We live our life not as a continuous stream, but as a series of moments. That’s according to deep thinker Jacques Derrida. Or was it Dan Millman? Anyway, life in New York is certainly a series of moments. The reason we New Yorkers love New York is that the city routinely coughs up a series of experiential gems.
New York moments can be funny, disturbing, terrifying, poetic, exciting, or incomprehensible, but they are never boring. There’s no such thing as routine. Think of them as New York City throwing some haiku into your day. In tribute to this phenomenon, the Times has had a longstanding feature called The Metropolitan Diary. The Times being what they are, their moments are somewhat more well-heeled than my own. Mine tend to be less repeatable in mixed company, but no less valid. Besides, a few minutes spent doing a brain dump, and voila! I’m done for the week.
Disclaimer: These New York moments are mostly my own, though some have been recounted to me. They’re probably all true.
Down-at-heels middle-aged black guy giving off “I’m probably unstable” vibes is riding the escalator down in the 34th Street IND station. He spies a sportively dressed Asian youth crossing paths on the neighboring up escalator. “Ni hao,” says down-at-heels guy as he glides by. Asian youth raises one perfectly groomed metrosexual eyebrow, and returns without missing a beat: “sup yo?”
A Nice Pair of Gloves
Well dressed professional woman of a certain age exits the A train as the doors open at Columbus Circle. She automatically checks for her phone and gloves, then turns just in time to see one expensive glove lying too far in, on the floor, in the middle. Just before the doors slam shut, she lobs the other glove in to skid to a stop beside its mate, so someone inside can have the complete pair.
How to Cross a Street
New arrival to the big bad city turns to woman on the pavement at a red light, says “I just got here and I don’t know how to cross the street yet.” Turns out it’s Diane Keaton. She starts to describe the finer points of timing, then grabs his hand. “Oh, look. It works like this” she says in exasperation as she tugs him across 7th Avenue.
Long ago in the heyday of designer jeans, in a small adult education class after work. One of the students looks around, asks, “where are the guys?” The teacher answers, “Jose is sick, and Bill is out of town this week.” “Oh thank God!” says the woman. Beaming at the all-female class, she unzips her skintight jeans, allowing her belly to expand freely back to the volume nature intended.
Walking with the husband on Broadway on a summer’s day, he spots a small grey-green frog sitting on the sidewalk. Where had it come from? Dropped from the sky? Jumped out of a child’s backpack? The hub gently picks up the frog, and we walk to Central Park where we release it on the banks of one of the smaller ponds, surrounded by willow trees. I like to think he lived through the year.
Walking home from the bus one day, I see a crowd quickly gathering in front of a brownstone. This always means something unusual is happening. As we all watch, a spider monkey emerges from a 3rd floor window, then gracefully leaps onto the ivy growing up the side of the building. It scales swiftly to the top, vaults onto the roof and is gone.
The Library Is Open
Overheard in a diner in Chelsea: two gay men are sitting in the booth behind me. One is clearly “reading” the other. “Look at you! You’ve gone to hell. What is that you’re wearing? Oh my god! And look at your skin! Those bags under your eyes! You’re so old! Look at all those wrinkles on your face!” “Darling, those are not wrinkles. Those are laugh lines.” “Nothing is THAT funny.”
Not That Kind of Friend
Everyone here has a favorite restaurant, and you get to know the waiters. For years, mine was a place on the West Side. The same waiter saw and served me and the hubby for many years. One day, I arranged to meet a friend there. As I enter, I scan the restaurant and say, “Hey Andy, is my girlfriend here yet? We’re having dinner.” “Oh, awesome!” was the reply. This seemed like an odd response – I mean, why is it awesome that I’m having dinner? As I sipped my wine, I realized what had happened. Before ordering, I explained. “I was using the term ‘girlfriend’ as it was used in old New York, as in “friend who is a girl.” I’m still not gay.”
In a mid-century, unrenovated diner, an enameled metal sign is posted over the window that leads to the kitchen: “Please order here”. Between the words “Please” and “order here”, torn cardboard from a box has been taped to cover two words. It’s obvious two words have been covered, but why? “Please order here” seems so straight forward, it needs no modifying. Why are the mystery words blocked out? What could they be? My friend’s suggestion for the missing words: “don’t ever” conjures up a wonderful image of sign making gone horribly wrong.
Looking for Ms. Right
Coming downstairs at from Fifth Avenue into the 53rd street E train station, everyone sees paper notices posted eye-level on the walls, at an interval of every 2 feet. “I want to give my boss the best present ever. If you are the woman in a leather jacket, boots, with long black hair and a silver chain who talked with this guy (picture) while waiting for the train on Tuesday May 31st around 5 pm, call my cell. He fell in love with you and is desperate to find you again.”
Unofficial Subway Art
Every now and then, all the ads in one subway station are either taken down or covered over with plain black paper, presumably as a prelude to a switch to all new ads. Coming home on a Friday before a 3-day weekend, we all subconsciously noticed the ads were gone. What a surprise on the following Tuesday morning, when every single blank slot had been treated as a canvas for a one-woman show.