Angel of New York
I was all over the City this past Sunday.
Canal Street was bumper to bumper traffic. The sidewalks were packed. If you looked away for a half-sec, you risked being trampled underfoot. When I headed uptown, all the bars on West Broadway had their doors flung open and music filled the air. Thompson Street was a little shady and creepy, but serene all the same as it tends to be.
(All photos by Bald Punk)
I came to W 4th St. and headed into Washington Square Park. It was filled with the usual suspects, along with droves of cheery and fresh NYU coeds. Many students were with their parents as they took in the sights and sounds. It was the day before the start of another school year.
Up on E 14th St. in Union Square Park, they were having humongous Hummus Party! I kid you not. Sabra Foods had tents set up in front of the George Washington on Horseback statue. People handed out samples of different kinds of hummus. I had about three dozen samples. They were guuuud!
Park Avenue was placid. It verged on ghostly. So quiet, it put me on “even ground.” That’s when I took the last pics of the Chrysler Building for you.
Afterwards, I walked up Lexington Ave and then across E 59th St. I made my way into Central Park. There were plenty of horse drawn carriages in the area. The place smelled of manure.
The surrounding buildings were majestic. They seemed to reflect some unseen element of the park. The park itself was as welcoming a sight as any of NYC’s iconic destinations.
I was meeting my lady friend(LF). We were going to the AMC Theaters in Lincoln Center to see Inglourious Basterds. (It’s too complicated to explain why we didn’t go to the Ziegfeld Theater to see it instead.)
I zigzagged my way through the park and came out on Central Park West. I spotted my LF across from the Society For Ethical Culture building. She was seated on a bench by the stone wall that encompasses the entire park.
To my mild surprise, the pizza and Chinese delivery guys(aka num and nuts) were with her. Earlier my LF and I had had a little disagreement on whether to see the early or the late show. She wanted to wait for them to get off work. So it seemed they both must have gotten off work early.
Seated on the edge of the next bench over was Benny, “the cigar store Indian.” His eyes were alight as he seemed to be telling num and nuts–who were motioning like happy parakeets— one of his far-out tales. To refrain from yelling at Benny, I bit down on my lower lip.
He already has my LF under his thumb. She loves him and his crazy reincarnation and ghost stories. Until now he had kept away the pizza and Chinese delivery guys. I was under the impression he did so as a favor to me, because they are totally whacked, and he knows that his crazy stories would drive them to run off cliffs and shit. And I don’t need that mess.
In close unison, all four turned. Only my LF clearly acknowledged me. She got right up and came to me.
I stopped and leered at Benny.
“Why don’t you come and sit?” she asked.
“No way,” I said.
“Benny wants to show us something.”
“Absolutely not,” I said, lifting my gaze to the park, then back to the buildings. All around us the sun’s sheen was giving way to softer and darker hues. The gloaming hour had started. “Let’s go see the movie.”
“After,” my LF said, distractedly. In her eyes, I saw the light of admiration for the coming darkness. She loves the change, especially because she swears you can feel it–in and around Central Park.
“I’ll wait here,” I said, having an idea where Benny would lead them.
“It won’t take long,” she said and gave a nearly imperceptible nod.
The four of them headed up Central Park West. I followed them, a half-block behind. They sauntered past the Dakota Apartment on 72nd Street. They plopped down a block later on a bench across from the San Remo building.
It was where I thought they’d stop.
For a long time, I’ve had a love-ignore relationship with the San Remo. It’s one of the most appealing buildings that frame the park.
About a year or so ago when I was passing in front of it during the early evening, I peered into its open doors and had the feeling I was setting my sights upon the “past.” It was probably because of all the marble and ornate design. Yet I also couldn’t deny an odd sensation in my viscera. I had felt an indeterminate puff push through my chest.
I looked on ahead. Benny was leaning over the wall. He gazed into the park. He must have said something because the three of them joined him. Where they stood, it’s a bit of a drop on the other side of the wall.
They all seemed to be on the lookout for someone.
Whenever the heavier Avenue traffic had the stoplight, I heard all sorts of odd noises that I couldn’t place. I moved closer and found myself looking for whatever Benny had to show.
By now the sheen of sun was completely replaced by the grit of coming darkness. The change was palatable. “It was soft” is all I can say, real soft.
“She’s here. She’s here.” Benny said a few times, whispering with a sense of urgency. “Look!”
The bushes remained still though a fleeting black figure slipped through making a gentle shhhhh sound. It was out of sight before I could get a good look. I turned to my friends.
My LF’s eyes gleamed like stars, while num- and-nuts’ seemed to spin cartoonishly like tops, and they moved in slow dance steps like they had to pee.
”Who was that?” I asked Benny in wonderment.
“Grace,” he said breathlessly, his face alight with appreciation.
“The Angel of New York,” I said, and everyone looked at me.
“You know,” Benny said, sounding almost crazed for a moment. “You know her.”
I shrugged. “I just said it. But, an angel, running around in the bushes?” I tried to force a laugh, and then took a moment to appreciate the calm that I’d been experiencing since seeing Grace.
“It was a she, and she was an angel,” my LF said sweetly, while num and nuts nodded in fawning agreement.
I stared into the bushes where she had vanished as another thought came to me. But I swear this time someone whispered it to me–
“Knowing has its price.”
Here are all the posts in this series: Episode Sixteen – September 2009