Today was the day for meeting people. Old friends, but mostly random strangers. Old friend Martie is in town, visiting her children and grandchildren and we were able to meet at Starbucks where I introduced her to the Shaken Teavana Peach-Citrus Lemonade tea drink I am quickly becoming addicted too. Poor Vincent has made me self-sufficient in terms of my expensive coffee habit, but as always, I have found other ways to spend money. We met on 93rd and Broadway, part of my favorite stretch of the city, and talked more than we ever had in Kalamazoo. Literally. I haven’t seen Martie for ages but being in another place somehow makes meetings easier. We had a lot of catching up to do. A lot has happened in the past 10 years or so. And as I found myself telling her about my hopes for the city and my farewell to Michigan I found that speaking made it true.
I woke this morning with absolutely nothing planned. My room is so sun-drenched that it is impossible to stay in bed (as is my wont) once I’m awake. I was up reading Follett’s “Pillars of the Earth” – which is all about Kingsbridge England, and I want to move to Kingsbridge the Bronx, so you see what I did there?
Anyway, no plans except wallowing in the anxiety of not knowing if I have a job on Monday or not. And if I missed a chance at something else, and what will happen. Martie truthfully says it’s like auditioning – you just put yourself out there, but the outcome is up to so many other people that anything is possible. When she contacted me for the coffee date, I eagerly got dressed and skipped out the door. I am once again monochromatic olive green. On the corner of 144th and Convent a woman on a stoop complimented me on my color choice and we engaged in a good five-minute conversation about the color, its availability, the fashion we liked (both agreeing we liked what we like, and designers be damned), etc. Then I went on my way.
After Martie and I parted I decided to stroll around Broadway for a while. I realized later that this was a total lie, and I was answering the siren call of Harry’s Shoes. A place I’ve managed to evade three times this past week. But that’s in a minute.
I found myself at the Bed, Beauty Bath and Beyond place I’d visited when I first arrived. The one where I accidentally bought a defoliator. I poked around with the mild quest for something to clean straws. (I use these 32 oz tumblers that come with hard plastic straws that get really grody. I used to clean them with pipe cleaners, but I don’t have any here.) Once inside I was drawn to the “beauty” part of the store and decided to replenish my makeup. I am not much for makeup, but I have been wearing it for interviews, etc. The brush that came with my face powder scratches me sometimes, so first I got a brush. Then I decided I needed new mascara, and eye pencil. I found the mascara (Maybelline’s ubiquitous pink and green), but I couldn’t find my eye liner. It’s made by Cover Girl and I’ve used it over 30 years. Eventually I asked someone that worked there, and they didn’t carry Cover Girl. Imagine that. They seemed to have every other common place brand.
Just as I left the store I received a text from Pax. One of the things I’ve been meaning to talk about is people who walk and text. I mean, every New Yorker (and I count myself as one) will tell you about their pet peeve of slow tourist walking. You’re on your way somewhere at your NYC pace, and whole families will block the sidewalk, standing, gawking, or just walking slow. They are hard to get around. But there’s a new pet peeve, and it seems to be prevalent amongst the New Yorkers themselves. They walk while looking at the phone. Or, worse, the sudden stop to look. I mean, you’ll be going along with the New York flow, moving like a pack of starlings in a murmuration, and suddenly someone stops right in front of you to check their phone. So. Annoying.
Which is all to say that I always try to step out of traffic not only when I check my phone, but just to reconnoiter. I saw a bench in front of small coffee place occupied by a woman with a dog on her lap. There was room for me, so I smiled at her and perched on the seat. Thus, commenced a delightful hour-long conversation.
