Sunday, June 26, 2011

Manhattan of Dreams


I was in Manhattan. Not the real one. I was in the Manhattan of Dreams.

I've been here before. Remembering one dream was the key. Let me describe a few places I have been.

There's a department store there. It's multiple stories and yet each floor is not large. The corners are not right angles. It has escalators.

Up one or two levels is a book department that has the kind of books I like. Sleepy brain might not fill in for me the specific titles or authors, but they're the ones I like. This place has books I don't find in other stores, so I like to go there. I think I've usually gone there with Helen.

One time I was in the store with Helen and we were looking for something else on one of the upper floors. It was a Christmas present for somebody. We found part of one floor emptied out, with marks on the floor where the shelves and counters used to be. There was a story to this that eludes me now. Then we found the department we wanted. I don't remember what we bought there.

I haven't been to that store in years. Maybe.

There's another store that sells records. It's on some side street in Midtown that Sleepy brain knows. It has imported records and out of print records. I mean vinyl. I would find records there that I'd only heard about. Sometimes I'd even find records I had not heard about. There were stores like this in Real Manhattan, but in some way this one was better. I haven't been to it in a very long time now. It's probably closed.

There are overgrown parts of Manhattan of Dreams. When you go between Downtown and Midtown and the Village by road— I would usually take the subway— by road you pass through blocks without buildings, blocks with trees and weeds and dirt fields. The avenues curve a little as they go through those areas.

When I take the subway, there's a place where the train enters a very large tunnel for a short distance. You can see it out the train windows. It has strange tiles on the wall and arched passages off to the sides. It's the remains of something unfinished and I don't know what. I feel I should know what it is. That book department probably has a book that describes it, that I should get.

Way downtown there are stone-cobbled streets and stone block buildings. They're all old, as if people are not allowed to build down there any more. I've been through there on my way to the Bridge. There's something about the Bridge that is still hidden from Waking Brain. I know I've been there a few times trying to solve something about it. That's all I can tell you.

I've been in the Manhattan of Dreams many times.

And now I was there again. It was good to be back. I never felt totally at ease there, and yet I was sure I'd found my way around before, and I was ready to take it on once again.

This time, for the first time, I was there to be in a 5 K run. I had running clothes and shoes on. I was explaining this to somebody. I looked at the time on a clock and knew that the run was going to begin in a half hour, about 20 blocks away. I considered running there. But I didn't know whether it was a good idea to get there by running, right before I was going to run the 3.1 miles of a 5 K. Maybe I should take a bus or a subway.

The person I was talking with asked me when I had registered for the run. Well, I hadn't. I was going to do that when I got there. The person thought I couldn't.

The start place was somewhere on the far west side of Midtown. It isn't one of the overgrown places, but when you get that far west, it doesn't seem like Real Manhattan either. The avenues are paved with concrete, and they have two-way traffic with a lot of trucks passing through, like you see on main roads well outside the city. Yet there are also traffic lights at every corner, and the usual New York flow of pedestrians.

On the far west side there is a huge shopping mall with curving streets inside it, and maybe a railroad station. I didn't go there this day, but I've been in it.

I found the start of the run, in a vacant parking lot on one of the avenues, and it was just as the person had told me. The organizers had enough runners and no more were being accepted. I didn't feel very bad about it though. It had just been an idea. I wasn't dead set on it.

Somebody I knew was there. Sleepy brain didn't tell me who it was. This person might have been thinking of running too. I don't know why else he was there. (Why am I trying to apply logic?)

He said I should see what was down the street. OK.

Down the end of the block was the Hudson River. I mean the street just ran right to the edge of the water and ended. There were boats on the water, and across the river in New Jersey I saw buildings and the Palisades. I hadn't seen this street before.

I wondered where West Street was. I tried to remember whether they had put some portion of it underground when they rebuilt it. I couldn't remember that. But it wasn't here, and there was the river.

The buildings lining the street had given out in mid block, leaving empty lots. I could see across to the next street, which also ran to the water's edge.

