New York City, June 21, 2016

★★★★ If any of the overnight rain that was supposed to have fallen had fallen, it had failed to cleanse or even to wet anything. The sky was pleasantly divided, for a moment, between clear pale blue in the west and sun-blocking clouds in the east. That protection was swiftly withdrawn, and the freed sun made the eyes hurt. The blinds on the near side of the Starbucks on the way to Columbus Circle were all the way down, so that it looked as if it had gone out of business. The 1 train had been impossibly late, and the attempt to work around the 1 led to an empty and suffocating downtown N/Q/R platform at Herald Square, hotter than anywhere else would be all day. Back uptown, in the late afternoon, candy corn had been flattened into the sidewalk, each piece losing its pointed shape but keeping its color bands through its coating of dirt. The river was thick with blue haze. The famous minimalist played one of his piano etudes under a white canopy on the pier, and a little child lurched off the low concrete barrier, slopping water all around. A near-baby in a pink polo shirt wailed. A helicopter droned along under a temporary gathering of clouds. The four-year-old waited till the end of the piece, then went sprinting down to the empty far end of the pier, where the sound was of the intermittently plashing Hudson, interrupted by the blast of a cruise ship, glimmering in a localized patch of sun, leaving its berth downriver. Back at the landward end of the pier, in the cafe, pigeons sent gusts of air over feet as they fought under the chairs for a scrap of a chicken tender. The cloud cover broke and the sun came in hot and clear under the table umbrella. The day stretched on and on; down at Pier 62, skateboarders lounged by their waterless swimming pools. Through a gap in the weedy plantings was the carousel, its carved indigenous animals glossy in the shade. Now the haze on the river was gold, and golden light shone through the sails on it. The clouds were in sharp whites and grays, with subtle blues underneath. A gull flew over, flamingo-colored in the light. The carousel spun through site-specific brass music. Now and again a drop or two of rain landed, though what was overhead was a mild shred of gold and then nothing at all. The music ended and the sun came straight across the water, throwing shadows the full length of the path back out. A big screen awaited outdoor moviegoers but it was hard to imagine how long it might take be dark enough. Sunset was ordinarily pretty in the west, but in the east and overhead, pink cumulus bloomed to preposterous shades and dimensions till the city below felt puny and flat.