Today, I spent my lunch hour in the Winter Garden instead of my usual Battery Park City bench along the Hudson because it's starting to get cold outside. The Winter Garden is an intriguing indoor atrium with about a dozen tall palms spreading their fronds over the marble floors and brightly-colored benches. While I sat on my bench, sipping my chai, I suddenly began to hear ocean waves. The waves began quietly enough, but they quickly crescendoed to a climax, so I thought I might be in a hurricane! Noting my obvious interest, a man with a walkie-talkie came over to me and asked if I'd heard the waves. (well duh...) I told him I certainily had and explained that they were so loud I was expecting rain. At the time I thought this was a project by the building to create a summery atmosphere in the Winter Garden.
The man, an NYU music technology professor, dispelled me of this notion. He explained that he was prepping for a week-long festival called Ear to the Earth that would feature explorations of sound, art and the environment in venues across New York. He asked if I wouldn't mind being a test subject for a little while. Of course I wouldn't mind. So I listened to birds from Madagascar, whales from Glacial Bay in Alaska, the crashing ocean of Big Sur and hooting monkeys from Sumatra. I helped him get the volume just right and he encouraged me to attend the festival. And I left the public space of the Winter Garden with a deeper attachment to my adopted metropolis.