Between the streets was a large empty field. The ground was partly covered with grass and weeds, and the rest was just dirt and rocks and broken bricks. There are lots like this where a buildings have been torn down and they've backfilled the former basements up to street level.

The object of attention was in the center of the field. There was a large square hole in the ground about twenty feet on a side. A stream of water from the river was flowing into it.

Sleepy brain tried to make sense of this. The Hudson was at sea level, it knew, so how could water be flowing to some lower level? No matter how deep a hole this was, wouldn't it fill pretty quickly and then just look like a pool of water? But the water was pouring in.

My friend was smiling. He knew I'd like this.

The square hole was obviously man-made. I could see a little of the far side and it seemed to be lined with cut stone, and there was even an alcove just below ground level topped with a pointed arch. It was old.

I started walking across the field. The ground became wet as I approached. There was a little spring on the side of the field away from the Hudson, and a little stream flowed from it toward the hole. Near the hole, someone had made a little footbridge over this little stream. I saw that it was actually two wooden window shutters resting across a pair of two by fours parallel to the stream. Someone had just used what was lying around to make the bridge.

I didn't want to get much closer to the square hole. The ground was level, but I still felt as if a slip might take me over the brink, and there was nothing to hang onto. I could hear the roar of the water flowing in, but no splash from where it was going.

I stared at the water flowing in, fascinated. It was like looking into a fire, and just as mysterious. Where did the water go?

And I woke up.

I'm sorry. But that's the only reason I remember any of this. Something woke me up.

Maybe I will go back there, and I'll remember it. I'll let you know if it happens.

The map is from The Official Maps of New York, published by The National Survey Co, Chester, Vermont, no date. Needless to say the maps were not deemed official by any authority other than the small publisher. I'd say the date is about 1920.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Number 7 Broadway


Not long ago I wrote a little about the first elevated railroad in New York, the Greenwich St and Ninth Ave line. The first segment, Dey St to 29th St, was originally operated by cable in 1870, but when that proved hopelessly unreliable, a new company began operating in 1871 with one a train pulled by a very small steam engine.

If we jump ahead just two years, we find the New York Elevated Railroad operating a profitable small transit line. As of February 1873 there were intermediate stations at Franklin St, Watts St for Canal St, Little West 12th St, and 21st St. Four engines were available to pull eight passenger cars. A second track had been added, running for three blocks near the midpoint of the line, from Perry St to Bethune St.

The second track was a breakthrough. Now trains could leave each terminal every half hour and pass at that point. The passing siding, complete probably in October 1872, led to many more improvements. The one we're going to look at now is the downtown terminal at Number 7 Broadway, which was used for four years, January 3, 1873 to April 4, 1877.

The location is amazing in today's terms. It was an old house and a former railroad freight yard on property facing Bowling Green and running through to Greenwich St. Today this is some of the most valuable land in the city, but in 1872 it had declined over the years into a neighborhood of warehouses and hotels supporting the docks along the river. A railroad terminal and maintenance shop was not out of place.

Here is the location.

The base map above is from 1880, so it shows some later elevated construction. The elevated track that existed in 1873-1875 is shown by red lines. It runs over the east curb of Greenwich St and into the property we're discussing. The house at number 7 Broadway is shown in brown.

The New York Daily Tribune for November 23, 1872, gives the best description of it that I have found:

At Nos 5 and 7 Broadway, near Battery-place, a depot is rapidly building. This will be of iron, and will be completed by December 1. The first floor will be about four feet above the sidewalk and five feet below the level of the track, and will be devoted entirely to waiting-rooms for passengers ; indeed the entire building is to be used for this purpose at present, though the company's offices will by-and-by occupy a part of it. From the waiting-room stairs ascend to the railroad.

The tracks will extend to the lower side of the building, and at this point will be nine feet above the sidewalk. The space between will be used as a storehouse. The curve necessary to bring the road, which now ends in Greenwich-st, into Broadway, will be at a point just below Morris-st. From Greenwich-st to the depot there will be four tracks side by side, in order to accommodate the travel which is now rapidly increasing, especially large numbers taking the train connecting with the 5 p m Hudson River Railroad train. By this arrangement four trains can be started at the advertised time, and the others taking passengers who have reached the depot earlier.

