Reading a map is a skill I am proud of having. But, every now and then, it fails me. Like when I’m coming up to street level from a subway. Subway entrances can be very disorienting. So I was rechecking the map, one more time, after having walked for hours and hours.
“Where you going? You already been looking at that map.”
“I’m just checking the best way to get to the Brooklyn Bridge.”
“Oh, girl, you almost there. Here, I’ll show you, come on.”
I really wish I could share his accent and his laugh, but you’ll just have to imagine it.
“Yeah and cold. Man, it’s cold. But, well, maybe I’ll try. Maybe there’s some other crazies on the bridge and I’ll make $3, $4. Come on, there it is, see?”
“I’d love to hear you play. Did your sax warm up enough in the subway so you could play for me?”
I give him a dollar as he searches for a cigarette. He needs a light, but no one else seems to have one either. I wish I’d brought the matches from my hotel room. I remember the next day to put them in my pocket in case I run into him on 42nd St., even though I have no plans to be down that far.
More talk, about Brooklyn, how long he’s lived here, tourists… I stop to get my camera out, he’s still talking and walking on ahead… suddenly realizing I am lagging…
Then there is Erna. She needs a big shout out. I met her at the airport. She was searching for a student and I was standing out in the cold, waiting for a limo that never showed up. Sound familiar? First visit, I lose a hotel; second I lose a limo! A friend had insisted on ordering me a ride, so I wouldn’t have anything to think about when I got off the plane. It was a nice thought that went awry. Erna’s student was nowhere to be seen and after several phone calls on my cell and me hopping into her car so she could run inside at two different terminals to look for her… eventually the girl is found and Erna offers to drive me into the city for my help. I pay the tolls and she takes me right to my hotel. We chatter the whole way. Much more fun than being on a shuttle bus, or train with stone-faced people. I perked up when I saw the skyline and maybe even squealed when I saw the Statue of Liberty (because I hadn’t expected that for some reason) even though I was not all that interested in her – but it was a sign that I really was on holiday. We drive uptown and I give her a running commentary on the things we were seeing that she didn’t know about,
like the Highline, the old railway tracks that has been converted to an above ground natural park space and
the IAC building that is shaped like an iceberg, built at the pier where the Titanic should have arrived.