2007-08-31 - 9:42 p.m.
Waiting costs money in this town. Say you’ve got an hour to kill in midtown, and the bills flapping through your mailbox have wrung your bank account into a cherry red twister that would give a chiropractor chills. Your options suddenly start drifting away. Seven bucks for a pack of smokes, four dollars for the smallest, cheapest beer in the bar, at least a dollar on tip, just so the bartender doesn’t pour piping hot botulism into your drink. (Oh they have it back there. Trust me.) Within a few minutes you’ve run your thin twenty down to a small salad of coins.
I know, I don’t have to go to a bar. Don’t have to smoke. But really, what else are you going to do? Manhattan streets are so jammed packed full of food, booze, and retail that there’s little room for anything else. When I first arrived, I was stunned to find that there wasn’t so much as an alleyway for me to pee in when I’d had too much beer. (That happens a bit.)
You could buy a coffee at Starbucks and wait out the hour, but then you’d be in a Starbucks...for an hour. A thing like that will chip at your soul. You could be that prick in a restaurant that sits and orders a coffee, taking valuable room away from the tourists, for whom paying fifteen dollars for an appetizer is an exciting luxury, rather than highway robbery. You tip less than two dollars on that bill, and there will be some interesting cream in your coffee when you get your last refill.
There’s little place to sit down, if any. Corporate patios covered in suspect bits of modern art. Usually these have arched marble lining the edges that amounts to a slip and slide once you plant your ass on it. That is, if you’re even remotely able to plant your derriere down. Any ledge outside of any building in Manhattan is trimmed with metal spikes to deter the casual rear plopper. Sure you can take a seat, if you’re willing to deal with a sphincter tear.
The only solace is the random parks sprinkled over the landscape. There's Central Park, even Union Square, but those locations aren’t always readily available. The city has shown mercy enough to plant a few dinky bits of green with pscitzophrenic regularity. Usually ten by ten feet, laying over the span of your generic studio apartment, these odd little spots are barely a reprieve from the concrete on the sidewalk, but they always have a two foot sign listing the behaviors prohibited within their confines. Drinking, smoking, and letting your dog take a duke, these are worthy of a ticket, and bored officers of the peace linger on the outskirts waiting for those awful malcontents.
Today, I was lucky to find one such pseudo-oasis. Tucked into a dark corner on the east end of Midtown, behind a row of well dressed brownstones, and one foreign embassy, there’s a small staircase leading down into an odd, barren, cobbled public space. The only entrance is nestled right into the front lawn of an extremely well accessorized stoic looking monastery of an apartment complex. It’s far enough away from foot traffic that I’m sure the extremely well-off occupants of the block have little worry about drifters, drug dealers and the like. Even though, really, it would be a great spot for a drug deal.
It really is amazing that crossing Washington Square park last week I was offered weed no less that five times.
“Dude! There’s a cop, like, right there.”
“He’s watching the acrobats, man! Ain’t no thing. “
And yet, no one’s thought to use this park. A little skyway carries you over the highway to the west bank of the east river. A small string of benches line the thin column of trees. It runs down almost fifty yards, down to a quiet concrete corner with a gorgeous view of the 59th St. Bridge. (Okay, I had to google that to find out the name, and now I hang my head in absolute shame.) That little secluded spot would be lovely to either ditch a body or trade substances. Not that I’m advocating that. Quite frankly, shady dealings like that would draw a little too much attention to the area, and I like the idea that I have another quiet corner where I can smoke a cigarette, and still have a good vantage point should a cop start to wander over.
The main park area, the nicer part on the west side of the highway, is mostly occupied by dog owners, letting their faux-children frolic at the end of a leash. On the far part of the park, there’s a pair of high school couples canoodling at the kind of fever pitch that should cause third-degree burns, a latin gentleman stretching out before what has to be an extended bike ride. He spends nearly thirty minutes there, flexing every last muscle in his body. In ends up looking like a more aggressive form of Thai Chi.
Then, laying down on the stone tiles, just underneath the bench, is one homeless man. For a moment I actually wonder why he’s not sleeping on the bench, but then I realize, if he were lying on the bench, someone could see him from the distance.
No one bothers him.
I kill an hour, sitting with legs crossed, a bit of wind in my hair, watching garbage trawlers pass at plodding pace, waiting for the wake to fall onto the shore and disturb the gurbling pools. Colin Hey kicks through my iPod, and part of me wants to dream poignance into the scene, but the truth his, I’m just beating an hour into submission while I wait to meet someone at the end of a subway platform. The only wonder about the hour is, I don’t spend a dime.
What I really have to master is the time-honored Big Apple tradition of stoop squatting. A small clan of gray-haired women used to loiter on my front stoop a few apartments back. I’d have to wiggle by every morning on my way to work. I couldn’t help but be a little envious. Not only for the bit of peace they’d found, but for the availability retirement offered them. The leader of the clan used to work at Citibank. She’d send me on my way every morning with...
“Go make that rent money, child.”
That was years ago, though. Tonight, I ran into another group of ladies reclining in Bloomburg’s lounge. They were bit younger. Maybe around seventeen. As I passed, I heard one whisper...
“I think that’s the guy.”
Just as I passed, I got my first official scooter cat call.
“Queer...” The first said a little under her breath. It was nearly a “loser-cough.” One of her friends must have taken issue with the timidness of her insult.
“Fag!” Much more vitriolic.
A woman had passed in front of them just before me.
“Oh my god! She thinks we’re talking about her!”
They solidified the fact that they were mocking my dorky ass as I drove my cute little biddy scooter past them, wailing something incomprehensible, but undoubtedly derogatory.
I probably should be slightly offended. Not because of the epithets, more the fact that these girls thought calling me gay would offend me. I mean, come on...Dork, dweek, nerd, geek, doofus, dumb-ass. All there in front of them. But they went right for "Fag."
I should be offended, but, in point of fact, it kind of tickled me. My mouth actually rolled into a smile.
I think, if I see them again, and they repeat the performance, I’ll give my ass a slap. Granted, the rumor mill on the street would start a stirring, but it might be worth it. Just to hear their reaction.
At least now I know how you’re supposed to kill time in New York.
With the long weekend coming up, maybe I’ll take a nice break, sit out on my stoop, and wait for someone to walk by carrying a shopping bag.
That’ll mess with them.
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