Sunday, April 24, 2011

Oh, New York. I Heart You.

 Today I tied a pink bow around Pooch's neck.  Suddenly people in the Easter Parade on Fifth Avenue were calling him a her.  Boys can wear pink too, I said, just look at the man in drag over there.  I pointed.  That's way more than pink. The man stood six feet plus in platforms, and wore fishnet stockings, a bustier, thick fake eyelashes, and a fluorescent pink wig.  Others had also gone overboard. In front of St. Patrick's Cathedral, a woman posed while balancing on her head an elaborate seven foot headress made of sprays of violets, lilacs, and blue flowers whose species has not yet evolved.  There were little girls with angelic golden curls beneath bonnets decorated with green grass, pink and yellow baskets, and chocolate Easter eggs.  A man wearing a top hat and tails accompanied a woman in an elegant green satin 1940s dress.  She struck a pose in a broad brimmed hat covered with a froth of toile and multicolored flowers. 

And of course there were the dogs.  There was a pooch in a top hat with coat and tails (note: the average, every day pooch is lower case in this blog).  There was a golden retriever in a pink skirt and pink bunny ears.  There was one of those yippy little runts of dogs (I can't keep their names in mind, there's probably a psychological term for it), dressed in a tutu with a pink ribbon.  Three little girls in Easter frocks stood round, oohing and aahing.  Everyone loves a well dressed pooch.

The Upper Case Pooch and I paraded from St. Pat's to The Plaza.  The day had turned warm and humid.  The sky was clear blue for once, and Central Park was irresistible.  Days of rain had turned the grass electric green.  The trees had burst into pink blossom, and the tulips stood with perfect posture, awaiting admiration.  The Easter Parade had spilled along the path leading to the zoo, where people rested on park benches and forgot to remove their bunny ears.

It seemed like all of the greater metropolitan New York area had converged on Manhattan.  There were crowds at the carousel, where I stopped to buy refreshments.  Most people were happy today, but there's always a few curmudgeons in a crowd. The hot dog man said, what can I get you.  I tried to say, "Diii-et CCo" but was interrupted by a man with a European accent, barging in front of me and ordering water.  The hot dog man, unfazed, pulled out the Diet Coke, slammed it down hard to make his point and said, Diet Coke for you, and then pulled out the water for the SOB.  It was a small triumph for me, and even though the hot dog man inflated the cost ($3!), I take small triumphs when I can get them.  I sauntered away, flamboyantly opening my Diet Coke while the European man argued with the hot dog man over the price of water.

Pooch and I found a bench near the road that on weekdays rings the park in a necklace of exhaust (it's closed to car traffic on Sundays; that's when it becomes a necklace of weekend warriors).  As I fed him popcorn, a pedicab rolled by blasting "Empire State of Mind" by Alicia Keys:  Noise is always loud, there are sirens all around, and the streets are mean... Concrete jungle where dreams are made of... There's nothing you can't do...Now you're in New York... These streets will make you feel brand new...Big lights will inspire you...Let's hear it for New York, New York, New Yooooork!

It's days like these that erase the occasional discouragement a New Yorker feels.  The hot dog seller who doesn't need to, but is kind in his own manner.  The drag queens in the Easter Parade, and other New Yorkers (though not all-- there is an entrenched stodgy component to this city) who have the guts to be noncomformist.  And the blue sky that defines the color and occasionally makes an appearance.           

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spring Eaves Dropping

"You know what I want," she said, "I want beer and dinner."  She was white-haired and alone.  She sat at the table directly across from me.  The waiter had placed his hand on her shoulder and listened to her like he would to his grandmother.  He knew her.  He brought the beer in a lady-like wine glass.  She took a sip, then looked at me and said, "I'm Joan.  What's your name?" Veronica, I replied.  "Where you from?"  she asked.  Los Angeles, I said.  "I went to Glendale College.  I wrote for the college paper.  I worked at Webb department store.  Do you know it?  Probably before your time." I shook my head no, I didn't know it, it was indeed before my time.  She continued, "I had a friend from that Norwegian town up north.  What was the name?"  Solvang, I said.  "Yes, Solvang!" She grew excited and dropped her fork.  The waiter swooped down to pick it up.  Just then thunder exploded outside the restaurant.  A few people got to their feet to take a look.  She said, "I hope you don't have far to go.  I'm just one building away."  Not far, I replied, I will run if I need to. 

