Number 25: Wander Through New York While Listening to “Rhapsody in Blue”

If you’ve read my silly Life List, maybe you’ve wondered why it would possibly take me so long to complete some of the easier sounding items. For example, I’ve had many volunteers offering to help me out with the pie in the face, some complete strangers even, but I’ve decided that it’s not just about crossing these things off. After all, I have, what, a hundred, hundred twenty years to finish it, right?

This, I suppose, is one of those easy ones since I live in New York and “Rhapsody in Blue” is only 12:37 long, so surely I’ve been able to find twelve minutes and thirty-seven seconds of solitude in which to bask in this life-fulfilling task.

Look, I’m a really important person and it just so happens that I haven’t.

Hey, I bet one of you believed me.

Like most of these easier-to-cross-off items, it’s been more about waiting for the right moment. I didn’t know what exactly I was waiting for or how I wanted to feel, but it came a few weeks ago, and it turns out that I was looking for a completely depressing, suicidal-but-I’m-only-saying-that-because-I’m-mostly-just-a-drama-queen-and-I’m-not-that-brave-so-I’d-never-actually-do-that kind of moment. Huh. Imagine that.

So when I’m feeling particularly Ophelia-esque, the best thing for me to do is to wander around somewhere by myself. My favorite place for this used to be in the National Gallery of Art, but now I live half a block away from another fantastic place seemingly designed to remind you that life doesn’t suck: Central Park. And as I self-pityingly wallowed through the Women’s Gate into the Park, it just seemed like the right moment to take on Number 25. In the end, the combination of the eerily quiet park with the late Fall light and the perfect Gershwin score left me feeling nothing but gratitude, and shockingly that always seems to wipe out the depressiveness.

So why did I want to make it a point to do this in the first place? The truth is that, thanks to iTunes shuffle, I’ve probably already done this passively; I wanted, however, to take the time to really think about it.

I was probably 5 or 6 the first time I saw the movie Manhattan. By “saw the movie Manhattan” I of course mean that it was recorded on the same VHS that Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation was on, and sometimes I would be wrapped up in fashioning a complicated Barbie hairstyle before realizing that things were suddenly black and white and definitely not in the Kingdom of Care-a-Lot.

I must have been about 12 the first time I actually watched the movie.

I had no idea what was going on, but I knew that I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to grow up to be the kind of person who spends the weekends walking around art museums with friends who would pepper our conversations with culturally significant witticisms and occasionally ponder the meaning of our existence . . . in black and white, naturally. And nothing made that more clear than those first three and half minutes. Those images! That song!

Putting this item on my list was to force me to stop and soak in this dream of mine come true. I’m pretty sure that my life, for better or for worse, does not currently resemble any of Woody Allen’s films, nor does it necessarily resemble anything I could have imagined at age twelve. But, I there I sat at the Bethesda Terrace, listening to that song surrounded by those images, in my home, thinking about what’s become of my own story.

Rhapsody in Blue also happens to be one of my all-time favorite pieces of music. Because of its connotation with New York City, yes, but it’s one of the most emotionally rich orchestrations ever composed. To put it simply (because I’m an idiot), it’s sad, and then it’s fun, but then it’s sad again. Suddenly, it becomes unexpectedly hopeful – a beautiful hopefulness that is halted by startling, overwhelming suspense, and then it’s all over with an ending that leaves you breathless. It’s exactly like life in New York City, just like the movie suggests. But as I become more and more of an adult, I realize that maybe it’s just like life everywhere and that there will probably never be a moment in life where I’m not feeling all of these things at the same time.

Of course, New York is more fun than anywhere else.

Moments like the one I had wandering through Central Park listening to George Gershwin remind me of how grateful I am to be living here. Dreaming into reality is possible, but it never happens easily or the way you think it will, right?  For a control freak with an overactive imagination, sometimes that fact is too hard to accept. Whenever I feel that way, all I need to do is go for a walk in the city that I love, and I remember that things are incredible.

And now, you must watch this. It’s my favorite interpretation of the song (complete with artwork inspired by Al Hirschfeld), and perfectly visualizes all that I’m attempting to say.

Number 25 and the pressure, and promise, of finally living in New York.


2 thoughts on “Number 25: Wander Through New York While Listening to “Rhapsody in Blue”

  1. Rach says:

    Lovely as usual 🙂

  2. Paul Anater says:

    Holy cow, listening to Rhapsody in Blue and meandering around New York is one of my private pleasures. I’m sure we’re not alone in that but for me, the best time for that activity is early in the morning. When Midtown’s just coming to life it reminds me of the New York Gershwin would have seen when he wrote that piece. I get chills and I feel so connected to Gershwin the composer when the setting’s right. Those alternating waves of happy and sad and the hopeful ending somehow make more sense to me when I’m walking the Avenues between, say, 35th and 55th. It’s a pleasure to meet a fellow traveler!

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