February 25, 2014
ADVENTURES IN NEW YORK CITY
My Walkabout—Part II
Panic gradually subsides and I continue up boring 5thAvenue. I need to see some trees and dirt and flowing water. I finally come to the edge of Central Park. There are about two dozen horse-drawn carriages parked along the streets.
I see a number of them clopping through the park—a nice way to explore the park if you want to spare your feet the trek.
There isn’t any dirt because the park is blanketed in snow. I climb up a hill and enjoy a bit of a view into the park.
I spot the zoo. I think that would be a nice place to visit. It will cost me $12 and they are only open for another hour. Do they have large cats or apes? No?! Oh, they have a snow leopard…and a petting zoo…a few monkeys…never mind—I’ll visit Como Zoo in St. Paul when I get home. Como has apes and lions and tigers and bears…even zebras and giraffes!
I wander along the path to a large skating rink. It’s difficult to see the ice under all the skaters. I wander out of the park, back into the hub-bub. I head down 7thAvenue—David said it will hook up with Broadway and take me to Times Square. “You’ve GOT to see Times Square,” he said.
It’s nearly 4:00 and I’m hungry. I finally spot a restaurant advertising healthy, organic food. A young woman is sitting on the sidewalk reading a book with a sign on the ground next to her: “Stranded Need Help Any kindness is appreciated”. I walk halfway down the block to an art shop where I wander around for about 10 minutes, wondering about the girl. I walk back to the corner. I’m nervous.
“Hello,” I say, and she looks up, surprised. She smiles. She has a tooth missing. She looks tired.
“Have you eaten?” I ask. She says she had some breakfast at the mission.
“What time was that?” I ask her. She says 7:00.
“I’m going inside. Would you like to join me? I’ll buy you some lunch,” I say.
“Well, that’s okay,” she says. “But…well…I AM really thirsty…if you wouldn’t mind…ahhh…”
“Come on,” I say. “What’s your name?”
“Lindsey,” she says. I shake her cold hand and tell her, “I’m Mary.” We go inside.
She chooses a vitamin water as I start quizzing the counter boy whether the soup has gluten in it. Lindsey asks me if I’d mind if she also got a yogurt granola parfait from the cooler. I say that’s fine. The boy doesn’t know if the soups have gluten in them, so I begin asking about the rice bowl salad. Finally I am satisfied it is probably safe and I order. Lindsey brings me napkins and a fork and then points out to me that up on the soup menu board there is a code system indicating whether they are GF or not.
I ask her why she is stranded and she tells me about her old grandmother who lives upstate.
“I have to go see her as often as I can, you know–to help her out. But I can’t stay there. She lives in the country and has no plumbing and it’s really hard,” she says. She looks wistful. I can see she loves her grandmother.
I ask her about work.
“I get work where I can. It’s hard in this city, you know? It’s easier further south, but I’m trying to get back to my grandmother—you know, with this hard winter and all. Sometimes I get jobs handing out pamphlets but you have to be there by 5:00 in the morning so I miss breakfast and it’s really hard to stand out in the cold all day and bother people. Sometimes I get jobs in a kitchen. Doing this, (she shakes her money cup) is a last resort.”
“How do you eat? Where do you sleep?” I ask.
“Oh, there’s a church over there where I can go and eat and sleep. It’s warm there.”
My food is ready and I pay for it and hand her the bag with her water and yogurt parfait. She thanks me and shakes my hand and wishes me well. By the time I reach the door, she has disappeared into the crowd.
I don’t feel like eating in the cramped deli. I carry my bag down the street. I notice several theaters, and pass Carnegie Hall. There is construction happening in front of it—something with the sidewalk? It doesn’t look particularly grand. I wonder where people park. Or do they all take subways except for the rich who take taxi’s?
The sun has disappeared now…setting somewhere behind the skyline. It is colder. Ahead I see lights, huge lighted advertisements—most of them videos. Times Square.