So a somewhat tenuous job situation has resolved itself, and so for the past two days I’ve been in a total orgy of planning ahead for fun things to do (weekend in the Adirondacks! Day trip to Storm King! a pilgrimage to Howe Caverns! a writing class and a day hike on the Hudson!).
And ironically this is all happening right when all the free events will be starting up anyway.
Five years ago, when I was having a broke-as-hell summer, I discovered that when it comes to free entertainment, New York City rules. I’d known about the Summerstage free concerts in Central Park and the free movies in Bryant Park every year, but that barely scratches the surface – there’s also the free concert series in Brooklyn, then the other free concert series in Brooklyn, then the other other free concert series in Brooklyn. There are free movies in Brooklyn Bridge Park, in the neighborhood of Red Hook, in Williamsburg, two series in Hudson River Park (one series for adults, one for kids), and even movies at a Mexican restaurant in my neighborhood that uses solar power and projects the movies onto the solar panels on Sunday nights.
Thanks to all of this I have seen some amazing acts for totally free. One year I went to a gala tribute to someone whom I don’t even remember – because all I do remember is that Lou Reed came out as one of the acts as a surprise. And then there was the all-star tribute to Bill Withers, who also made a surprise appearance towards the end, making jokes about his kids and leading everyone in a rendition of “Lovely Day“. I rounded up a bunch of friends to see Dr. John and got so into it that during “Such A Night” I pulled one of my oldest friends up onto his feet to dance with me. During the gig with The Waterboys a ceili broke out 20 feet away from me during “Fisherman’s Blues” and I got up to join them, nearly tripping some poor guy when I jigged onto his feet (he forgave me). I gave up my good seats during a B-52s concert because the people around me were just sitting there, and 20 feet behind me was a whole group of college kids dancing maniacally, and I ran back to join them during “Private Idaho“, singing along and dancing with some girl I’ve never seen before in my life and never saw again. The first time I heard Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” in my life was hearing Glen Hansard singing it somewhere in Prospect Park, backed up by an entire horn section and his opening act in something that turned it into a mind-meld of Dixieland Jazz and folk.
Totally free, all of it.
So much goes down that I got a whole write-on wipe-off calendar that I could keep by the door and use it to record all the everything happening, just so I’d remember. I may actually have to get a bigger one this year to include all of the free stuff in the parks that I somehow only thought to look up this year (canoe trips! Hiking! Guided tours! Camping!). And in a few short weeks one of my absolute favorite spots in the city will open back up again.
I never quite shed the whole summer-vacation vibe after graduating from school; at least New York gives me a reason to hang on to that zest.