I live on the block that ends at the United Nations. The General Assembly is about to sit for its annual meeting. Many countries’ leaders are in town. Security is high.
Security has always been high, but since 9/11, it’s been astonishing. Last year, for the first time ever, I was stopped from entering my own block. The president of Pakistan was stepping out from his hotel into a limo as I stood watching, a block away. I wonder if anything similar will occur this year.
During this two-week period, routine security precautions include a heightened police presence, ID checks in order to step onto the block, and bomb-sniffing dogs that cruise up and down the sidewalks.
There will be snipers on the U.N. roof gazing at me as I watch them from my dining room window, but there won’t be many cars. Almost no vehicles are allowed on the block during this time, and those that are have been checked six ways to Sunday. There’ll be a staging area set up on the block before mine to vet automobiles. They use a nice-looking tent as an office. It covers half the street, and between you and me, I burn with curiosity about what transpires inside.
There’s also lots of Secret Service fellows around—you can recognize them by their handsome dark suits and the flesh-colored curly wire that runs from their ears along their necks, disappearing under their jackets. Last year I spotted two females. They wore dark suits too. I wonder whether there’ll be more women this year.
Remote car door openers don’t work. Somehow, the signal is blocked and locked cars have to be opened the old-fashioned way—with a key.
I get a kick out of all the fervor. Being in the presence of so much earnest security makes me feel that I’m in the thick of things. It’s exciting! And as I think of it, I am, in fact, in the thick of things. The Egyptian Mission to the U.N. is next door. Kuwait is across the street. Nigeria is on the corner and India is half a block away, near the tent.
I love living in New York City all the time, but I especially love it when the weather’s crisp, and the trees are dappled with deep orange and fiery red and iridescent yellow, and the apples I buy at the Green Market at Union Square are fresh and crunchy and sweet, and the diplomats return for another season of trying to keep the peace.
For me, this experience of dramatic security measures on the street where I live is one of the first signs of autumn. How do you know when it’s autumn? What happens in your neck of the woods that’s unique? I’d welcome your comments.