Post-gym, when my blond hair is slick with sweat, New York suddenly becomes quaint. The air feels crisp, not cold, and every new thing I hear or see seems authentic and creative. Case in point: a bum-slash-comedian yelling, "Ladies on the inside, men on the outside!" at a couple walking together in Midtown. (This actually meshed with an old wives' tale I heard -- that in the days before running water was common, men would walk on the outside of a sidewalk so ladies would be protected by awnings from randomly falling dirty bathwater that people would throw out their windows. I have no idea whether this is actually true.)
Even the subway was a Manhattan motley crew straight out of central casting: hipster youths pushing past me (naturally); a 40-something man in work clothes wearing an honest-to-god construction hat; a guy with short gray hair and Gucci glasses reading a copy of the Wall Street Journal whom I guessed on sight was an architect; and a large, polite man who rested his metallic gold-encrusted Yankees cap on his knee as he sat (for some reason this struck me as fantastically old-fashioned).
As I scanned the crowd and smiled to myself, I had one thought: Why don't I work out more? Amid the booze, the worries, the scheduling, the plans, the good intentions, the reasons why not, and the just-plain-laziness, there is an eye of calm I'd forgotten about.
The way I felt tonight reminded me of a time when I had just moved to the Upper East Side and was driving myself crazy in my new apartment with my circular thinking. I decided to go for a run along the East River, next to the sparkling water, and my eyes filled with happy tears for a split second, as I directed my thoughts toward the beauty of the city and all that it has to offer, rather than the dysfunctional world I tend to create in my head.