While Inwood thrones at the very top of Manhattan like whipped cream on a grande decaf non-fat caramel macchiato – too much on too little, too far, too late -, slightly to the southeast along the East River the much less known Highbridge Park drips down the island almost unnoticed.

Narrow and split in two by an agonizing FDR highway about to turn casual, the park is strangely deserted, almost creepily so. Benches have been placed right along the high traffic road, as if watching cars at close range was deemed a valuable distraction in an otherwise boring neighborhood.

Fall colors in Highbridge Park

A steep hill sprinkled with patches of sheer cliffs rises towards the city along the spine of the wooded area, reducing usable space even further. Across the highway, the river banks are muddy and tidal and an odd little house stands on piles, colorful and a bit out of place but rooted and proud.

But a few weeks ago the colors were nice and once again, isolation made it very hard to picture New York City all around us like the sophisticated shield it is, as much a fence as a cage, subtle and loud, ID required, Big Brother watching.