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I walk to work in the mornings, down Bedford Street, across Seventh Avenue and over to Sixth. My mind usually wanders, since my feet pretty much know the way, and the occasional odd or unusual sight can take a few seconds to make its way to my consciousness.
One morning, as I am standing at a corner waithing to cross Seventh, I see something in the street, blue with bright markings. What is it? I try to identify it, a balloon? a stuffed animal? a child's toy? The taxis whiz by and it gets caught up in the downdraft of their passings, and is knocked about by the traffic.
And then I look to the opposite corner and I see a mother and her daughter who is about five. The daughter has a twin of the object in the road; they are her mittens, knit of dark blue yarn and dotted with gold stars. She has a matching hat on her head.
The child is looking with horror at her mitten in the road, blown this way and that by trucks and taxis. The mother looks anxious too, holding her daughter's hand. What should she do, try to rescue the mitten and leave her daughter on the corner alone of Seventh Avenue and Bedford Street? or leave the mitten and deal with the tears of her daughter?
The light changes, and tells me I can WALK. By this time the mitten has been blown partway down the block, down Seventh Avenue, so I detour down the street and scoop it up.
I head over to the relieved mother to hand her the mitten, and she says to me "Thank-you so much", and gives the mitten to her daughter. "Say thank-you to the lady", she instructs her daughter, but the child clutches at her mother and looks up at me with wide incredulous eyes, as though I am some awesome angel who has swooped down and rescued her mitten from the chaos and destruction of the street. Or at least I vainly think so.
"Thank you very much", the mother says again, for her daughter, and I barely say "You're welcome" before I hurry off on my way.
On a corner near my apartment is a small coffee shop, and here each morning I have a coffee and
muffin. The tables look out through the windows onto the corner of Bleeker and Christopher
streets, and daily the unusual and the usual walk past on their way to their day.
This past week, as I finished up, I noticed a woman walking on the sidewalk. She wore a
fashionable, long, dark fur coat, with a matching cap. She was thin, and looked to be in her
fifties. Her clothing, shoes and gloves were well-tailored and her make-up was subtle and well-applied.
Approaching her, from the opposite direction, was another woman, also in her fifties, who looked
like she had just gotten up and thrown on some clothes to run out and do her errands. She wore a
sweatshirt-jacket, and her while her worn, corduroy pants did not flatter her hips or thighs, I did
not imagine she cared. On her head was a shapeless, knit hat, and on her feet were old, worn
sneakers. Her only make-up was a bright-red lipstick that she had seemingly hurriedly put on as
she left her apartment.
The two women walked towards each other, and I expected them to walk past each other. Instead
they stopped and embraced. They held on for a moment, then separated, but the sweat-shirted
woman continued to hold onto the fur-coated woman by the shoulders. The woman in the fur
coat was distraught and as she spoke to her friend, and she began to cry. Her friend caressed her
fur coat, like it was a cat, trying to comfort her. They stood like that for several moments, the
woman in the fur coat pouring out her heart, and the woman in the sweat-shirt jacket and
shapeless hat holding her, petting her fur-clad shoulders, and listening with a gentle,
A man blocked my view, and when he moved, they had disappeared.
Normally, I don't watch the local news, because I find it to be infantile and silly. Only this night
I wanted to see the weather, and I left the TV on.
A story began, which described the "most dangerous intersections for pedestrians in New York
City". A few in Brooklyn, and in the Bronx, and in Queens, and also Eighth Avenue and 42nd
Street in Manhattan, saw several pedestrian / auto encounters, where the pedestrian was harmed
or killed. The article went on to describe how pedestrians will crawl over barriers that are there to
protect them from traffic, and how jaywalking is especially dangerous.
The reporter was "on the scene" at 42nd and 8th, where his crew filmed pedestrians weaving their
way amongst the traffic. The reporter began to walk with a man who was jaywalking, crossing
Eighth Avenue between the intersections.
The reporter asked, "Sir are you aware how dangerous it is to cross the street between the
intersections?". The man replied, rather amiably, "Yeah, yeah I know." So the reporter then
asked, "well, why are you doing it sir?". The man thought a moment, and then he replied,
"Because I have to get to the other side!".
I live on Christopher Street in New York City. On my street, a few doors from my door, is a store called "LeatherMan" where various leather accoutrements are sold. The store is run by an older man, who is thin and worried-looking and who stands out on his front stoop smoking alot. He is frequently accompanied by a younger man who helps him to run the store. They stand outside in the warmer weather, wearing leather pants and boots and are usually shirtless, so that they can show off their nipple rings and tatoos. The Leather Man is an S&M shop, and they take pride in their window display which is changed every month or so; it displays a mannequin in tight leather clothing, bound in various ways with ropes, chains and/or latex.
Our street also has trees, placed every 15 feet or so. The sidewalk is removed from the ground around these trees providing little squares of dirt. The men who run LeatherMan not only take great pride in the flowers such as Impatients and Ivy and other ground cover that they nurture in the ground around the trees, they also go to elaborate lengths to cover the squares of ground with chicken wire tents, in order to protect their flowers from the careless litter of tourists.
Almost all shops on Christopher Street have pull-down chain-link that is rolled down and locked at night to provide protection. During the day, the chain-link is rolled back up into a metal housing unit which resides above the window on the front of the building. One day, the two men who ran LeatherMan decided to clean off the top of the unit, because it was collecting various crap. They had a ladder, which they leaned up against the unit and some rags and garbage buckets. The younger one was climbing the ladder, in his leather pants and boots, and a few rings in each nipple. The older one was clutching his ankle, concerned that his young friend might fall and be injured. The older one instructed the younger one to not lean over too far as he might lose his balance. Very carefully they cleaned the front of their building.
In New York City we have lots of bicycle messengers. These intrepid souls (I have only seen guys doing this) pump their bikes up and down the avenues of Manhattan, swerving to avoid taxis, inhaling the black smoke from buses, at one with their bikes and with the heavy packs on their backs.
Many are Jamaican, very black and very lean and strong and sinewy. Frequently they ride delicate little racing bikes with no gears and no brakes. I cannot help but admire them when I see them racing by, risking their lives for some retail samples, or a graphical layout.
One morning I was walking to work, and I saw far up on Seventh Avenue a lean, dark-skinned bicycle messenger. It took a few minutes for it to register, and even then I had to wonder if my coffee had kicked in yet; it took me a few minutes to believe my eyes. For this messenger, racing down Seventh Avenue with a canvas bag slung across his back, had only one leg. The extra spandex was tied up around the unhidden left stump, that looked like it was barely fulfilling its purpose of keeping the messenger on his seat. The right leg was solid muscle, the black spandex like an extra skin, and it alone kept the single pedal moving round and round. I did not really have time to think about, for instance, what did he do when he got to his destination? How did he deliver his package? How did he get on and off his bike? He whizzed by so fast, down towards Wall Street, that I barely had time to register what I saw in front of me.