Monday, November 18, 2013
A moment at the Highline
I heeded a friend's advice in choosing to take advantage of visiting The Highline; it was one of the last, exquisite Autumn days here in the Northeast. Normally, I carry an aversion of the Meatpacking District on weekends and during the summer with the entourage of tourists taking over. Today was unusual. There was foot traffic, but it was manageable. I even secured a huge, wooden chase lounge chair, which I thought could never happen.
The sun shined brightly. The waves of the Hudson oozed through the tall trees and made their way through its, brittle colorful leaves and onto my cheeks. I couldn't believe how still and beautiful it all was.
Today was a respite from an otherwise arduous job search that has not seemed to end. I closed my eyes and savored the nothingness of a quiet Monday afternoon, under the guise of 66 degrees, scribbling in my Moleskin notebook, listening to the Italian couple that is resting to my right on another bench.
An older woman wearing a thick pair of sunglasses sits on the ledge of the chair and merges next to my side within 30 seconds, eventually snug, taking a deep breath, staring at me for a brief, passing moment.
"I hope you don't mind," she says. "Two people can easily sit here."
I shrugged my shoulders. "Sure," I said. "By all means."
"It's a beautiful day, isn't?"
"Yes. It is."
I didn't speak for a bit and took notes on a project. I then look to the left as she removes a crusty, croissant like sandwich out of a foil wrapper from a paper bag that says,"Amy's." She grabs her short cappuccino, which is still steaming with its vapors. The sifted cinnamon somehow make its way under my nose. I suddenly crave the same drink; the weird thing is I don't even drink coffee.
She begins to eat this meal in a such a discrete fashion, the way she holds it with her hands, making certain the crumbs fall into the wrapper, how she dusts the other remnants off her black pants (making their way to the ground) patting her mouth with a white napkin, and placing the drink next to her hips with the lid off that has a traces of pink lipstick. She then takes a tiny, wooden stick and wipes the remaining froth from the milk on to her tongue, pursing her lips, like a child who has inhaled a scrumptious chocolate shake with a grin of content.
I am silent with my observations, but feel compelled to say something, anything to this character I am sharing a close space toward.
"How are you?" I ask.
"Good. You? I love this weather."
"Yes, its nice. Are you from here?"
"Born and raised. Queens girl, through and through."
I could tell she was a sincere person. I just knew. I don't know why. I liked her subtle accent, how she uttered her words, "coffee and weather", which were so endearing, with the elongated usage of her vowels, the delivery of tone. It wasn't obnoxious. It was great.
She began to discuss her childhood and how different NYC was. She said NY was affordable and glamorous going over the bridge on the subway with the skyline coming at you. She had been raised with a brother in Flushing, "back in the day." I am presuming she was in her late sixties.
I loved hearing of her retirement, her past, her history, and her family. Then we spoke about NY present day, and how much of it has transformed into a virtual, unknown, divisive city, separated between rich and poor.
"Bloomberg spent too much time in office, if you ask me. Two terms were quite enough."
I laughed, shook my head and shared her sentiment.
"It was so different. When I was a kid, you're were middle class. As long as you worked hard, you could afford a decent place and have a good life. My father had a car. We had a two story home and a summer share. We had nice clothing and went out to restaurants on occasion. We even had a maid, but we didn't live beyond our means. We were middle class. That doesn't exist today."
I looked toward the river, one of the few places that beckons me when I can't seem to breathe or be practical about my future. I couldn't imagine the city she vividly described. The only NYC I've known is expensive with a unwelcoming job, housing, and dating market.
"Do you have a partner?" she asked.
"No. Not right now." I said.
"Don't worry. He'll come along."
We proceeded to speak of culture, economics, theater, fashion, and real estate. It was like chatting with a favorite Aunt. This lovely, thin, elegant woman with the blonde hair, snack, and drink, was talking to me, a complete stranger, with the utmost respect, listening to my every word. Our conversation flowed for twenty minutes.
"My nephew and his partner bought a house near the water on the island, beautifully decorated, of course, with gay men in charge. Men like you and him know what you're doing. Leave it to a straight man to decorate, fudgetabout it, it usually falls apart.'
Lastly, we spoke about her fascination with Charleston, SC, and how she visited in September.
"The food is too die for. Beautiful architecture. Gracious people. You must visit. I'd live there in a heartbeat."
She rubs the helm of her black cotton sleeve shirt past her watch.
"Ooh. Look at the time. I must be going. There's an art exhibit on Jane Street I need to see. It was a pleasure, young man."
Oddly it became one of the most sincere connections I've shared in recent memory. This woman was a gem. Honest. To the point. Classy to the end. It's moments like this that rectify the shitty altercations I endured last Saturday. Living in NYC can be random and sublime.
She raised her hand out and delicately shook mine.
"My name is Barbara darling. I wish you the best."
And off she went, just like that.