Posted By Caulimovirus on March 18, 2009
“‘Cos Everyone’s Your Friend In New York City”
.: While I could have returned to Waco after the interview on Friday, I would have been a fool to pass up an opportunity to see the metropolis next door. More alluring than a tour of the city however was the tour guide, a friend who last Christmas I forced myself to stop talking to. Seriously, Cody from 84 days ago, fuck you.
.: I woke at 8:00 am, pleased to know the Colgate I purchased yesterday was waiting eagerly to erase last night’s accumulations. My mind — excited, deprived of sleep, and more anxious than ever — found several points of disagreement with my body. It seemed to anticipate the sheer mileage of walking ahead and preadjusted itself accordingly.
.: Allotting myself an extra hour to buffer misjudgments of transit, I boarded a train to New York and tried my best to relax. The plan was to meet at Broadway and Lafayette at 11:00 am, but I arrived half an hour early. I purchased a $3 drink that would have cost $1.19 in Waco and, not wanting to wait thirty minutes at a gas station, renegotiated a new place to meet: Bryant Park.
.: I saw the remains of an ice rink and several wiry tables with equally wiry chairs, but I did not see her. Even though she knew where I was going to be and when I was going to be there, I still felt I could surprise her by suddenly appearing in person, perhaps by hiding behind a food stand or something. I really wanted to make an impression, but after a few minutes of looking I capitulated and called.
“Hey . . . I’m here. Where are you?”
“Okay, I’m by — never mind, I see you.”
.: She hung up. I turned and turned but could not find her. She emerged, slightly flustered, from a throng of goons later revealed to be from the internet.
.: Neither of us addressed my silence of the past three months, but if she was anything at all like me she was surely thinking about it. Instead, we hugged, and I mentioned the need for a restroom. (The ones at Bryant Park, I should note, were the classiest public restrooms I ever had the pleasure of using.)
.: First on our agenda was Rice to Riches, a fun place that sold terrible puns and rice pudding by the stomachful — or, in my case, by the double stomachful. Unlike the rest of the places we visited, this place was not crowded or loud, so we had a good opportunity to sit down and play catch up.
.: One of my favorite things about her is her ability to just talk; there is almost never a quiet moment around her. And though that description can sound negative when applied to certain people, in her case it simply means that she’s usually telling a funny story that makes you wish your life was as exciting.
.: When she finished her bowl of rice pudding and I finished half of mine, we headed to the New York Public Library so she could return a book. We also stepped across the street to see the Beaux-Arts building (the one with the lions out front — if you like libraries but don’t care for books, then you’ll love this place; the hallways are majestic and there’s even a mural). We didn’t stay long.
(A note on memory: unlike my trips to New Brunswick, I can’t rely on specific geographic positions to reconstruct a linear series of events since I didn’t keep track of which subways were used or where they went. If anything appears out of place, forgive me — not that anyone but one of you would notice.)
.: There was talk of going to a specialized mac ‘n cheese restaurant — imagine a city capable of supporting such frivolities! — but a dense, cheesy grain doesn’t well follow a dense, creamy grain.
.: Somewhere along the way we wound up in Central Park. She taught me an easy way to distinguish the vast majority of tourists from the locals: tourists don’t jog. The air, for the most part unnoticeable, took a sudden turn into noticeable territory as we crossed paths with a horse carriage. Why not? The idea tumbled around in my head until she spoke:
“God, look how glum that must be. Why would anyone pay money for that? Look at those people. See them? They look glum.”
.: They did. And that was all I thought about horse carriages. Then we came across an ice skating rink, and she remarked how empty it was compared to earlier in the season. I remembered, back during Christmas break when she was in town, how I stupidly suggested we go ice skating instead of something more sensible like meeting for coffee. It didn’t seem as silly this time around, so I suggested it again.
“Oh, God no. It’s way too expensive. First they charge you entrance to the ice, then they charge you for the skates.”
.: Two in a row. I shelved all idea ideas that could be perceived the slightest bit touristy. At her suggestion we stopped for a street show billed by the performers as “black guys dancing.” It was awesome. The performers seemed to have no use for improvisation by virtue of having already imagined every possible scenario. I knew this because they all spoke in perfect unison. The highlight of the show for me, though, was listening to a small girl lying on a stone railing as she talked five-year-old New Yorker trash.
.: Nearby, a restaurant called the Boathouse floats on a body of water that Google Maps informs me is called, simply, The Lake. When the show was over we wandered past the Boathouse, and she made mention of the number of paddle boats out and about. Ignoring my freeze on all touristy-sounding activities placed earlier, I suggested an outing in one of the boats, and to my surprise she agreed.
.: I figured a paddle boat in the middle of a pond would be the perfect place to really open up and talk to her, but I found myself more occupied with avoiding other paddle boats and fishermen. A steady breeze from the west precluded any tranquility in this regard. Luckily, as mentioned before, she likes to talk, so I spent most of my time rowing, working up an appetite, and listening to her.
.: As I paddled under a footbridge we saw two pigeons engaged either in pigeon kissing or pigeon combat. Soon after, one pigeon assumed the position atop the other, not clarifying matters any. Across the pond, two paddle boaters had disembarked from their craft onto a small, partially secluded outcrop where they could make out in partial seclusion from anyone who didn’t look north. I wanted to be them or kill them — there seemed no intermediate impulse.
.: We docked the paddle boat a cool ten minutes before our time was up, and I reclaimed my $20 deposit. The topic of conversation returned to food. She warned that, though they may advertise their existence, no cart vendors actually carried pretzel dogs. The rice pudding from morning long since passed, I could stand to eat something more substantial than a mere pretzel dog and suggested again the specialty Mac ‘N Cheese shop (S’MAC, for those wanting to know).
.: In transit to S’MAC we passed through a subway station, and I saw listed along a wall the names of every September 11th victim. Scrawled nearly illegibly above them all were the words, “No Jewz.” No Aleutians either, I thought, but pointing that out would not have made quite the same impression.
.: She told me stories of riding on the subway. Once, when she and her friends found themselves sitting next to a skeazy guy, her friends all moved one by one down a seat. But when she, the person most proximate to the man, moved from her seat, the guy exploded. Expletives were spoken and obscenities gestured. They got off a stop early. Another time, her friend was waiting for the train to arrive and was tapping his umbrella against a hard surface. A woman, looking straight ahead and crazy, asked out loud repeatedly and to nobody, “Why is he doing that?” He tapped harder.
.: S’MAC, as is a sign of all quality restaurants, was packed. I was assigned the task of staring down the weakest-looking party to make them vacate their table more quickly. I am not a particularly intimidating person, so we waited a while. Lest you think $17 a laughable expenditure for what is essentially two bowls of macaroni and cheese, I will say here and now on this blog that S’MAC made the best mac ‘n cheese I ever had. Also, and this I cannot legitimately credit to them, the tap water was an amazing relief from the crap the pump into Waco homes.
.: She told me she was going to abandon me at 6:00 pm to meet another friend. We finished our meal, and she led me to my final subway stop. I knew I’d be forever regretful if I let this opportunity slip by, so I asked what need to be asked and said what needed to be said. I admitted my self-imposed silence was a mistake — three months of terrible sleep was as good a clue as any — and thanked her for showing me a wonderful time. I still had to be realistic and couldn’t ignore everything that had been said, but walking down the steps to the station I couldn’t help but feel good about myself for the first time in months.
.: That feeling soon abated after an encounter with a turnstile, but I suppose now is a good time to stop.