At Columbus and 84th Street, I step through the swinging door of the canvas foyer at Lenny’s Delicatessen and am hit with the smell of the Hudson River. It is raining lightly.
Like in E.B. White’s essay, “Here is New York”—when he was in Central Park and heard the sad, moaning horn of the Queen Mary trumpeting across the west side onto the plaza around Bethesda Fountain, where a jazz musician was playing his coronet, the sounds mingling—so now I am overcome with the slick oiliness of the water only five hundred yards to my left. It is a smell of dirt and place, evocative of tugboats, the Little Red Lighthouse storybook when I was a boy, whitecaps visible from the Riverside Park promenade, and a swirling brown current like frothy chocolate milk I knew would be precarious for any weak swimmer and perhaps most strong ones.
I open my nostrils wide to the smell, hearing the raindrops hit my black umbrella, and walk toward the subway.