THE FIRST MISTAKE
As a rule I avoid talking to strangers, and my guard goes up when they talk to me. The most an interloper will get out of muah is a furrowed brow or at best, a grumble.
Yesterday, I not only broke my rule, I initiated a conversation. And now I find myself unable to get the stranger’s face out of my head, who actually was a kid, not much older than eighteen.
I was with my lady friend(LF), and the pizza and Chinese delivery guys(aka num and nuts). We had taken the 6 Train to go shopping at K-Mart on 8th Street and Broadway. The store has an entrance inside the station, which we passed by. We decided to have lunch first.
Over at a restaurant in the East Village, we had a repast of hummus, baba ganoush, falafel, tabouli, tahini, olives, salad, and toasted pitas. The establishment is on 2nd Ave., a couple of doors south of St. Mark’s Place. Me and mofos used to go there at three in the morning after nights at the old Palladium nightclub that was a few blocks up on East 14th.
(Photos by Bald Punk – Astor Place meets St. Mark’s Place and 3rd Ave)
After lunch, we sauntered along St. Mark’s Place toward K-Mart. On that street, there are mostly four and five story apartments, built in the 19th Century. Many of the basements and first few floors are converted into shops that cater to hipsters and tourists.
Before us was a slew of retailers selling trashy clothes, silver jewelry, knockoff hats, and cheap sunglasses. I eyed their wares, feeling a little like a ship drift. Back in the day, record and CD shops were nestled here and there on the street. It practically was the center of my universe. Now with the ease of finding music online, St. Mark’s has become just another street in the Village.
We crossed 3rd Avenue, leaving St. Mark’s, as it becomes Astor Place for a short block before forking with 8th Street.
We were across from Cooper Union when I first spotted the aforementioned “kid”. He was tall—about 6’ 4,” and gaunt. He had a full head of straight black hair that was combed down to his eyes, and pushed forward from the back of his head to his cheeks.
He was standing near a Mud Coffee truck, parked next to the Astor Place Subway Station.
The kid reminded me of Joey Ramone, who used to live in an apartment building a couple blocks up. I gazed at the kid, thinking about Joey. I had seen the punk icon plenty of times in the Village. Joey was always super friendly.
(Alamo “The Cube” by Bernard Rosenthal between Astor Place Subway and Cooper Union)
The kid’s clothes looked a few sizes too small, which is the emo-style, I think. Gray jeans emphasized his emasculation, and he wore layers of sweat shirts instead of a proper jacket.
More than anything, his eyes held my attention. There was a seriousness and intensity in them that I rarely see in a person so young.
“Hey kid, what you looking at?” I called out to him, seeing he was staring up in the direction of Cooper Union.
The kid looked right at me and gave a small smile, and I knew he wasn’t a native. A New Yorker would have given me “a look” first, and sized me up to see that I wasn’t a nut.
“I don’t know,” he said, dumbfounded. “Just nothing. Nothing.”
“Well, don’t hurt your neck,” I said and followed my friends into to K-Mart.
We bought some new cooking utensils. I would tell you which ones, but I wasn’t paying particular attention, though I did pick up one of those huge bags of Cool Ranch Doritos. I also bought whacked out Sun Chips for num and nuts, who only like them because my LF does. They’re pretty good chips for dipping, because they can hold a nice dollop of onion dip or a scoop of salsa.
We came out of K-Mart onto 8th Street. I held the door open for my LF. When I turned, the kid walked right past me. I pulled the bag of chips to my chest and heard a crunch.
(Astor Place and Lafayette Street)
“Did you find what you were looking for?” I called out to him. Hair swept across his face, revealing two huge pieces of white flesh. I chuckled to myself as it took a second to figure out that they were his ears. They were huge.
“Oh, hey,” he said and blinked like he was half-asleep. He ran his hands through his hair and covered his ears. “I come here, often, I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m looking for.”
“Does this area bring back a past life experience?” my LF asked light-heartedly, her tone one that if you heard it, you would know that even though she was a stranger, you could trust her. She just has that way. She can talk to just about anyone, and they always know that she’s the coolest person ever.
Unfortunately, num and nuts went all batty-eyed at the mention of “reincarnation.” The kid winced. His knees touched as he twisted his long, lanky legs.
I frowned and shook my head at num and nuts. Readers of my blog might not believe it, but they actually can look “super cool.” That’s because they practice. I won’t get into it, because I live with them, and it would be too embarrassing if my mofos knew what they get up to. Let’s just say they spend a lot of money on clothes, and that helps. But once either opens their mouth, game over, you know they’re whacked.
“I’m sorry if I was so forward,” my LF said, surely sensing that the kid was in a bad way.
He blinked hard and looked like he was going to cry. “I can’t talk about it. I’ve never told a soul, and I can’t,” he said, blushing.
I stepped closer to the kid, and did something completely out of character. I wanted him to trust me. I even lied to my LF about what I said. I whispered, “We are knowing,” and slipped the kid my business card, which, don’t hate me over that. Because, yes, I have one. It says Baldpunk.com, has my email, cell#, and maybe a picture of me.
The kid thanked me for the card and plodded off.
Now here I am, waiting for an email or a phone call. His face haunts me. I feel like I might have met him many years ago, which is crazy, because he is just a kid . . .
Here are the posts in this series: Episode Twenty-Five – January 2010
Around Cooper Square (Photos only)