This is not completely right in detail, but it's pretty good.

The article also mentions the third and fourth engines on order, and the planned service of trains every 30 minutes, but the reporter does not mention the second track that would make that frequency possible. In the last sentence he assumes an expansion of one-way service on single track, all four trains running uptown together. I don't think they were really operated that way, although possibly they were in rush hours.

A remarkable stereo view provides the only known image of the station from the Bowling Green side. I've enlarged the available digital image here, so pardon the pixellation.

The New York Elevated Railroad owned the lot with the trains, 5 Broadway, and the old house beyond it, 7 Broadway. There's a ghost of a house on the side of 7 Broadway, but it was gone for at least 20 years at the time of this photograph. To the left of the trains is 1 Broadway.

The ground floor under the trains looks like it might be concession stands. There seems to be a stairway to the trains on the far side, but there also seems to be an open door into 7 Broadway at track level, converted from a window. Three trains are in the station.

Below is an image from the early 1890s, with some house numbers.  This gives a better idea of the setting on Bowling Green.

The former station at 3 and 5 Broadway has stores at ground level and a second floor. Number 7 looks relatively unchanged and was probably rented as offices. A one-story building at number 9 houses "Our Club" and another at number 11 has a "Ticket Office" for a railroad or ship line. The signs on the side of number 13 are for Die Deutsche Gesellschaft der Stadt New York and Braguglia and Coreno's Cafe and Restaurant. The motley collection of buildings beyond made up the Stevens Hotel. Numbers 3 to 11 would be removed in 1895 for construction of the Bowling Green Building.

If we go around to the Greenwich St side, we can see the tracks. This is from a stereo view photographed in the autumn of 1876.

I drew the tracks on the map based on this view. It's too bad engine Yonkers blocks the part of the view, because it looks like there is a three-way switch there. Railroads avoid those, but space was tight here. Notice that there are five tracks, not four described in the Tribune article. The trees in the background are in Bowling Green.

From the left, the back of number 7 Broadway, and in the foreground, the brick wall of the former railroad freight yard has been cut back crudely to allow the elevated tracks in. Left middle is an interesting collection of items including the outer shell of a steam dummy and a handcar. Top middle, the back of number 1 Broadway, and to its right the Washington Hotel, which faced Battery Place. Lower right, Yonkers is coupled to a few cars on the old track down to Battery Place, used at this time as another siding.

Something else to notice is that there is essentially no space between the trains. This agrees with the scale on the map, which shows the station to occupy only about 40 linear feet along Broadway, or roughly 8 feet wide per track. How did passengers get into the trains?

Keep in mind that the second track I mentioned was the only second track on the railroad. How did the trains reverse at the end of the line? In the days of steam, railroad terminals routinely had an escape track to let the engine run around the train. Even if the engine did not actually turn around, it would move to the front of its train.

The answer is that New York Elevated used what is now called push-pull operation. Every photograph and drawing I have seen before 1877 shows the engine at the uptown end of the train. I am convinced that the engine stayed there at all times, and that when running downtown it pushed the train ahead of it. The engineer and fireman stayed with the engine, and relied on the rear brakeman to convey information about what lay ahead.

Newspaper reports of an accident in December 1876 make this quite clear. At the start of a two-track section at Vandam St, an uptown train was erroneously switched across the street to the downtown track, where its engine collided with the lead car of a downtown train that was waiting to enter the single track section.

The switchman gave the signal indicating everything was right, but through forgetfulness on his part he had left the switch open. The engineer of the up train when within a few yards of the switch saw that it was misplaced, and immediately applied the air-brake and gave the signal to the brake-men to apply the hand-brakes.

The cab of the engine was almost completely demolished, and the platform of the car on the down town train was destroyed. The passengers on both trains were thrown from their seats by the shock of the collision, and some three or four were slightly injured on the hands and legs.

The significance of this to 7 Broadway? Every train came in with the engine trailing. Every train had passenger cars at the end of track. In the photograph from the Broadway side, you see three trains with cars at the end of track. In the photograph from the Greenwich St side, you see four trains with engines visible, and one that I think has its engine detached.

So my conclusion is that at 7 Broadway they only needed access to the last platform of the last car, and people walked through the train to and from that point. Platforms between the tracks were not needed.

But this meant that the company could not convert to engine-first operation as long as they used the 7 Broadway terminal. The terminal was closed when the extension to South Ferry was opened. Some of the earliest depictions of trains at South Ferry in 1877 show engines running at the downtown end of trains for the first time. So as soon as it became possible, the company converted to a safer mode of operation where the engineer himself could always see the track ahead.

This shows how you can get an engine to the head of a train at a terminal, as long as there are at least two tracks outside the terminal. Start with engine 1 waiting on one track. Engine 2 pulls a train in. Engine 1 follows it in and couples to the other end, as engine 2 uncouples. Engine 1 takes the train out, and engine 2 follows it out and waits. Repeat.

At South Ferry, the extra tracks were available immediately outside the station. At the north end, which was 59th St station by 1877, the line was single track for the last eight blocks from 51st St, but still the same escape could be operated. The time it took to turn at 59th St was then the limiting factor on train frequency. This method of escaping engines to the front of every train became possible only when the second track opened to 51st St, about November 1876, and more importantly when the 7 Broadway terminal was closed in April 1877.


Bonus feature.

The map up there at the top also shows the complete length of the first section of the el built in 1867, from Battery Place to a point just north of Morris St. The famous photograph below shows Charles T Harvey in front of 37 and 39 Greenwich St.

At that date, Trinity Place was a narrow lane that ran from Liberty St to a dead end behind the buildings on the north side of Morris St. Its southernmost outlet was Edgar St, a bit north of the dead end. That's the reason Edgar St existed. In 1869 the city bought out properties in order to continue Church St south. A totally new street was created through three blocks from Fulton St to Liberty St, and from there Trinity Place was widened and opened through to Morris St and Greenwich St. The new street was completed late in 1870. The photo of Harvey shows on the left a building on the north side of Morris St that was removed in the Church St project.

I've noticed also that the house numbers on Greenwich St shifted sometime in the 1880s. The old number 23 became 13 (but the next building remained number 25), and numbers 11 down to 1 were spread over the remaining lots, so that a few properties running through the block now had the same house number on Broadway and Greenwich St. The building with the "13 STORAGE" sign seen in two images in Greenwich St El Cars was the original 13 Greenwich St shown on the map here.

The base map (first image) is from the David Rumsey Map Collection, a terrific site for map fans. The image of the station from the Bowling Green side (second image) was rescued from Ebay by Charles Warren and can be seen on his Ninth Ave El page. The others are from my collection.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Subway Station Counts


On Thursday someone posted on nyc.transit a link to New York subway station counts.

The counts are annual fares paid per station. Stations connected by free transfer are shown as one station, since you can't tell which line riders are going to. Although the stations are ranked from 1 to 420, the chart is arranged alphabetically by borough, so it takes a little looking around to find the top and bottom performers.

One thing is missing: transfers. That's because there are no turnstiles to provide counts. Some stations may have only a moderate number of riders entering but quite a few changing trains. Transfer makes a station important in the system and adds to the number of passengers boarding trains at the station.

But granting the limitation of counting only passengers entering the system, I thought it might be interesting to check to top and bottom 15.

Good locations: Times Square and Grand Central.

1 : TIMES SQUARE and 42ND ST (Eighth Ave). 58,422,000. That's about 160,000 a day. This group of interconnected stations might also be the busiest transfer location in the system, but we don't have counts to show that. Why do 58 million passengers enter here? The Port Authority Bus Terminal brings in 58 million riders a year, and the 42nd St (Eighth Ave) station is the only one nearby. But there are also a lot of riders coming back from movies and shows and shopping around Times Square.

2 : GRAND CENTRAL. 41,903,000. 16 million fewer than Times Square! The entering riders include some per cent of Metro North's 44 million railroad passengers. This is an office district too, more so than Times Square.

3 : 34TH ST (Sixth Ave and Broadway). 37,769,000. This is the major shopping center of Manhattan, anchored by Macy's. I wonder how many riders are coming from Penn Station, one long block away, and how many from PATH.

4 : UNION SQUARE and 14TH ST. 34,730,000. Interesting. Where are all these people coming from? It's the closest express stop to New York University, and there are plenty of small stores, and some offices. I've been in this area in the evening recently, and it is a happening place full of life. I am still surprised to see it at number 4.

5 : PENN STATION (Seventh Ave). 26,892,000. The first one that is on only one subway line. This is only one block from number 3, and has some of the same traffic from Macy's and other stores. But then there's Penn Station. I've had trouble finding an annual count for Long Island Rail Road, New Jersey Transit, and Amtrak railroad passengers using Penn, but 200 million is in the ballpark. Way more than Grand Central or the bus terminal. But for continuing the journey by subway, they've got two separate adjacent stations at Seventh Ave and Eighth Ave and a third nearby at Sixth Ave. Combined those three have 88 million, which blows away Times Square, fed by the combined railroad and shopping traffic.

6 : PENN STATION (Eighth Ave). 24,265,000. Look how evenly Penn Station splits to the two stations. The Seventh Ave side is close to more stores and that's probably the difference. If these two were connected within the subway system they'd take the number 2 spot.

7 : 59TH ST and COLUMBUS CIRCLE. 20,711,000. It's not the prime stop for theaters or Lincoln Center or Central Park or midtown offices, but maybe it's just close enough to each of them.

8 : 59TH ST and LEXINGTON AVE. 19,554,000. Look at that. It's almost the other Central Park corner, and it's got almost the same numbers. A big thing here is Bloomingdale's and other stores, and it's at the north edge of the office district.

9 : 86TH ST (Lexington Ave). 19,147,000. The first one in a primarily residential area. It's the only express stop for a mile around, and the residential towers are in this area are tall.

10 : MAIN ST. 18,630,000. The first one outside Manhattan, and it's way the hell out there in Flushing. The meaning is clear: the subway stops short of where a lot of riders want to go. They transfer here from many local bus lines.

11 : FULTON ST. 18,303,000. The first one that is mainly based on journey to work, I'd say. This is four interconnected stations from which office workers can go home to all points in the city. Even so it competes with other stations very close by. It's also the closest station to South St Seaport.

12 : LEXINGTON AVE 53RD ST and 51ST ST. 18,025,000. Another journey to work station, in the heart of the Midtown office district.

13 : 47TH-50TH ST (Sixth Ave). 16,518,000. Again, plus the tourist stuff around Rockefeller Center.

14 : ROOSEVELT AVE and 74TH ST. 16,280,000. Queens isn't the biggest outer borough for subway ridership, but it sure is concentrated. The only really big passenger magnet here is that Roosevelt Ave has very good express service to Manhattan, so people must be staying on the local bus to get here.

15 : CANAL ST (Broadway, Lafayette St, Centre St). 16,007,000. Chinatown, what's left of Little Italy, cheap stores, and the north edge of the courthouse district.

Brooklyn's top stations are downtown: Borough Hall and Court St (24 with 11,135,000), Jay St Metro Tech (28), and Atlantic Ave and Pacific St (29), the last raised somewhat by the adjacent Long Island Rail Road terminal. The next ones are Utica Ave (Eastern Parkway) (36), an impressive showing by Bedford Ave (North 7th St) (46), and Flatbush Ave (Nostrand Ave) (62).

The Bronx's best are 161st St Yankee Stadium (37) and 149th St (Third Ave) (50), the only two that crack the top 100.

Now for the bottom of the list.

 Bad locations: Cemeteries. Bay Parkway, Cypress Hills, Bushwick-Aberdeen.

405 : BAY PARKWAY (McDonald Ave). 427,000. F train. Consider a circle around this station, and you find that three-quarters of the area is a cemetery. As you'd expect, the "residents" don't ride trains much. Close it.

406 : ATLANTIC AVE (Snediker Ave). 424,000. L train. It's right above the Long Island Rail Road's East New York station, but a, who cares, and b, walking two blocks gets you to Broadway Junction station (number 169) with much better train service. Close it.

407 : CYPRESS HILLS. 419,000. There's not much here besides the eponymous cemetery. Close it.

408 : BUSHWICK AVE - ABERDEEN ST. 399,000. L train. Hidden away on a dead end street next to a cemetery, and it's just like number 406, too close to Broadway Junction. Close it.

409 : BEACH 25TH ST. 388,000. Rockaway. Not bad for a suburban railroad station, but this is the subway.

410 : BEACH 90TH ST. 339,000. Ditto, and see number 420.

411 : BEACH 36TH ST. 327,000. Ditto 409.

412 : 21ST ST (Jackson Ave). 320,000. Long Island City. G train. Close it. There are other stations nearby.

413 : ROCKAWAY PARK. 269,000. See number 420.

414 : 143RD ST (Southern Blvd). 256,000. 6 train. Close it. A lot of riders want to get past here to where they're going.

415 : AQUEDUCT. 238,000. I'm impressed it has even this much traffic, for a location at the edge of nowhere. Feel free to add 30,000 who use the part-time Aqueduct Racetrack station, because it doesn't make much difference. But before closing it, let's hang on and see whether the track's foray into slot machines generates traffic.

416 : BEACH 98TH ST. 215,000. See number 420.

[ 417 : WHITLOCK AVE. Foul. It was completely closed for 8 months in 2010, so no wonder the counts are a little low. In 2009 it did 480,000, which isn't great, but it's enough to keep it out of the bottom 15. I'm not considering it. ]

418 : BEACH 44TH ST. 144,000. Rockaways.

419 : BROAD CHANNEL. 93,000. On one side, a small town in the middle of Jamaica Bay. On the other side, nothing.

420 : BEACH 105TH ST. 65,800. Oh come on. That's an average of 180 a day, or with 4 trains per hour, 2 passengers per train. It's easy to understand. On one side is an empty lot and a parking lot, and on the other is an industrial property full of tanks. Great. Why is this station open? All four stations on the Rockaway Park branch are in the bottom 15— numbers 420, 416, 410, and 413. Why is the line open?

Really bad locations: Broad Channel and Beach 105th St.

What should we do with the whole Rockaway line south of Howard Beach? The only two stations not in the bottom 15 are Beach 60th St (378 with 789,000) and Far Rockaway (302 with a respectable 1,375,000). I want to allow that during the past year many of the stations have been closed part of the time in one direction for construction, but the passengers must have just gone on to the next station, and they are still all low counts.

The numbers really are well within the range of Long Island Rail Road station counts, even Far Rockaway (subway) which has fewer riders than about a dozen suburban stations. Far Rockaway (LIRR) has one train an hour, or two in rush hours, and a ride from New York will cost you $7.25 off peak. Should we really be running four trains an hour for $2.50 on the subway side?

I know. No one wants to open the can of worms about the gap in fares and frequencies between subway and mainline rail lines. It's the "third rail" of transit policy... or maybe some other metaphor! We can save that for another time.

The images are from Google Maps.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Water in the Air


Hot humid summer weather came to New Jersey for a while last week.

Monday, Memorial Day, I went out to run at 05:00. It would be too hot later in the day. I wake up then anyhow.

At that hour, this time of year, there's light in the sky. The local bird population perform a rousing morning chorus, as if spring will never end. At that hour, that day, it was reasonably cool, but only a few blocks of running told me how much humidity was in the air. Ugh.

