I woke up at the Hilton in Midtown Manhattan around 12 noon with only a slight headache. My friend Donny and his dad were still asleep, and when I started rumbling around in an attempt to get my day started (and hinting that maybe they should get their day started too), Donny was roused from his sleep with a headache, admittedly much rougher than mine, which I was already able to ignore.
Since Donny would be asleep for the next half hour or so, I decided we could meet up later, so I threw on some clothes and headed out the door. Apparently we were in Room 3204, which either meant we were on the 3rd floor or the 32nd floor. I hadn’t taken much notice last night.
The long elevator ride down confirmed that our room was on the 32nd floor. The lobby supported whole droves of people running in different directions, some leaving, some arriving, others prepping their daughters for some sort of teen beauty contest, others unfolding their bikes for a city triathlon, and all of them sandwiching the smattering of people lost and confused, looking at maps, awaiting instructions. I managed to steer a course through the lobby circus toward the automatic rotating door, which presented only minor difficulties – not from the triathlete and his bike, but from catching a glance at the 13-year-old beauty queen with the clown makeup – and then I had my next challenge, figuring out where the hell I was in this giant city.
Turns out I have Google Maps, which means I don’t have to know too much. I was only five blocks from Central Park. Easy.
Central Park is much more beautiful than I thought it would be. It’s also a safe place. Los Angeles had convinced me that all city parks are dirty, unsafe areas. You might be able to play a little soccer in an L.A. park, but you’ll probably twist an ankle in a gopher hole. You could also eat lunch under a tree there, but you’ll be sitting a pile of cigarettes, or you’ll be sitting next to the uncollected, overflowing city garbage can, or in a caked-over mixture of dirt and piss. I love LA!!! [Randy Newman voice]
Instead, Central Park consists of rolling hills sprinkled with young people tanning, trees, couples with baby carriages, ponds, musicians making an extra buck and having a good time, and people like me, who couldn’t care less that they just spent $3 more than they should have for a little bottle of Gatorade. It was hot, humid and sticky, but I didn’t mind walking the thirty blocks to the Met (it feels like a lot less).
I sauntered in and around the park for a couple of hours. I was alone, but I was not lonely. People seem to be keenly aware that there are massive amounts of people walking around, but everyone respects and retains a certain anonymity. I found a great spot, sitting next to what Google Maps was telling me was Conservatory Pond, listening to two guys playing Spanish guitar. One guy provided a basic strum, while the other wrapped his freestyle picking around the strum to provide a nice little tune. I was completely zoned out – partly because of the drinking I did last night and because I hadn’t had any caffeine – when a woman sitting next to me asked if I could take her picture in front of the lake. When I took the photo, I realized it such a great photo op that I asked her to do the same for me, and nothing seemed more perfect for me at that moment. A moment of friendliness, for utilitarian purposes, and nothing more, but I appreciated it, being by myself.
On Sunday I was waiting in line for the Fung Wah bus to head back to Boston. It took me two hours to get on the bus, so despite my fear of cell phones, I called Mike. He told me about his weekend, and I described a little bit of mine, which had more to do with my time with Donny and his dad than my walk in Central Park. Then Mike said something very random, yet perfectly appropriate for the circumstances: Isn’t it crazy that we’re 3000 miles away from each other, yet we can hold these little machines to our ears, and talk to each other whenever we want?
Yes, it is crazy. And even though I can be an uninspired bore on the phone, I am completely dependent on it. On Saturday my Blackberry was unable to send and receive text messages. (I can’t send any texts!…Shit, it erased the entire memory of emails and texts!…What the hell is going on with my phone?…Fuck! What if someone is sending me an important text right now! When I don’t respond, they won’t believe me later when I tell them that my texting function wasn’t working! That’s such a bullshit excuse!)
Nonetheless, the phone call brought me back to my day in Central Park: I can become connected to people by obvious (yet not insignificant) means, like a phone call, or in subtle ways, like an anonymous stroll through a crowded park.
More on New York, including photos, to follow. Unfortunately I can’t transfer photos from my digital camera to my computer because I left the cord in LA. Good lordy, I feel butt-nekkit without it!