Her name was Cori. She was 69 years old. The dog was Duffy and remained standing on her lap the entire time. She’d lived in Colorado Springs but found it too dull. This was back in the 70s. She and her aunt almost bought a six-bedroom condo there for $30,000. She thought the Midwest and the people were very nice and liked it for that, but, like me, kept returning to the city. She’d had a lover named David who was a professor now in Australia, but at one point left her to work in Hong Kong. She had moved to New York City when she was 20 and stayed at the Barbizon – the hotel for women with such clientele as Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer. She’d always wanted to live in Wyoming, or Montana, and was originally from Florida.
When she was in her early 20s in Florida she’d come to New York City for a job interview and went out to a party with a friend. Upon entering the party she’d observed a tall Greek man and announced to her friend she was going to marry him. Her friend introduced them, to the chagrin of the Greek man’s diminutive girlfriend. When she got back to her hotel that night there was a message inviting her to lunch the next day. She went to meet him for lunch, and “never returned”. He was in construction and took bids for jobs all over the city. One day he was 150 feet up on scaffolding and fell to his death. They were married for six years. I think there was another husband who died recently of cancer in her story as well. She’d told every lover she had that she wanted six children but was never able to conceive. At the age of 65, she visited her first woman doctor and discovered that she had some sort of adrenal problem she’d probably had since puberty, but never had checked out that explained her infertility. If only she’d known.
She always loved foreign men, she told me. When I told her about Montreal and Vincent she asked if he had a brother. Of course, he does, his brother is about the same age as Cori. She’s interested, if they ever should meet. Although she wants to lose weight first. And have a chance to gussy up.
Like everyone I meet here, she assured me great things were in store for me. We had a lot in common.
After parting ways, I stopped in a hardware store I recently discovered. It’s a family run business and all the workers seem related. It seems tiny, but today I realized it had a basement level. Last week I’d bought a nice stainless-steel mixing bowl there. Today I poked around for nothing, really, but I found a straw cleaner. And it’s perfect. As I checked out the cashier introduced himself “I’m Hector, you are?” I told him my name and shook his hand. Nice. I like being on a first name basis with people I might see often.
I walked a bit more and finally resigned myself to the fact that I was headed for Harry’s. The place is a beehive of activity. Most of the sales clerks are male, and I’m pretty sure they work on commission. I found a pair of shoes I liked and waited, half-heartedly trying to catch someone’s eye. (The Lilliputian frugal part of me pulling half my heart away.) Finally, a sales clerk came by and I asked to try on a pair (the color is gorgeous!). He was gone so long I seriously considered coming to my senses and making a run for it, but alas, he returned out of breath. He told me they were the last pair and he’d really had to hunt for them. I told him I imagined him down in the bowels of the earth, looking for the shoes. I tried them on, and how could I not buy them after he’d gone to so much trouble? Then he introduced himself. His name was Ramses. I swear, I’ve never learned so many names so randomly before.
I decided to get home before spending more money, and I had the vague idea of going to Kingsbridge, but really didn’t have a reason to. I stopped at the wine store on 145th and bought a box of Malbec. But it’s been damaged and wrapped in packing tape, I hope it’s still good.
I’ve been meaning to mention the rummage sale that takes place on 145th street every weekend. This morning I saw its start for the first time. Usually I walk by a group of women poking through a pile of clothes on a table, all jumbled together – nothing separated – and other odds and ends laid out on a tarp; shoes, bags, a huge pile of cutlery. This morning the woman were huddled around a van, waiting for the side door to open and unload the goods. Returning home, I passed them in full sale mode.
Outside my building a woman stood smoking in the same place I left her this morning. I said as much, and she laughed, telling me she was escaping the heat. The two weather apps on my phone disagree about the exact temperature, but it’s hot. A lot of places seem to have lost their A/C. The wine shop was stifling, several subway cars aren’t air conditioned. This morning I jumped on a car without lights, but cool. At each stop I saw the same foreboding and realization “Is the A/C out? No? Ah, it’s nice in here.” It’s fun to ride a car without lights, you can see the graffiti in the tunnel better.
I have a strong possible job to start Wednesday. Still keeping it under wraps for fear of jinxing it. Fingers crossed.