Think she’s in the cast of Wicked?
Yes, her face is green. My guess is she’s the understudy for Elphaba’s understudy killing time before the Wednesday matinee. She already knows she’s not going on, again, so she’s volunteered to make the coffee and newspaper run, and why bother rushing with the cold cream if you’re just dashing out for a couple of minutes. But then why aren’t her hands green?
But this is New York. There could be a couple dozen reasons for the green make-up, including personal taste. She might be playing a Martian in a TV commercial, she might be testing a new product, she might be making a political statement, or she might just think she looks good in in shamrock green. She might think she is a shamrock.
There are eight million stories in the naked city and having the fun of figuring out what hers and the other 7,999,999 are is one of the reasons I like to go there.
Three weeks ago, when I wrote about getting cursed out by the furious woman who thought I was taking her picture, Dr Intueri left a comment pointing out that I had accidentally stumbled out of this world into that angry woman’s universe. “Not a fun place,” observed the doctor, who’s hung up her shingle in the city and added that she hoped that I’d enjoyed my visit to her new hometown despite the encounter.
But here’s the thing.
I enjoyed the visit even more because of it.
She wouldn’t have believed me, if she’d stopped cursing at me long enough to listen, but I wanted to thank that woman for being such a character and giving me a story to tell. I don’t feel as though I’ve been in New York unless I come home with at least one story, and I usually do. Hers was a good one. But if she hadn’t happened to be there when I took the picture of the bar sign, I’d have come home with another story, probably one about the gang of Russian waiters outside the Old Homestead Steakhouse who loudly but cheerfully tried to bully me into coming in there for lunch and who I think would have carried me kicking in screaming into their restaurant, sat me down at a table, and force-fed me a porterhouse if I’d stopped within arm’s reach to take my picture of the plastic bull over the doorway.
This is something I should go back and put in that post. It’s something I wanted to tell that woman.
This is what I wrote:
It began to sink in. Don't know why I was so slow on the uptake. She thought I was taking a picture of her, although God knows why she thought only a pervert would want her photograph. I gave her a good look for the first time. She was moderately attractive, I guess, in a somewhat worn around the edges kind of way. Have to take into account that she wasn't at her best with her face twisted up with anger and hatred like that. But once I realized what she was objecting to I got angry. The nerve of her thinking I was a pervert. The nerve of her thinking I was taking I was taking her picture when all I was doing was taking a picture of a wooden sign. And the nerve of her thinking that if I was sneaking around Manhattan snapping photographs of strange women for my perverted pleasures she was someone I'd want a picture of! Lady, I wanted to say, today I saw a young blonde who was as beautiful as a model, who might even have been a model, made more beautiful by her being six months pregnant. I saw a waitress at an outdoor cafe who looked like a young Marissa Tomei. I saw a goddess of a woman from India over six feet tall, all legs, in gauzy white blouse unbuttoned down to her chest and up to her diaphragm. I saw countless other women far more beautiful than you and if I was tempted to take any pictures of strange women for my perverted pleasures I'd have taken every one of theirs twenty times before I even looked twice at you! But I didn't take their pictures! I took pictures like this one of Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe instead!
What kind of pervert goes around taking pictures of churches?
I should have added that it wouldn’t just have been pictures of prettier women I’d have taken before I took hers. I’d have taken the pictures of men too, and not necessarily pretty men. I’d have taken a picture of the Russian waiters. (Actually, I did. It didn’t come out. Way too bright. Had the camera on the wrong setting.) I’d have taken a picture of another waiter, a very young, very short, very bushily moustached Pakistani in a black vest and a very long, very white apron strolling in the shade on Greenwich Avenue and the picture of the tall, handsome Iranian businessman talking on his cell as he stood in the middle of traffic on Houston, the long cord of his earbud dangling out of his suit pants pocket all the way down to his ankle. I’d have taken their pictures for the same reason I’d have taken the pictures of the pretty young women, if I was faster and braver with my camera---because what I was doing was taking pictures of New York City, and to me New York City is a city of characters with stories to tell. In my opinion, the best TV show about New York isn’t Naked City or Mad Men or even Seinfeld or Law and Order, the original, before Jerry Orbach left. The best show as far as I’m concerned, because it portrays the New York City I fell in love with, is Barney Miller. To me, New York City is a comedy.
If I’d noticed that woman and decided I to take her picture, it’d have been because I’d decided she had a story I wanted to know, like the green-faced (maybe) actress and the news vendor in the picture up top.
My pictures are notes to help me remember those stories, which is why I don’t need to take pictures.
All this is a long way to go for this: I’m sorry I couldn’t go to the Clinton Global Initiative today, but if I could have made it, it would only have been for the closing session to hear Hillary Clinton speak. I’d have been in and out and spent the whole time there in the press pen in hotel ballroom, where I probably wouldn’t have found any New York stories to bring home. But who knows?
Wednesday, I walked up to the Sheraton from Grand Central, which is a hike of what, four blocks up and ten blocks over? But although I passed story after story, including the green-faced actress’s, it wasn’t until I got to the last block that I found the story I really wanted to tell.
No picture to go with it, but like I said. I don’t need the pictures.
I was walking up alongside the hotel on West 52nd and came upon a cop looking bored in that extremely bored but still alert way cops manage. She was youngish, probably no more than thirty, on the small side even for a lady cop, Hispanic, round-faced, pretty but I didn’t notice that until she did something.
She was leaning with her back against the hotel wall which was papered over with a faded mural, her thumbs tucked in her gunbelt, staring at nothing and everything, including, it turned out, me. Our eyes met.
“Good morning, officer,” I said brightly. And this is what she did in response. She winked.
She smiled too. Actually, more than smiled. She beamed. But it was over just like that. Smile. Wink. