Soon, it will be too cold for the lone street-corner sax player—whose thin, labored musical strains I hear every day well before I emerge through the arch of my building— to occupy the wee circle of prime sidewalk real estate he lays squatter’s rights to, to play, tirelessly, (tiresomely for me), the only song he apparently knows, “As Time Goes By.”
A block south of me, a man lives on the street with his dog, his cell phone, and his journals, which he has been observed to pour through, under one of those open-air phone booths mounted on a post. The wife of one well-known New Yorker routinely stops with her dog, crouches down and lingers to chat at length with him. He doesn’t lack guests to his blanketed oasis—yesterday, he was host to a young woman who stroked his disinterested dog as the two parties softly discussed... what? Assured that New Yorkers are not as indifferent as they are perceived to be, not by a long shot, I’m hoping to catch sight of whom among them will offer the man and his dog, inseparable, shelter for the winter. It has to be the best reality show going.
Nothing against man and dog, but truer to character, my heart goes out to the lonely man with a horn. In my mind, I offer him solace. But only on condition of his learning to play a new song. And, if it’s “Autumn in New York,” I readily foot the bills for every lesson for as long as it takes.
Fall is a foolish name to call a season so glorious, and, as the song says, “so inviting.” It’s autumn—in New York or anywhere else. Wikipedia says the word comes from the Old French autompne, automne in modern French, but doesn’t state what it meant or came to mean in old or new French. That may explain why autumn gained disproportionate popularity as fall. Wikipedia also tells us, “Since 1997, Autumn has been one of the top 100 names for girls in the United States.” But I’ve never met a girl named Autumn. Or Fall. So much for Wikipedia this season.
Autumns in New York may no longer spell “the thrill of first-nighting.” Not when substantially discounted preview tickets are available. But reliably, on every Halloween every autumn, every brownstone on West 69th Street in the two-block stretch between Central Park West and Broadway becomes a story-book haunted house full of thrills and treats for children of all ages. And for the 84th Thanksgiving morning, Central Park West and 7th Avenue (in lieu of Broadway) will become the Main Streets of Anytown for the locals, who gather hours earlier to view and to cheer on the footsloggers and float-squatters of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Autumn is the season for The New York Film Festival and The New York City Ballet; for this season, the overdue arrival of the longed-for Upper West Side Trader Joe’s and, painfully, the imminent departure of the community-prized Lincoln Square Barnes and Noble; the Yankees’ post-season and Christopher Columbus’ Day; plus so much more that is distinctly New York. The season and occasion for a love song to New York that sings to all. All the more poignant, then, to know that “Autumn in New York” was the inspiration of a Russian-born composer, Vladimir Aleksandrovich Dukelsky, who became, in New York, the great American songwriter, Vernon Duke.
It's good to live it again.
Listen to what Ella and Satch do with it.