My usual plan lately is:— Walk a half mile to warm up. Run one. Walk two blocks. Run another. Walk up a steep hill (it stretches the legs) and three blocks more. Run a half. Home. I walk a block past home and back to cool down.

The first mile run was tough. I know enough to go slower, but it was a struggle. In the second mile, halfway through, I took a walking break for a block. But then in the second half I did manage a small uphill. I was damn tired but I was not feeling dizzy or faint.

I always think about things while I'm out.

This day I wanted to know what on earth humidity was doing to me.

I tried to be in touch with my body. I wanted to feel what it was telling me. Then I would gain insight. I would be at one with myself. I sensed that my body was telling me, You idiot, why are you running? But I don't listen to that stuff.

Mock strawberry.

Here is the first Google hit I got later, and it's a good one. See the sections 'Account for Heat' and 'Heat Alert!'. He blames it on poor evaporation, which causes heat buildup in the body. That was one of the things I was thinking of.

I was also thinking about how the air feels heavy when it's humid. It's like pushing through it, isn't it? And I was wondering to what extent water vapor replaces oxygen, and whether I was tired because I was actually getting less oxygen per breath.

A little research told me that water vapor does displace oxygen, but weirdly enough it makes the air lighter per cubic unit. Helen told me the same thing later. I guess what we feel, when we think it's heavier, is really the fatigue of not cooling down normally as we move. We'd get the same feeling if the air was heavier.

Should I be amused or sad about seeing so many web forums where runners wonder why humidity is higher in the cool of the morning? Why? Oh, maybe it's because that's why they call it relative humidity? I am not a scientist and I know that.

But it raises a puzzling question. I like running at dawn because the temperature is at its lowest point of the day (usually), but by doing that I'm also putting myself in the highest relative humidity (usually). What's the tradeoff? Later in the day, I'd be able to cool off better from evaporation, but I'd also need to cool off better, since it's warmer out. Which way should I go, if I could run at either time?

It's moot, since I can only run at one time, but inquirin' minds want to know. They want to know a lot of things. But, back to our story.

View from the house. Compare to this.

When I got home I sat down on the front steps. It was a little cooler outside than in. (We turn off the living room air conditioner overnight.)

I took off my shoes and sat there and considered the world. The front garden looks great this time of year. Helen has put out all the potted plants, and we've got flowers on them and on the ground plants too. It's pretty lush.

Fact is I was too worn out to feel like moving.

My head was empty of words. I was just gazing at the riot of leaves and flowers. Nature's beauty.

There was a little flash of light just at the edge of my vision. Then I saw another in focus. A lightning bug! And it wasn't even June yet. Cool.

After some minutes a very welcome cool breeze stirred and stopped. Another breeze came. The plants moved here and there as the little breezes touched them.

Up in the trees the leaves showed their darker and lighter sides as they fluttered.

And I noticed the colors of the garden were becoming less bright.

In the sky to the south there was now forming a great grey mass of cloud. The breeze became more insistent, and cooler.

I noticed mosquitos pecking at my legs. Stupid nature. Just when I was feeling it. Just when I was communing with the world. Inside I went.

About five minutes inside, when— lightning flashed!— thunder shook the house! And rain started pounding on the house, a booming noise from all the open windows.

I had dodged that bullet by fifteen minutes.

The cold rain would have felt good, of course, but I don't want to be running in a lightning storm. I got caught in one once, when I was a mile and a half from home. It's an uncomfortable feeling whether you pass under open sky or under trees, wondering which is worse.

I cleaned up and put on regular clothes and flopped on the couch for an hour.

South side front garden. All three photos were taken at 06:00 Thursday.

When I went out later to get bagels, I could see twigs and tree seeds all over the street. The usual detritus. It had been a fine demonstration of the inevitable result of water vapor and cooling air.

Was the humidity any less then, an hour or so later? It didn't seem to be. It felt as if all the moisture released in the rain had been absorbed back into the warmer air of day, resetting the trigger for another round.

When Helen got up she looked out and asked, Did it rain this morning?