Walking Through NYC – Wisdom or Madness?

I am known for being aloof.

It may be function of my unwillingness to deal with the drama that surrounds me daily as I live with my family.  It may simply be something that is a part of my Virgo nature, though I am not sure how much astrology affects me personally.  Whatever the case, I am one who likes to walk the streets of New York City at least twice a week.  I do it to get away, to gain some fresh perspective, or perhaps to allow my mind to think through one of the many plot points of the increasing number of stories that swim in my head these days.

I like to walk the city streets with all of this in mind.  I also like to think that my being surrounded by people helps me to feel less alone.  But the truth is that there are times, especially lately when I do NOT want the attention of others as I walk down the street.  There are times, in fact, when I wish all of Time’s Square was abandoned.   But as is often the case in NYC, what I want and what I get are not going to be one in the same.

Of late, I picture myself carrying a sword when I walk down the street and slicing people down as though they were pestilent weeds in a garden.  They appear to be nothing more to me these days.  I see a person, I walk past them, and I have already cut them down as though they are of no use to me.

But the reality is that they are not.

Their drama, their inner turmoil, their sorrow is of no concern to me now.  Their happiness is of no interest either.  I have my own happiness to attend to, to try to cultivate.  That has been a struggle in some ways, and it has been blessedly easy in others.  Just to maintain a balance these days requires all of my effort.  With some of the trials of my family life, I don’t have a lot of energy to spare for the troubles of others.  It happens.

Yet it makes me both angry and sad to know that I have had moments like this.  Of course, it is not something on which I would ever act, but it does not take a rocket scientist to know that my stress is manifesting in my thoughts.  I exercise constantly, seeking an outlet for my frustration.  My writing has been a stupendous defense against the insanity.  So has my training.  And so have the special people in my life.

But I love NY, and I love Time’s Square too much to stay away.  So let the people stare if they want to as I walk down the street.  I am just one man among a sea of people.  If they chose to focus their energies on me, there is nothing I can or wish to do about it right now.  I am in my own world.  Just know that when I get to where I am going, I may not choose to sit with anyone.  The people with whom I want to share a walk down the street or a bite to eat are not here with me now. I will make do for the moment, and bide my time.  But I will see them all.  They will either come to me, or I will go to them.

And I will not need a sword to meet with them.

There is a special someone, and I know it now more than ever.  I smile as I think of  this person.  That has helped to quiet my torment.  You may think of this person as but one of a few anchors for my soul.

Of course, not all of my walks have been replete with such feelings of loneliness and frustration.  That is one of the beauties of walking in the streets of NY.  Nothing is ever truly the same from day to day, from hour to hour.  Perhaps that is one of the ultimate lessons of life.  There is constant change. Nothing is truly written in stone.

I am not encased in stone, nor would I wish to be.  I don’t do the Han Solo in Carbonite pose very well anyway.

I’m offering you all a journal entry of mine from last year.  I don’t know why I do so.  Perhaps I seek to prove to myself that I am a normal human being.  It bothers me to feel frustration and stress.  It is not welcome, but it is a part of my world right now.  But much like the events of what you are about to read, this will change, and I will feel at peace.

That is the beautiful part of life.

Time's Square, NYC NY

Time's Square. It is my haven from the madness...

6/30/11

It was a Sunday when I decided that the laundry was perhaps one of the most boring things in the world to have to do.  I had tried to do most of the laundry last Tuesday, but it turned out that half of the eastern seaboard had decided that Tuesday was laundry day, and I just wasn’t in the mood to be surrounded by cranky people contending with increased humidity. 

This Sunday was a sunny and relatively cool day.  Once my laundry was successfully in the washing machines and spinning around in the suds I had so lovingly provided, I decided to venture out to check out the babes.  Being single is supposed to be fun, isn’t it?

But I was completely unprepared for the reality of being surrounded by a sea of New Yorkers all trying to get somewhere when I would no doubt be walking in the opposite direction.  I shook my head when I finally made my way to 8th avenue and realized that I was sweating despite the cool temperature.  It really had been a long time since I had done this, and I was mighty apprehensive.  Was this city still mine?  Did I have the right to be here after all these years?  Still, there was no stopping me as I headed downtown along 8th toward Time’s Square.  I had been here for months, had even walked Time’s Square a couple of times, but I had not done so with this kind of purpose.

As I made my way closer to 50th street, I was immediately aware that the density of bodies had increased to the point where I could not see anything else in front of me.  I took a deep breath, then.  This felt like I was about to dive into the deep end of the swimming pool.  I couldn’t believe my own hesitation.  I used to love doing this as a teenager, but then again, much about me had changed in the subsequent fifteen years.  I was aware of far more of the complications of adulthood, of relationships, of falling in and out of love with someone else, and of falling in and out of love with oneself.  Just looking people in the eye was now going to be a different experience.  Scanning people was something I could do with innocence as a kid.  As a teenager, looking people in the eye was something I did with a sort of feigned bravado or angry impunity depending on my mood.  It was all too easy to secretly strip people of their identity or individuality.  Now, in my thirties, I was keenly aware that staring at people would leave me just as naked to them as they had ever been to me. I didn’t like it in that particular moment, but it was something that I was beginning to accept was true in my day to day interactions with others.  To be an active adult in this world meant that I would have to expose myself to others in order for them to know who I was and what I wanted.  It is a lesson that I am still learning. 

