Archive | September, 2014

I (suddenly) march with the people for the climate.

21 Sep

I spent the morning using every trick in my arsenal to avoid the parade.

I adjusted the start time and pick-me-up point to ensure smooth sailing for a tour of forty visitors from the UK. I avoided the Upper West Side at all costs. I ended the tour early. I was largely successful until we returned to a midtown that had effectively turned into a parking lot by noon. The last half hour simply getting to the Top of the Rock was a logistical nightmare.

I ferried the fearful forty across a sea of humanity at 50th and 6th, fielding cries smothered in the working-class dialects of Birmingham and Brighton, a few Welshman from Cardiff thrown in for good measure just to make things completely unintelligible.

Having disposed of my charges at Rockefeller Center, I decided to take a few moments and watch the 400,000 people pass by who had made my life so damned difficult. Damn them all.

What struck me immediately was all the beauty. We are a beautiful species. And no one, not one, had made the slightest effort, everyone looking like they had just rolled out of bed and put on a sensible shoe to climb a mountain and go camping. We have spectacular hair, all of us, even those whose follicles have migrated from the tops of their head to their forearms, yes, today was a celebration of the majesty of hair. We age defiantly. People who could barely walk did so anyway, driven as they were by purpose. And every wrinkle on the “Grannys with a Message’s” crinkled faces was a line of deep wisdom and grace.

There were seniors in wheelchairs and teenagers on skateboards, toddlers in carriages and hundreds on bicycles. Some of our brothers were missing limbs, one one-armed man played the euphonium. Some of our sisters were gently pushed from behind, the one who closed her eyes and drank in a sudden sunbeam is burnt into my memory.

An hour passed and the cynic in me ran his course: Where did all the paper for these signs come from? What sustainable energy are you all using to get home? What good is a march anyway? To what end all this? I am not happy in the least lately and I allowed my unhappiness its full fury. Stand in the way of my wrath and I will cut you down with darkness. How sad.

But in the face of all this beauty, my sadness softened. Hundreds of thousands of people were passing me by and all of them were so peaceful. More accurately, they were all so full of peace. Some sang, some strummed guitars, some shouted, sure. For the most part, though, it was a mild and lovely afternoon of organized chaos. And as I looked up and down Sixth Avenue, for as far as I could see, the thing I did not see, anywhere, under one single foot, was one single piece of trash, not one flyer, not one discarded water bottle, not one lonely pizza crust. I had never not seen anything like it. These were 400,000 people who embraced their ethic, lived it, and their enthusiasm and commitment melted my hard heart.

Before I could stop myself, I was barreling over a barricade and into the sea. I marched alone in a crowd, down Sixth Avenue and onto 42nd Street. A few avenues over, I ran into some wonderful women in my life, Jennifer and Nancy and my new friend Penny. What a perfect surprise to find people you know in a crowd of anonymity. An iceberg snapped off a forgotten part of my self. This is why we march. To connect, to reassure one another we are not the only ones who care, to engage the lonely guy on the sideline, him over there, forgotten only to himself perhaps, perhaps to inspire. My friends and I chatted of this, and wondered, and laughed, and then I left them at 38th Street.

I decided to walk back through the parade to see more of the faces that inspired me, the fiery eyes we all have when engaged with one another and the universe. An hour later, I had walked back to the end of the parade. And I kept on walking back into my life.

Today, I was reminded I must try to come out of myself a bit more, leave my apartment that afternoon I don’t feel like it, observe the world maybe a little less once in a while and just jump over a hurdle and into life, into the water, dance down a street, love a little harder even when it hurts, go ahead, (sweetly), march in the parade and when the parade is for the planet, for everything we share with every living thing, my goodness, what better reason could there possibly be?

On-line experts rarely are.

15 Sep

Shelia: Hello. What can I help you with?

NC: Hi! I need to know what “needs assembly” on the Le Corbusier Style Genuine Leather and Steel Chair.

Shelia: Let me take a look.

NC: Thanks.

Shelia: As far as I can tell it would have to do with assembly on the frame.

NC: Hmm.

Shelia: It won’t be difficult.

NC: It is for me. I only have one arm.

(long pause)

Shelia: Oh my I am so sorry. (another pause) Do you have anyone to help you?

NC: No. No one likes you when you’re cranky from losing an arm.

Shelia: Ah. (hiatus) Oh dear.

Sunday in the park.

9 Sep

Had I ever been the go-to guy in a medical emergency, I might very well have been a doctor. I am not that guy. When things on the inside end up on the outside? I tend to vomit in kind. Like the time I was atop the lifeguard stand the summer of my junior year in college and this guy body surfing hit some shards of glass and came towards me for help, his chest and stomach in tatters, looking for something like love while I tossed my lunch to the sunny sands below.

I thought that was my least shiny hour. Until one hour ago.

How this has never happened before or never even occurred to me given my clientele for fifteen years seems nearly impossible now. Now that I know it can happen, I’m not sure I will ever expect it not to happen within minutes each time I begin a tour. It unfolded in tableaux. And I can see each frame in my mind like the Zapruder film.

His wife had a look of horror on her face and I was concerned she was having a stroke. She was the color of a Komodo dragon. Next a shock wave belted me and I thought we’d hit a truck. Of corpses. My eyes teared up like Japanese commuters fleeing subway platforms when that Ricin bomb went off. Cries of “We need to stop!” came from all around me. We pulled off to the side of the road right in front of the American Museum of Natural History when the eighty-year old man seated mid-way down the aisle ran off the bus and into Central Park. A bear may shit in the woods, but not this fella. It was far too late and dark and deep.

Lady Macbeth’s line ran through my head. “Who would have thought the old man to have had so much…” as I saw an endless trail mark his path right up to the Naturalists’ Gate where he’d disappeared into a hedge. My god, good heavens, my good god in heaven, this gentleman must not have used the bathroom since our boys were in Korea.

Only one woman rose to the occasion. And of course it was a woman. We men are such pussies. I had sprung pigtails and was gagging, useless, quivering in the gutter in front of the disapproving bust of Humboldt. She gathered towels, found him in a foreign park, triaged him as best she could, I dunno, fashioned a diaper out of twigs and moss, returned to me and ordered me to call him a car. She was stunning. She deserves the Congressional Medal of Honor.

The Dial 7 car arrived and the poor dear mortified man thanked me profusely for my kindness. I hadn’t done a goddam thing except manage not to pass out. I sent him on his way with his shell-shocked wife to their hotel and he shoved a twenty-dollar bill into the breast pocket of my blazer. I loved that blazer. It kills me that the twenty will burn along with it…

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