But I needn't have run.  The thunder was nature reminding us of her power.  The day had been beautiful, the first real day of spring when one still needs a light coat despite the blue sky gracing us with her presence.   Poochini and I had spent the afternoon in Central Park, where all of Manhattan had turned out.  Especially the French part (Manhattan being an outpost of Europe, as we know).  The language of luuuuuv was everywhere.  People were saying s'il vous plait at the Bethesda Fountain, French kissing at the Boat House Cafe (where I fed Pooch French fries), and smoking in a very Frenchie way at the new food court in Tavern on the Green's former garden, whose exclusivity has been superceded by food on wheels:  Pera (a Turkish food truck), The Chinese Dumpling Truck, a soup truck, and an Italian gelato truck (the economic downturn has done wonders for democratizing food in Central Park).  The wall of people had over-stimulated poor Pooch, who walked across Sheep's Meadow in paroxysms of nervous coughing.  Despite the seizure-like quality of his affliction, I think the outing was good for him.  His nose forgot to run.  Now, after five hours of wandering, he is lying nearly comatose on his little dog bed, the corners of his mouth upturned in a smile of contentment.

But I needed more of an outing.  Maybe it was the sun, but something in me was missing California tonight.  When I miss California, I eat Mexican food.  So I headed to the Mexican restaurant down the street, which is where I met Beer and Dinner Joan.  There are many women like her in my area.  Unlike the Central Park crowd, not many speak French.  In my neighborhood, they speak Spanish, Russian, Yiddish, and Hebrew.  The woman who runs the neighborhood drug store is from Riverside, not far from where I grew up.  She came to be on Broadway, and stayed when that didn't work out.  There are others.  For instance, my neighbor Mrs. Katz, who has Alzheimer's and is obsessed with the layout of my apartment (yours is bigger than mine).  There is the old German Jewish woman one floor down from me, who always has her hair done just so, still wears make up, and is completely (snap snap) Put-Together.  When she says hi, I do a double take.  Her accent reminds me of Dad.  Then there was the old Russian lady who lived above me, and whose bumps in the night disappeared a few months ago.  She has been replaced by a young woman whose bumps carry on throughout the day.  I can't say that I like the replacement.  The older neighbors have better stories.  Their bumps are less vindictive.  As if, after so many years of life's ups and downs, they've learned to go easy on their neighbors.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Twilight Walk

This blog is staying in The Heights.  For three months I've been having an affair with Brooklyn, attempting to  leave The Heights for a coop on the other side of the tracks.  For three months I've been trying to convince myself that it's the right thing to do.  But sometimes the right thing falls through, and you pick up the pieces and move on. And sometimes the right thing turns out to be dead wrong.  Suffice it to say that the deal fell through, and I'm nursing bruised feelings toward a coop board that wasted $1000 of my hard earned cash.  It seemed like the place held the key to lower housing costs, more financial security, and freedom to write.  Even though I met all the requirements, the coop board turned me down without explanation in a curt "sorry for the inconvenience" rejection letter.

So tonight, Poochini and I walked at twilight through the Heather Garden.  Despite the lingering chill, spring is trying valiantly to arrive.  The daffodils have reached their zenith, though tonight they stood muted in evening's faded light.  My favorite tree has burst into white, frothy blossoms overnight.  The hyacinths have scented the evening air with sweet honey.  And the forsythia blazed fluorescent yellow in the twilight.  The evening was warm enough to sit on the Linden Terrace, and so we did.  Poochini lay in my lap like a baby.  I rubbed his belly and tried to let my disappointment flow into the night air.  It almost worked.  After all, it's hard to leave Ft. Tryon Park during spring.  Tomorrow, we start our search again with the trusty neighborhood real estate broker Louis (who knows my name and greets me on the street).  Besides, who would want to read about Brooklyn?  That's been done.  And anway, that's where all the wannabe writers live.