Motor-scooter riders with big beards and girl friends who bounce on the back of the scooters and wear their hair long in front of their faces as well as behind, drunks who follow the advice of the Hat Council and are always turned out in hats, but not hats the Council would approve. Mr. Lacey, the locksmith,, shups up his shop for a while and goes to exchange time of day with Mr. Slube at the cigar store. Mr. Koochagian, the tailor, waters luxuriant jungle of plants in his window, gives them a critical look from the outside, accepts compliments on them from two passers-by, fingers the leaves on the plane tree in front of our house with a thoughtful gardener's appraisal, and crosses the street for a bite at the Ideal where he can keep an eye on customers and wigwag across the message that he is coming. The baby carriages come out, and clusters of everyone from toddlers with dolls to teenagers with homework gather at the stoops.
When I get home from work, the ballet is reaching its cresendo. This is the time roller skates and stilts and tricycles and games in the lee of the stoop with bottletops and plastic cowboys, this is the time of bundles and packages, zigzagging from the drug store to the fruit stand and back over to the butcher's; this is the time when teenagers, all dressed up, are pausing to ask if their slips shows or their collars look right; this is the time when beautiful girls get out of MG's; this is the time when the fire engines go through; this is the time when anybody you know on Hudson street will go by.
As the darkness thickens and Mr. Halpert moors the laundry cart to the cellar door again, the ballet goes under lights, eddying back nad forth but intensifying at the bright spotlight pools of Joe's sidewalk pizza, the bars, the delicatessen, the restaurant and the drug store. The night workers stop now at the delicatessen, to pick up salami and a container of milk. Things have settled down for the evening but the street and its ballet have not come to a stop.
I know the deep night ballet and its seasons best from waking long after midnight to tend a baby and, sitting in the dark, seeing the shadows and hearing sounds of the sidewalk. Mostly it is a sound like infinitely patterning snatches of party conversation, and, about three in the morning, singing, very good singing. Sometimes their is a sharpness and anger or sad, sad weeping, or a flurry of search for a string of beads broken. One night a young man came roaring along, bellowing terrible language at two girls whom he had apparently picked up and who were disappointing him. Doors opened, a wary semicircle formed around him, not too close, until police came. Out came the heads, too, along the Hudsons street, offering opinion, "Drunk...Crazy...A wild kid from the suburbs"
Deep in the night, I am almost unaware of how many people are on the street unless someone calls the together. Like the bagpipe. Who the piper is and why he favored our street I have no idea.