Smartly dressed man performing near the Washington Arch

~Washington Square Park: Greenwich Village, NY~

As the visual and cultural epicenter of Greenwich Village, Washington Square Park presides on nearly 10 acres of green space on the southern third of Manhattan in New York City.  The space is dominated by the Washington Arch built to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of George Washington’s inauguration.  The western side of the park boasts an array of gaming tables used primarily for chess and an impressive fountain that can be found at the center of the park.

            On my latest trip to New York, I ventured into the park to listen to some of the street musicians that are regularly found performing around lunchtime and early into the afternoon.  I found a prime location on a bench facing the fountain in view of a smartly dressed man playing Beethoven’s Piano Sonata no. 14 (aka "Quasi una fantasia" or Moonlight Sonata) on a baby grand piano.

            I had only been in the city for a few hours and I couldn’t help but laugh at the fact that I was now drowning in culture.  As content as I was to sit there and enjoy the excellent musicianship, I noticed the young women sitting across from me having a rather animated conversation with someone that was undoubtedly her significant other.  From what I could decipher from my limited perspective they had planned on meeting in the park to discuss the future of their relationship.  The guy had ultimately decided that it was not worth his time and I watched as she became increasingly vulnerable as she pleaded with him to not give up on their relationship.  She eventually closed her phone and dejectedly placed it in her lap as the tears began to flood down her cheeks.

            This went on for several minutes until an older gentleman that had been sitting near me walked over to the young woman and gave her his handkerchief.  He bent over and whispered into her ear for nearly a minute at which point he stepped back and watched as she gathered herself and wiped the remaining tears from her face. The young woman thanked the man and stood next to him as they both watched the piano player finish his piece almost on cue as if a higher power were truly conducting the affairs of man.  The older gentleman shook her hand and smiled as she walked away and left the park.

I wonder what he whispered in her ear.  What words of wisdom did he have for the brokenhearted?  Why did her lover not fight for her; why had he given up when she clearly cared so deeply?  I suppose the question is always more revelatory than the answer.  In a city so famously callous and impersonal, I had witnessed something so deeply personal and intimate.  I knew it was going to be a great week if only because hope is the most infectious of sentiments.  Alexander Pope says it best in his Essay on Man,

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.”

Locals playing chess

 One of Feist's most poignant ballads that closely mirrors the vignette I witnessed in the park.