces of plant fluff flared and veered in the forecourt. The pigeon spikes on the near wall were a glittering battlement. Food trucks flanked the Apple Store. Birds twittered over the generator throb. "That is not a ice cream truck!" the three-year-old said. The shortness of the afternoon was palpable. Down by Canal Street, a paper or foam plate soared up and then dived down to bounce off the windshield of a Mercedes. A foam mesh fruit sleeve rolled around on the sidewalk. The shiny parts of the Empire State Building caught the lowering sun and shimmered in the distance.