Wednesday, July 04, 2012

What's it Like to be in New York?

Hey girl what's it like to be in New York?
New York City, imagine that
What's it like to be a skateboard punk rocker?
Leroy says send a picture Leroy says hello
Leroy says keep on rocking, girl
Keep on rocking - from Anchorage", Michelle Shocked

East Sixtieth, July 2012
"I've always wanted to ride a horse. It is one thing I have to do before I die. I juss gotta get on one of them horses, but lordy if that horse done look me in the eye, I'm outta there."

What was this? I'd watched "Gone with the Wind" the night before. Had I been transported à la Twilight Zone to a stereotypical pre-Civil War deep south, and encountered Mammy?

I looked around me. No, I wasn't in rural Georgia, and unfortunately there was no Clark Gable looking suave, debonair and mean. I was on Sixtieth and Second, July 2012 waiting for a bus.

Behind me wasn't Tara, just the outside of a grubby pub selling Atomic Wings, whatever they are. Several 1950's era bicycles were stacked and chained together on a water pipe. The pockmarked concrete radiated out heat drawn in from the subways below and from the summer sun above.

The woman was still talking about the horse. I looked at her. She certainly looked like Scarlett's house-maid Mammy, though she wasn't wearing an apron.

"I once rode a horse," I answered. "Was it scary? Glory be!" Was this for real?  I was becoming paranoid. Was I the unknowing subject of some hidden camera television reality show eliciting the reactions of 21st century whites to racial-profiled character actresses? But no, surely not.

"Yes It WAS scary,"  I told her. "You are up so high and I got a fright when it moved. But you don't have to worry about the eyes looking at you. They don't look at you when you are sitting on their back."

This really set her  off. She laughed a deep throaty Mammy laugh. "Those big eyes," she chuckled, "You telling me you can't see his big eyes. You see them  BEFORE you get on that horse. You is sure funny!"

The bus driver who had been sitting in the driver's seat in A/C coolness reading "The Daily News" all this time, now condescended to open the door  to let us on. My new friend sat next to me, excited to talk more about horses. "You'll be fine," I re-reassured her. "Don't worry about it." I had hoped to be able to read my book - St Aubyn's Bad News, but didn't want to appear rude.

"I've been on a glider," I offered.

"I been to Paris," she countered.

"I've been on a tram."

"Me too and  I've been on a ship."

We sounded like two little kids in the school yard.

We chatted on about a few other things she wanted to do before she died. Anyone watching would have thought us the best of friends. Her stop was first. She got up to go and walked to the front of the bus. I looked up, following her with my eyes, expecting her to look back as she alighted. To wave. To acknowledge.

She didn't look back.

So New York. This sort of friendliness, camaraderie happens all the time. It's the way we communicate here. Who needs friends when you can just leave your apartment and talk to anyone. You don't have to actually know them. You can say anything. Or not speak at all.

It's all part  American take on "freedom".

Freedom of speech.
Freedom NOT to speak.
Freedom to have health care.
Freedom NOT to have health care.
Freedom to vote.
Freedom NOT to vote.

I'm starting to understand the land of the brave. Only took me 18 years ...


Anonymous said...

I think it's time we left the desert. It's full of dumb Middle Westerners. Not enough New Yorkers and Seattle-ites and San Franciscans. Please, no Angelinos they are full of bulls*it usually. But oh, moving. What a PITA ay age 78. Still, we miss the big city even if the skies are grey. At least the summers are mild, unlike New York. Hope your AC is working.

Anonymous said...

love your writing - wishing you well - wish we were face book friends still - I did not know what I was doing on here when I first got on here and miss you - lots of love always Frances

pavlova8 said...

why are some so fervent on stopping others from having access to health care - I don't get that...

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