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Archive for July 29th, 2009

New York: Squares, Dirt and a Bar

July 29th, 2009 | Category: Life

So, we’re trying to catch a cab to Union Square for our first outing into the city. We’re staying in Times Square, it’s probably too far to go on foot. We’re walking up and down the sidewalk, no takers. A woman comes up to us, she has that “I want to say something, but I’m not sure what to say,” look on her face. She walks up and says, “Hi… weren’t you on tv?” I say, “yes,” with my eyebrows. Last year, I was on an episode of This American Life. She says she loved the episode, that she’s so glad to meet me. I never know how to feel about these sightings. Part of me is always flattered, it’s definitely fun to feel like a minor celebrity. Still, deep down I know I’m just a nobody. I still haven’t accomplished anything that I consider important. At any rate, my fan says her goodbyes, and we actually find a cab.

Union Square is sort of a trendy hippie area. There’s a lovely park, and on this particular day there’s a huge outdoor market. People are selling fresh fruit, vegetables, freshly laid eggs. There are bad artists selling bad art, and some good artists selling good art. We’re walking by these vendors, a woman screams, “Johnny Depp! Hey, Johnny Depp!” Being that I don’t talk, he was my tv voice. I’ve been celebrity sighted twice in one day. We walk around the park a bit, it’s gorgeous. The sun’s hot on my face, the whole day’s ahead of me. Before leaving Union Square, I have to take care of a little project. In Kim’s purse is an empty child-sized Absolute vodka bottle. I have this person who couldn’t come with me, so I figure I’ll bring my favorite parts of New York back to her. Dirt, in a tiny empty bottle of my favorite liquor. Kim scoops up some Union Square dirt, we’re on our way.

Now, on this our first day in the city, we don’t really have a plan. We’re sort of just wandering around, taking in the city. This suits me fine. I don’t want plans, or schedules. I don’t want a list of action items. I’m in a beautiful place, I want to be lost. We walk from Union Square to Washington Square, somewhere a little more historic, less offbeat. There’s a big fountain in the middle of the square, little kids are splashing around in the water. I have this coin in my wallet from the 1800s, a fellow gave it to me a few years ago as I was leaving a movie. He said it was good luck. I have Kim toss this coin in the fountain, hoping she doesn’t put out some little kid’s eye. I make a wish and wonder if the coin could be that lucky. As we’re leaving, Kim adds a little more dirt to my collection.

We wander more. We stroll Broadway. We pass by Grace Church. It’s a gorgeous gothic building, it looks so sacred, so holy. I wonder if God’s there, and if He minds the people eating pizza on the church’s front steps. I also wonder if He minds me having Kim stuff consecrated ground into a dead liquor bottle. We walk to this trendy area of seventh and eighth street known as St. Marks Place. St. Marks is all thrift stores, coffee shops, bars. We walk to the East Village, to one bar, the Beauty Bar. It’s a vintage beauty salon, the bottles of hair-dye replaced with bottles of that liquid that makes life feel spectacular, if only for a little while. There’s a lovely woman sitting down the bar from me, we make eye contact a few times. She always smiles. I buy her a drink, give her my card. I tell her, “one day, I might be a famous writer.” It turns out that she’s also a writer, we talk a bit. It’s always interesting talking to strangers with the alphabet, and not my computer. You learn right away how smart and patient a person is, she’s both. I know I’ll never see her again, that doesn’t matter. I bought her the drink, I’m talking to her for the experience. This trip is all about creating experiences.