New York in August. The hot, greasy air hangs motionless in the Manhattan canyons, ripe with the aromas of rubbish, halal- food carts, dog urine and traffic fumes. Everyone who can afford it has gone somewhere cooler and fresher — the Hamptons, Fire Island, Martha’s Vineyard, Europe. It’s the season of sweltering subway platforms and pressure-cooked streets, short tempers and sweat-sodden clothes, and never has it felt so good to step into a cool dark bar and drain an ice-flecked cocktail, or a beer just shy of freezing. The soothing, refreshing power of chilled alcohol is almost miraculous, and a vital tool for enjoying the city in its most challenging month.
Compromises must be made, strategies thought out. Up on the High Line, the old elevated subway track recently transformed into a garden walkway, and listed everywhere as a must-do New York attraction, packed crowds of European tourists are shuffling along in the pounding sun of early afternoon, complaining about the heat and humidity. This is the sort of error that must be avoided, like walking on the sunny side of the street, or descending into the Hades of a midtown subway station at rush hour, or neglecting to drink copious amounts of water.
The best reason for coming here in August is the intensity of the experience, but it can batter and overload the senses. The racket of construction, as the city ceaselessly devours and rebuilds itself, the wailing sirens, the incessant honking, the yelling and barking of street crazies — all of it eats into you a little deeper when it’s 35C with 80 per cent humidity.
The need for sanctuary and refuge increases, and there’s no better time of year to linger in the air-conditioned museums and art galleries, or float around Central Park lake in a rowing boat with your sweetheart and a chilled bottle of Sancerre.