An article on hiking Paris’ Petite Ceinture reminded me of the unique types of adventures offered by big, complicated cities.
About 35 years ago, I made the most amazing discovery in my hometown of New York City. It had been an emotional day and I definitely needed something to pick-me-up.
Having been banned from the entire West Side of Manhattan by my father (who deemed it one large “bad neighborhood”) made it an even more alluring destination. That day, I chose to explore the West Side’s most remote part — the old Penn Central Railroad yards. Besides being forbidden fruit, I liked that the space was undeveloped and right next to the Hudson River.
After walking awhile, I did a double-take when I saw a mirage-like structure appear. Right in the middle of block after block of emptiness, there was a chain link fence enclosure covered in ivy. I crept closer to look inside. Much to my surprise, it was inhabited! I found a guy in his early 70s sitting in the middle of a beautiful garden.
He opened the gate and invited me in. After showing me around his prized plants and Italian vegetables, he offered me a seat and asked if I wanted a drink. I was again surprised when he reached down to the ground to locate a large metal ring attached to a rectangular door covered in grass. His urban oasis was complete with private wine cellar, from which he plucked a bottle of burgundy.
Of course, anyone brave enough to carve out a place of respite in a borough known for chaos, had to be a bit of a character. Before long, he asked if I wanted to see what the garden looked like in other seasons. “Of course!” I replied, as handed me a pile of photos. He carefully watched me shuffling through each one, obviously waiting for me to notice one particular snowy shot. I’m sure my reaction didn’t disappoint—my eyes grew big upon finding the nudie picture: a beautiful blond model posing in the garden wearing a fur coat opened wide to artistically show off her curvy naked torso!
The rest of the time we spent talking and sipping wine and enjoying the kind of leisurely afternoon one expects to find in Tuscany rather than Manhattan.
Mission accomplished! When I left a few hours later, my mood was definitely lighter.