Thursday, August 23, 2012


At any given minute of any given day when I'm back in New York there's a magnetism, a force so powerful, that even though I may have spent the day walking the miles of aisles at the Javits during the New York International Gift Fair looking at trinkets I've seen a million times before I still can't resist another stroll down Bleecker or a meandering walk by the tiny shops dotting the lower East Side or the West Village. I carry my little point-and-shoot wherever I go because I can't stop recording the beauty and the bizarre that astonish and amaze me. I'm always young here because I'm so infused with energy and inspired to dream new dreams.
The gaudiness and audacity of Old Navy's sign making no bones about their commercial aspirations contrasts with
this hidden alley off of Rivington around the corner from Bowery.
Even when you look down the street you're liable to miss the Menswear store advertising hand tailored clothing, a barber shop and sutlery. I was forced to look that one up: a civilian provisioner providing goods to soldiers on an army post or by following a battle and going camp to camp.
You might also miss the restaurant at the end of the alley just beyond the Heating Depot Sign and the very tiny type that  whispers the name of this secret passage is Freeman Alley. New York hides its treasures and takes great pride in the fact that a restaurant or a store or a barbershop can survive and flourish without a sign or a big address, only a loyal following and a chain of whispered secrets from one patron to an in-crowd, "have you been to Freeman Alley, you have to go but don't tell anyone else..."
There's art everywhere, underfoot, from the street artists whose pieces wash away like sand castles with the tide
to the architecture that surrounds you skyward with amazing details that top buildings with dripping details some of which have stood for centuries.
New Yorkers may have the reputation of being cold and aloof but if you look closely at their signage you might come away with a different impression.
And then there's the constant street theater, in the subways, in the parks, in the public areas and on almost every street corner there's a would-be talent practicing their art hoping for someone to stop and listen and appreciate.
How can you not come here and be inspired 24/7. There's a reason they call it "the city that never sleeps". There's too much energy that needs to escape and it can't do that when it's in a dormant state.

A cold front was forecast to push through later in the day but at six, right around the time the streets were filling with people getting off work the sun was still hot and the air was still sticky. I had a five o'clock meeting with a client on the far Westside, that part of the island unreachable by subway. I'd made plans to see a movie at the Lincoln Center Film Society later in the evening. The distance between where I was coming from and where I was going was too short to warrent a cab and I had over an hour to kill. I went hunting for a slice of pizza. You always think of the city as being a flat surface but the terrain of the city can be very deceptive. It made the walk up Fifty-ninth Street with the humidity of that August dog day a longer slower journey than it might have been if I had been late rather than early for my movie.
It was somewhere along the side of the Time-Warner building that I heard a voice that made me turn my head. I was walking curbside, the voice; a woman's voice had come from over my right shoulder. I didn't stop walking but I turned my head enough to get a glimpse of a woman about my age or perhaps a few years older.  A million scenarios run through my head like the spinning dials on a slot machine and just as quickly landing on a final conclusion. My assessment: no threat. My action: engage. I figured she needed assistance and I knew where I was and I had a watch but her first words threw a new twist into my prediction of the encounter.
"You look very familiar, are you from New York?" were the words she whispered out in a very gentle voice.
Now I had to reassess. Had I worked with her when I was designing corporate productions, or did she recognize me from the interior design business, had she been at one of the fabric houses I had visited earlier that day? I couldn't place the face. It was a pleasing face framed by an expensive cut of blond hair, I did a full visual assessment for some sort of clue to her identity. She was wearing the kind of casual clothes a working woman might be wearing on a late Friday afternoon after work, a denim wrap-around skirt with a pale blue cotton scoop neck short sleeve t-shirt. She had leather sandals with a small heel and the right amount of appropriate jewelry. You could tell she still took pride in her body. She stood about 5'6" and was extremely trim and fit.
"I've lived in New York for thirty years but I moved back to Wisconsin two years ago."
"I'm originally from Michigan, now I live alone perhaps you would like to come and visit me sometime?"
We have now moved into dangerous uncharted territory for me. First of all she's barking up the wrong tree. Second, I'm a little flattered. Third, it's all pretty innocent and I don't want to hurt her feelings, I'd rather find a way out of this without having to embarrass either one of us.
I blurt out the first thing that pops into my head, "What do you do?" Thinking we'll continue on with the "I know you from somewhere" theme.
"Oh, I'm very talented." And I'm still in the dark.
Then out of the mouth of a stereotypical looking gracious grandmother came a litany of amazingly graphic acts she could do to my private parts.
I finally grabbed a clue, "I've got a partner."
This whole encounter only took half a block. I turned up Broadway. I never looked back to see which direction she went. I couldn't wipe the smile off my face or keep from bursting into a little manly chuckle every few steps as I practically danced up Broadway. New York can be so entertaining.

A Prostitute Playing Russian Billiards, 1932
George Brassai, photographer
Represented by Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles

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