I like hot dogs. A little mustard, sometimes ketchup, and they’re absolutely divine to walk & wolf when bought from a vendor on a New York streetcorner. Though inarguably devoid of any nutritional value, I derive a certain satisfaction in working the sticky bits of bun from between my teeth for the 10 minutes following consumption. (I call it “dessert.”).
However, a little word to you folks in NYC who think that the red sauce that you ladle over your dog is “onions.”
Onionsare chopped little bits of white vegetable that crunch when you bite them and cause heartburn occasionally following consumption.
Red Sauceis stringy bits of onion in a sweet sauce that interferes with the mustard on my dog.
Please notify all hot dog vendors in the greater NYC area and have rectified immediately.
This past weekend brought me to New York City, a place where I’d previously spent a few day trips but had never really had the opportunity or time to explore appropriately. It was beyond fun to enjoy the city from an ant’s-eye-view, as how could we be anything but when buildings of fifty-plus stories were looming overhead, taunting our human stature with their architectural prowess? My partner-in-crime and I laughed often, giggled more, pointed, stared, sweated, brunched, gaped, walked, ran, taxied, subwayed, ate, conversed, and questioned one another on our lives, past loves, passions, and thoughts. The hum of the city surrounding us never seemed to silence itself, reminding me that while over 2000 miles from the place where I pay property taxes, life — indeed — goes on without me.
Amidst the 8,213,839 people (give or take a few thou) who make up the greater New York City populace, I was blessed to be a silent witness to a few conversations that I’ll share with you here. I’m not an eavesdropper or a nosey neighbor … but sometimes the thoughts and words of others give you a perspective that you don’t expect, weren’t looking for, yet end-up finding very welcome.
Brunch at Bubby’s
Recommended to us by our concierge who had yet to steer us wrong, we taxied down to Tribeca from our Times Square digs to grab a bite at this “adorable” restaurant on Sunday. The wait was minimal, but I believe that I was able to gain a pound by just gazing in wild wonder at their confectionery creations on display (sour cherry pie … mmmmmmmmmmm …). Seating was tight quarters, but we ordered and took some time to pass the tourist guide to NYC I’d purchased back and forth, contemplating our plan of attack for the day. To our left was a younger couple — borderline goth gal with a sleeve of tattoos covering the majority of her right arm accompanied by skater-guy-in-his-mid-30s, complete with Vans and shirt by DC Shoes.
We were soon surrounded as a couple in their early 40s joined us on our right, and it’s their story that enchants me.
She placed the Sunday Times on the table in front of her and hung her purse on the back of her chair. Her husband took his seat and set about rearranging the condiments on the table to maximize space (c’mon … you do it, too). Definitely married, and I’ll figure not for terribly long. No children were discussed.
They moved in perfect harmony with one another, from each word exchanged to the divvying-up of the Sunday paper. Sports section for him, Op-Ed and everything else for her … and then it began.
“Alright … you wanna know what it is? I don’ like makin’ the bed,” he says.
“Whas wrong with makin’ the bed? You sleep in it,” she responded.
“But what I don’ get is why I gotta make the bed when you’re gonna come lie in it with your coffee and mess it up after I make it. I go out for a run or to get bagels or somethin’ and I come back and it’s like I did it for nuttin,“ he responds.
“You don’ wanna make the bed? Fine. Don’ make the bed. I’ll make the bed,” she conceded.
“Really? You’re gonna make the bed?” he asks incredulously.
“Yeah. I’ll do it. It’s fine,” she says.
He takes a swig of coffee, and without missing a beat:
“OK, so since we’re on the subject, I don’ like doin’ laundry either.”
She laughed and flung a playful smack in his direction and he grabbed her hand, silencing her fist with a kiss. Our omelets arrived and I had to shift my focus from inconspicuous consumption of conversation to conspicuous related to my food. I’m sure they had no idea how their little exchange moved me, and I’m certain my breakfast tasted better for it, though. It’s fun to see people who “fit” together in this world of puzzle-piece unique personalities.
Monster on the Sidewalk
Our Monday necessitated a caffeine infusion prior to our departure for the airport. A walk from our hotel down to the Bread Factory yielded the most innocuous yet grin-producing “conversation observation” of my trip. Strolling down 43rd Street hand-in-hand, we were actively shunning the Starbucks conglomerate in an attempt to continue to do as the locals do when the sound of childish laughter crept up behind us on the sidewalk.
“Stay beside me, honey.”
“But I’m taking BIG STEPS!”
“Well, take smaller steps, honey. I don’t want you getting too far in front of me.”
“But my foot is GODZILLA! That’s why I have to take big steps!”
We arrived shortly thereafter at The Bread Factory. I won’t deny that when left alone at the table, I pretended my foot was Godzilla, too. I even growled a bit. Overhearing this exchange reminded me that the day before, I had skipped in the Meatpacking District, stomped my feet in rain puddles, and had probably made airplane noises sometime throughout the weekend as well.
Fuck growing-up. Godzilla feet and rain puddles are more fun.
E Train Disdain
While I don’t believe that all good things must come to an end, you do have to continue the story elsewhere on occasion. Monday signaled the end of our Big Apple excursion, and we opted to take the subway to JFK. E Train uptown to Sutphin Blvd., pick up the Airtrain for a flat $5 and you’re on your way. A relatively hassle-free journey, save stairs and baggage owner(s) who would have preferred escalators, the E Train brought us right to our intended destination with plenty of time to spare.
My “conversation observations” end with this interlude on the E Train.
We boarded the train at the 42nd Street Station — if you’ve ever been to Shibuya Station in Tokyo, it’s similar. If not, it’s the main station in Times Square, allowing you to get most anywhere with a little yellow and blue Metrocard magic. After herding our luggage onto the train and securing a preliminary pole prior to seats later coming available, I listened as two schoolteachers discussed their day and the politics of the school system. Lesson planners on their laps provided the foundation for an exchange that finally led one of the women to explain to the other:
“At this point in my life, I could care less what people think about me. Right now, the only thing I need to be concerned with is the Powers-That-Be, and everyone else can just kiss my ass.”
This was punctuated by a “mmmm-hmmm” by her companion and a furious brushing of her ebony hair. Her hair shined in the overhead fluorescent lights, giving the unimpressive walls of the train car a little snicker that something so lovely could ride between their institutional walls. I noticed that her skin was perfect as well, a hue of mocha that seemed perfectly hydrated, lineless, and proud to frame her hazel eyes.
I guess she was having a bad day. We all have crappy days, but her remark did make me wonder what had prompted the whole buy-now-pay-later feeling about the karma store she was shopping in.
I’d gone from witnessing playful coexistence to a child’s monster fantasies played-out through her feet to frustration voiced in unwavering tones of disdain. Mind you, I’ve never met one of these folks formally, but these three peeks into the worlds of others through their words … what a gift! As I travel to more and more places, I’m reminded that, while the geography changes, daily life does not. Children grow, couples bicker, office politics persist (and Dilbert is never far away) — 2000 miles doesn’t make me any better than the next person. It just means I live in a different time zone.
I hope you enjoyed a small taste of my journey this past weekend. I’m sure I could ask 42 people to tell me 42 different stories about their experiences in New York City — that’s the beauty of the human machine. Scenery doesn’t much change, but our perception and what we’re willing to perceive does. Much like life, it’s your choice what you take away from each and every opportunity, and I have to tell you — I’m entirely satisfied with the bite I took out of the Big Apple.
A closing word on perception: