May 27, 2024

Column: “That Got Me to Thinkin’…? “Notes from New York”


“That Got Me To Thinkin’…?” “Notes from New York” Chapter 89
By Bruce Williams

Bruce Williams

This week I’m just going to turn over my notes of the observations I made during our recent five days in New York City.  I’ll let you thread them together and find a through-line for yourselves.  Frankly, the constant barrage of the unlikely and delightful kept me scribbling until I ran out of time.  Here they are, somewhat chronologically…

Three dour Young Chechens in all black leaving a smoke shop speaking severely to one another.

An old Italian man passionately crooning Madonna’s “Borderline” in a slow enough speed that it took me half a block to correctly place it.

An African-American drugstore cashier with a 4-foot blond wig and three-inch long pink nails that did a lot of hair flipping and nail tapping—y’know…in case you hadn’t noticed.

A swarthy guy with a street cart stirring a couple of hundred pieces of chicken with a pitchfork in the early morning fog.

A tall security guard at MoMA exasperatedly mumbling, “What is WRONG with these people?” in a thick Brooklyn accent as he ushered them dawdling through..

Two fat rats in Central Park crossing a log over a pond—peacefully sharing space with two equally fat squirrels.

A honking cab under a “LOVE THY NEIGHBOR AS THYSELF” etching on a building.  Really, the honking in general…the ever-incessant honking.  It’s as if they’re shouting, “me, ME, ME!”  I asked the cabbie last time I was in town, “Does it (honking) help?”—he replied, “No, but it makes me feel better…” 

Every language of the world being spoken—many that I couldn’t quite place.  A couple speaking French,  and only being able to recognize the “Sex and the City” in their conversation.  Another (Senegalese?) couple conversing in their mother tongue, and only “pizza” popping out from my steady eavesdropping.

The pot candy peddler: “ I know you’re a stoner, man.”

Fellow traveler Dave: ”You’ve got me all wrong.”

pot candy peddler: It’s never too late to become one.” 

Me: “Ambition!”

Garbage bags are put out onto every corner, every night, all the time.  No room for dumpsters in this cramped city.

A gentleman at Serafina with a 10-inch long string of cheese hanging off of his white mustache.  Why aren’t they telling him?  Who doesn’t point that out to their fellow diner?  They must despise him.

Is it schizophrenia or just earbuds?  Every approaching person conducting a self-contained conversation would need to be evaluated.  I’d just check how dirty the pants were for the greatest accuracy.  

To a person, New Yorkers are fiercely proud of their city.  They’re also more polite than they get credit for—unless, of course, you putz around too much.

A gal at Macy’s yelling at her man over the phone that she “was going out tonight!” whether he liked it or not.

Waffle, falafel, curry, ganja…all stirred up in the brothy air.

It’s “A comedy show for white people” loudly touts the African-American flyer distributor, and I can’t tell if he’s being derisive or helpful.  Or both.

Mangy Sesame Street characters in Times Square, wandering around like zombies to offer paid pictures with your children—or to abduct them..I couldn’t really tell.

“The producer stiffed me—twice!” A young actor with a lilting voice—an extra maybe—laments to his astonished friends as we passed.

A guy so inebriated that he looked like a gerbil—no human recognition left in his beady, narrow-set eyes…his paw-like hands swaying at his chest amidst his leering imbalance.

A History of Violence at the Russian Tea Room—Serpico, Taxi Driver & Dog Day Afternoon scenes everywhere.

King Kong at the Empire State Building.

“We miss you guys”—a text addressed to our teenagers back home…>silence< is all we get in return.

The sphincter tingle as I held my phone to take pictures at the edge of the observation deck of the Empire State Building amidst a strong, swirling wind and my heights phobia in full effect.

Mysterious sewer steam coming out of candy-caned orange smokestacks.

Short shorts and a high thigh tattoo—on a dude.

Seemed like a tandem duo, where one helps explain the other when neither alone makes much sense.

The Pizza Nazi.  He raised his voice at Michelle when she couldn’t understand his accent, and then scowled at her menacingly.  Then he scowled at me when he caught me smiling—amused at the whole scene.  Finally, he slammed the slices down on the counter and shoved the tray toward the register.  More smiles from me.

Jamaican nannies consoling young William after a sprinting fall in Central Park, then laughing deeply and reassuringly through their two-toned cornrows.

JFK flights available to Kenya, Kuwait, Iceland, Uzbekistan…anywhere, really.  Where would you like to go?

The final song from Hamilton:

“Have I done enough?” from “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” left me thinking not only about our frantic run around the city to see everything as fast as we could, but also life in general.  Have I written enough, spoken enough, produced enough, achieved enough?  

“Have I done enough?”