Thursday, September 1, 2011

What September 1st Means To Me: The End Of A New York City Summer

Though the official end of summer is technically sometime in late September, September 1st, has, for me, always signified the conclusion of our hottest season.  Because I’m overly nostalgic (and a bit romantic), I love symbolic markers that bookend a space of time(such as a summer), so I can easily catalog the period in the corners of my mind, ableing me to recall the memory at some future date much in the same way I’d open a photo album.  Often times, I’m not cognizant of the time markers as they happen, and retroactively assign them once I’ve encapsulated a moment (even if its months long) and deem it memorable.  Of course, once done, the entire thing becomes ten times more romantic in my mind, as nostalgia often does. 
When I think about physical signs of the end of summer, I’m first reminded of New York City during the last days of August and the first of September.  I have a love/hate relationship with New York City and its inhabitants, but it does feel like the only city where the emotions of the people within it seem to match the feeling emanated by the actual city.  I know that sounds weird, but it’s a strange symbiotic relationship that defies sense, but if you walk through the streets and observe the mood, you realize the city has this unique character, as if it’s a large, concrete flawed human with a beating heart.
As August slowly becomes September, the city feels like it’s in transition from the hustle and bustle of the exciting summer to the regimented and calmer fall and winter.  When I think of this time period, I’m reminded of walking down Broadway, from the village into Soho, during dusk on a random late August evening.  The sun sets a little sooner than it did in July, the people that stroll the sidewalks do so a little slower, as if the entire weight of the summer has settled on their shoulders and they aren’t quite ready to shrug it off just yet.  Summer clothes that know they will soon be relegated to the closet for winter seem to stick to skin that is still slightly sweaty from the muggy twilight.  You don’t hear as many car horns, and the aforementioned sidewalks are filled with people a little less irritable, maybe because they were tired from the hot July and August and just didn’t have the energy anymore.  There's just a certain haze, like the calm after a storm, that suggests a welcome uncertainty.  Like an accepted limbo period where people mentally muse and lightly plan, but don't actually plan to act until a later date
I honestly don’t miss a ton about New York, but I do miss the seasonal changes for these reasons.  There’s a collective, unmentioned acknowledgement of the transition by New Yorkers, a realization that goes beyond idle chatter about the weather and how one may or may not be looking forward to the leaves changing and the return of the chill in the air.  And it’s in these days where the city seems more relaxed, more resigned, like it’s coming down from yet another New York summer, one filled with weekend trips to the beach, concerts in Central Park, long walks instead of subway rides, and the enjoyment of lesser clothing.  And even though the weather remains nice for another couple of months, there is something about the August/September transition that causes people to switch gears and start the ever-slow path to autumn. 
Or that’s how I remember it anyway. 

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