Sunday, March 21, 2010
It's spring. With each day of surprising sunshine New York peels off a layer of coats and reveals a teasing trailer of the future. Spring means people in parks and rising hemlines, picnic blankets and whisper of summer. It's not yet the non-stop gray showers of spring (but soon, I'm sure), this is merely a taste of delight, a sprinkle of pastels and cottons and wonders.
I spent all afternoon doing the reading I missed during break in Washington Square (still my favorite park), and little things I noticed mostly reminded me of other little things, the countless other times I've done the same exact thing. Like: a man approached someone next to me for a cigarette, and the vintage film camera dangling around his neck suddenly reminded me of Eddie the black photographer. Eddie asked for my picture in the park way back when. We went off on an impromptu photoshoot and he invited me to a movie I agreed to, I had no other plans for the afternoon. He showed me the notes for an inspirational self help book he was writing. Eddie worked two jobs, one as the security guard for a medical center nearby and one as a cashier at Duane Reade. He attended art openings and dance performances for people to shoot on his boxy old film camera. He kissed me on the cheek and I hadn't realized that he might have thought our afternoon a date. He called, every now and then after that, but I had excuses, I was always busy.
One night in the summer months after I met him, almost forgetting who he was, heading home at Union Square at three or four AM after an exhausting (and dramatic) night, I heard someone call my name. I turned around on reflex and there was Eddie. We talked, but not for long. I went home. I forgot about Eddie, until now.
I wondered how many similar such instances I'd forgotten, things that seemed impossible and sparkling gems when they happened and now slipped away in the cracks of my memory like the cracks in the sidewalks. People and conversations and interactions. Once I met two punk traveller kids who hopped freight trains at Union Square and took them to Times Square. The red steps were closed but we had fun anyway and they spent the night at my apartment. My roommate hadn't been happy but they had some great stories. When we walked past another sleeping traveler punk kid on the street they found change to spare though they still needed bus fare.
Once I walked past a homeless man with the cardboard sign in his mouth and one eye a bloody pulp, seemingly hanging out of his eye socket. It was so terrifying and grotesque I couldn't glance back to make sure if I'd imagined it. I remembered how much I hated it, seeing violence, decay, this living nightmare on the street just as easily as a storefront or a happy puppy.
That's New York. I was reading a book about New York, an old New York, but still, a New York of connections and patchworks and unlikely reminders and occurrences. Sometimes I forget--a lot, actually. But some days it's impossible to ignore, it's in the way the world awaits with a search at my fingertips, the way a smile or an overheard snippet of conversation lifts up my mood. It's the glimpses into unfamiliar apartments and imagining the stories I haven't heard. A love letter to New York, this? No, not just. A love letter to, oh, I'll allow it, the unfeigned adoration of this very life I lead, the frequency of the wonderful and the novelties in the routine that is not quite a routine, that is a delight in its familiarity and its flexibility.
I haven't absolutely figured out my summer plans yet, but spending it in New York, again, still sounds like an option I'd embrace. I'd miss this. I'd miss even simply sitting on the cold glossy floor of my apartment and laughing about something silly, walking to try brunch with massive portions, miss the history I'd evoke with every trip around the village or 14th street. Oh and, how could I forget, the people. The pink bubble of a blister against the hem of flats that didn't cause them, the ripped pattern of the back of black tights, sunglasses and colorful hair, wrinkles that illustrate a life worth telling, the voices and accents and limps and even if the rest of the world remains impassive, immune, these marvels will go on.