For some time, I went down to the edge of the Hudson, to run along a path that then reached north to 125th Street and now extends up to the George Washington Bridge. Heading south, the path borders the river through Battery Park, at the tip of Manhattan. My home is near the river, on West 106th Street, named Duke Ellington Boulevard. Duke Ellington lived in the mansion around the corner on Riverside Drive. An old newsreel shows his funeral procession heading up Broadway to the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. Almost every day the weather allowed, I would pass Duke Ellington’s mansion’s corner in my running clothes and shoes, and I would cross the park, Riverside Park, to go down to the river’s edge. At the park, the esplanade covers the tunnels for the railroad line that begins at Penn Station and heads north to Albany, the state capital, to Niagara Falls, to the border with Canada.
The vault of the bridge, almost a tunnel, frames the first sight of the Hudson, confined by the ugly apartment towers and the cliffs of New Jersey. A Willem de Kooning painting titled Door to the River: to push a door and suddenly find oneself before the glow of the river. At the end of this arch of shadow lies a brightness that changes each day. Gray brightness of cloudy days, blinding on sunny mornings, red and golden in the afternoons, arctic on snowy winter days when the landscape disappears underneath the whiteness and naked trees become the black scribbles of Henry Callahan’s photographs. On sunny days, the river lights up beyond the arch of the tunnel like a sheet of steel waving in the wind. Spring, summer, autumn are the luxurious seasons of colors. Winter is the austere age of drawing. But David Hockney says that there is color in winter too: Even in dull days there is a lot of color if you look. The trees only go black when it rains.