When Sue Ten asked if I wanted to spend a couple of days with her in the city, naturally I assumed she meant Miami and said “Sure!” As it turns out, she meant New York City, a place I had not visited, nor missed, for 30 years.
I have never made any secret of my bumpkinism. In Missouri, when I’d walk down the sidewalks of Kansas City with my ex-husband Pretty Boy Boyd, he would consistently and persistently tell me to stop smiling at people, saying “You’re in the city now.”
But, really, I couldn’t help it, and for the most part, I never really believed that the city was much more than an illusion. Surely the buildings and traffic were just a temporary aberration, a mirage perhaps, and none of the trappings were meant to be a “lifestyle.”
I simply couldn’t recognize it as anything real, any more than the Arawak indians could see the boats of Columbus. They knew there was something wrong with the water, of course, but caravels with sails? Not possible. (Then again, Columbus had his own vision problem and could not see the Arawak as human beings, either.)
To Sue Ten, though, the city is home, and it calls to her every bit as loudly as the bull gators call to me, out here on the edge of the ’glades. No matter. I love to travel, and this city of hers turned out to be every bit as fascinatingly foreign to me as San Jose in Costa Rica or Hong Kong. The sounds alone were a treat: We heard languages galore, and I made a recording of the subway so I can compare that sound file to the one I made of the BART in San Francisco.
We visited museums, met goddesses, saw the Gay Pride parade, toured historic landmarks, walked for miles, crossed bridges, listened to opera singers, paid $10 for four tiny meatballs, cheered on circus performers, declined to pay $10 for cotton candy, had a slice and a grape at Coney Island, viewed Frank Lloyd Wright’s un-constructed masterpieces, and waited in line at the drug store, right behind a bearded lady.
My favorite part was sitting in green plastic lawn chairs in Times Square. The chairs were remarkably similar
to the ones we set out for movie night at the Swing Barn, although I swear ours are in better condition, the plastic not yet fully shredded. The Morning Guy would never put up for that, not while there is still duct tape to be had somewhere on the planet.
Not unlike The Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range, Times Square – at least at ground level – is now an oasis, surrounded by traffic and humanity. I’m pretty sure you can get pie there some where, but golf is probably frowned upon. I do think they could put in a putting green, though. Of course, the traffic and humanity surrounding The Slice of Heaven has the good sense to keep a respectful distance.
I’m looking forward to going back to the city in another 30 years. By then, perhaps, Times Square will be a garden spot with fabulous water features and gigantic blossoming trees. As usual, I can’t wait to see what will happen next.
Pretty Boy, by the way, is summering in the land of his own native asphalt, which gives all of the regulars at the Swing Barn a little chance to carry on their own conversations without having him skillfully change all their stories into less interesting ones about him. Just before he left, our new neighbor and local salsa-dance therapist, Loretta Beauregard, analyzed Boy’s salsa moves as ones that are only possible (or conceivable) for a full-blown narcissist.
Sue Ten told her that diagnosis didn’t even require a degree from a school that advertises on match book covers.
“What else do you call a man who likes to sit next to the Wurlitzer, not for the music but for the reflection?” she asked. “You ought to try analyzing someone a bit less obvious, like my husband Logan or my Internet boyfriend Hector.”
I’m never sure how much what’s-left-of-Logan can hear from the back room, lit by the glow of CNN, so I changed the subject and asked Loretta how her salsa-therapy classes at Pancho Villas Over-55 Retirement Community and Golf Club was going.
“So far, it’s just as you predicted,” she said. “No one remembers anything from one week to the next, so we’ll be on Lesson One for a long, long time.”
“Perfect,” I said. “Life is just as easy as you let it be.”