New York City, October 30, 2012

★★★ The decrescendo. The pounding and creaking did abate, in the hours before dawn. Morning was still gray, with rain spraying against the glass, but nothing like what had come before. Before noon, for punctuation, the sun broke through — then went away again, behind clouds and off-and-on drizzle, so as not to make a mockery of things. This was where things had gone well, and even so, right down below the living-room windows, a lopsided ring of yellow tape surrounded a medium-sized tree lying at an angle on the parking lot, on top of a silver car. Panels of the plywood wall around the construction pit next door were blown out flat onto the sidewalk. POST NO BILLS, a fragment admonished the skies. Amsterdam and Broadway were choked with traffic. By late afternoon, there were blurry blue patches among the blurry white and gray ones overhead. The air was fresh, like after any good rain, if you didn’t look around. Everyone was looking around. A blameless little maple, its tiny root ball still clinging to its planting spot, was pitched over the curb onto Amsterdam Avenue. A panhandler, dry and apparently health, rattled a tambourine. The liquor stores were open; the North Face store was closed. Trader Joe’s was closed, too, with levees of brand-new blue string mop heads laid across the thresholds. By the battened-down used-book tables, a bare LP lay on the pavement, grimed with storm debris. Robert Irving conducting Chopin. Another downed tree filled the southbound curb lane at Broadway, as far out of the way as it could go. How many trees needed more attention, in how many worse places. Uptown, an American flag flapped from a crane, its stripes shredded to fingers. “You’re going to wear yourself out, peeing on everything,” a woman told her dog, as it tried to make sense of the disturbed new surface of the world. The Fairway was open, unusually cautious shoppers moving among workers hustling cartons, beginning to reverse the depletion of the shelves. There were no eggs at all, none. It was getting dark, and the pizza place had closed its open front. But behind the glass, in the light, fast-moving hands were turning the dough.