Darkness falls so early now

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The end of daylight time is only a week past but it seems like much of the world disappeared when the switch was flipped off. Early evening a couple of days ago and Central Park was already mostly abandoned when I decided to walk from Eighty-Second Street to Carnegie Hall instead of taking a bus down that way. Early evening and an almost-full moon was rising from behind thin, wispy clouds to play peek-a-boo though the tree tops. Familiar shapes became shadows and the ordinary world of the Park seemed to slip into the realms of mystery and Middle Earth. Empty. Moody. Mine.

It’s all only temporary, I’m afraid, Eventually people will get used to the dark and slowly come back out from whatever places they’re hiding in again. In the meantime, it’s not so bad having the whole Park so almost all-to-myself so early in the evening. Well, mostly almost all-to-myself. A few people are still around, of course. It’s still Central Park in New York. And there’s that odd handful of dark wraiths ambling in and out of the bushes and shadows every now and then. No, not
those kinds of things, things that go scurrying about in the night. Not squirrels, either. They’re not nocturnal. No. Raccoons.

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Raccoons are not exactly what people expect of Central Park. But, yes, there be raccoons here. Many even. By the time I reached the Pond at the bottom, near Sixth Avenue, I stopped, curious to catch a lingering glimpse of the goings-about of the Park’s secretive masked demimonde. There may be lots of them but it’s not like they’re usually that active and wowing the crowds during the day. Even at night. Try getting one to stand still long enough for its closeup. They’re busy, busy, busy. At the Pond, a couple were feasting on a bonanza of broccoli incongruously left by a bench. Each quick, determined sortie would be followed by a quacked chorus of displeasure from a fleet of mallard ducks, rustled from their every rest in the reeds, as the raccoons barged unapologetically back through to wash their dinner. Raccoons will be raccoons, after all.

Suddenly a surprised cry of alarm—“Oh my God, it’s so
BIG”—came from another young couple, this time human and not in the bushes. I turned. Oh, sure, raccoons are larger than your average house cat and, if you’re a visitor who’s never a raccoon in the fur, it might truly seem alarming. And so BIG. But, no, the alarm was over one of those other kinds of things that go scurrying about in the night as they happened to be strolling by, oblivious in conversation. Heck, everyone and everything loves broccoli, right? Even things that scurry in the night.

Some knightly fantasy must have suddenly spurred him into action. Chivalrous dramatically threw himself between the Lady and the Beast that Scurries in the Night, arms outstretched and back like a crossing guard, to bar the looming menace from her. Or maybe her from the looming menace. She looked so innocent and helpless, but who knows? The Beast really didn’t do much more than look and run, though. I have definitely seen ‘em bigger in the City and not started. Much bigger. I won’t boast though. I suppose Chivalrous quickly realized he had as well. I hate to think of the three-alarm screams if one of the raccoons passing unseen in the bushes just a few feet away had inopportunely emerged from hiding intent on broccoli and blood. Screams galore from both Lady and Chivalrous, I suspect.

Possibly chagrined at his over-action against something that wasn’t... well... wasn’t really
that big or even that unusual in the City, an odd, half-bemused exclamation quickly followed as the Beast shrank back. “So she said!”. I suppose it was addressed at me lest I get the wrong idea. Not that there were many of us around to get the wrong idea. The raccoons were too busy washing off their broccoli to pay anything else much note. Ducks? Ducks don’t care. Me? I don’t think I was laughing. Out loud anyway. Maybe Chivalrous meant it for Lady? On second thought, there was that half-bemused tone. I imagined I heard an arched eyebrow. Sometimes things that can be taken as double-entendres, really are intended as double-entendres. I’ll blame it on the waxing moon and the mysterious shadows of the night.

Anyway... Enough of the raccoons and “Overheard in the Dark in New York”. Time for Carnegie Hall.


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