Just Another Night on the Other Side of Town:
The driver took only thirty-five minutes to take me to Avenue A. Two hours early for the literary event I acted as a flaneur walking about the streets around St. Mark’s Place.
Live bands were performing in Tompkins Square Park. I sat on a bench in the park for fifteen minutes. A tall dude decided to sit on the bench right near me when the other benches were empty.
A woman joined him yet didn’t sit down. She circled around talking in front of us. Feared I looked like a turista with the Brooklyn, NY logo tote I carried. My shoes were Missoni Converse.
The secret to surviving in New York City after dark is to act weird. To put on your game face when you’re outside. I’ve figured out that no one will mess with you when your sneakers are Converse.
As I’m sitting on the bench I think: Might it have been unwise to wear a sterling silver necklace out on the street? It was a gift from my mother, she bought it in Mexico in the 1990s.
The tall dude is smoking a blunt next to me. In New York City there’s a new rule: people caught toking marijuana in public aren’t supposed to be arrested. They’re supposed to be let go. That fits with my Green Party mantra that non-violent drug users shouldn’t be sent to jail.
Only it’s not so great when you’re walking down the street and reefer smoke is invading your nostrils everywhere you go. You didn’t sign up to get a contact high just sitting on a park bench minding your business.
The tall dude asks a nearby guy: “Got a cigarette?”
“An American is seventy-five cents.”
The girl is still wandering around in front of us. She can tell I’m not a street person. My pocketbook is next to me on the park bench. She doesn’t try to shake me down, just stands there talking to the tall dude.
It’s a different city than the Manhattan of my youth.
Yet the people are the same walking down the street: wearing an autumn overcoat, or dressed all in black with white sneakers, or carrying a tragicomic backpack.
Fifteen minutes later I get up off the bench and go to my destination.
Yet I will forever remember this scene.
You want to be a writer? Sit on a park bench and observe people. Keep an open mind. Compose sentences like you’re filming scenes in a movie.