It is a lesson that I wish I had learned earlier when I was in a relationship with my ex.  Perhaps it is the ultimate lesson for learning how to move through the world and actually leave a mark in it.  No interaction ever goes unnoticed.  No conversation is ever really forgotten by the participants.  No argument ever goes in one ear and out the other, and no friendship can ever really be expunged from the core of someone’s being.  These experiences create ripples in the universe.  To be at the epicenter of such ripples can be either a blessing or a curse.  But this all implies active participation, a desire to acknowledge life itself.  Until I got to 50th street and 8th avenue and really began to look at people, really stare them in the face and acknowledge individual existence, I was not certain that I was alive.  I was not certain that I had become anything more than a cog in the machine, a servant and a whipping boy of fate itself.  Doing the family’s laundry wasn’t going to make me feel alive, but walking the streets of Manhattan was. 

I took one more step, then another, and then another.  Before I knew it, I had made it to Time’s Square, felt the wind on my face, stared at some beautiful women in short shorts, and let them stare back as I grinned mischievously, daring them to stop and make a move, willing myself to do the same with my racing heart thundering in my ears the whole time.  I did not think that a walk down the street would be as thrilling an experience as this was turning out to be! 

Before long, I wasn’t just checking out the ladies.  I had observed kids, I had nodded at older men in fedora hats and button down shirts,  and I had smiled at grandmothers leading their grandchildren to the ice cream trucks that seemed to park themselves at every other corner.  The city was teeming with life, and I was now a part of it.  I was home again.  It wasn’t the Zen experience that I remembered, but it was beautiful. 

I must have walked for about an hour in this bliss before I began to notice that my eyes and my feet were getting tired.  Suddenly, I was on 23rd street and I began to notice subtle differences in the outfits being worn by other people on the street.  There were now brighter pinks and fuscias on people’s feet and on their shirts. Feather boas somehow came out of the woodwork to become fashion accesories, and the people wearing short shorts were all of a sudden taller, broader and not quite as curvey.  When the first multi colored flag showed up attached to the front window of a restaurant, I knew I had hit Greenwich Village, but what I didn’t know was why there was such a crowd of people out and about on this particular day.  Had I missed something?

After a few blocks and some rather pointed looks in my direction, I stopped cold for a split second, and the realization hit me like cold water in the face.  New York was about to undergo a major change.  Gay marriage had been on the ballot for a while now, and the local news had reported just two days before that government approval of same sex marriage was just a hop skip and a jump away, which would make New York the largest state of the Union to support the idea.

How did I not see this coming?

Suddenly I was surrounded by gay men and women holding hands and laughing.  Many of the men were sashaying down the street with their fabulousness on full display like peacocks on parade, and I could not help but smile.  Women with leather bustiers were laughing and drinking beers together on the street, and one young family was walking around with some of the biggest, most lavishly decorated pinwheels that I had ever seen.  It all took me by such surprise that I was forced out of my reverie and thrown into the middle of another world, being the only straight guy within what appeared to be a two mile radius.  I had to take a deep breath just to take in all the excitement, and it was then that my body began to relax. 

Energy began to flow through me after a few minutes, and it was an energy that I had never quite felt before.  These people were ebullient, many of them appearing as though they wanted to dance and sing, many more of them doing just that.  People all around me whooped, cheered and smiled.  “We are the Champions” came blasting out of one store window while Lady Gaga reached top volume at the block party down the street.  People all appeared to glow like pregnant women, and it was all I could do not to burst into tears.  Was this more than just a Gay Pride rally?  Had something really happened? Was I an inadvertent part of history in the making?

It turned out that I was.  Legislation legalizing same sex marriage had been approved by the New York State Senate and had been signed into law by governor Cuomo.  By Saturday, waves of same sex couples who had been unable to wed previously now rushed to the altar to swear their lives to one another.  By Sunday, the block parties had been in full swing for at least 24 hours, and I had not paid the slightest attention to the whole affair until I stumbled into the middle of it all.  I was alone again, and I was overwhelmed with joy. I found myself wondering what my gay friends would think about all this, but then I shook my head.  At the moment it really didn’t matter.  I was in the middle of one of the largest celebrations that I had ever seen, and despite the fact that I was probably the straightest man in the neighborhood at that very moment, I was invited to laugh and smile with the rest of the celebrants.  It was glorious!

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2 Responses to “Walking Through NYC – Wisdom or Madness?”

  1. I quite enjoy your diatribes, Mr. Drummer. I’m do not normally comment. Take that as you will.

    Good day,

    E.

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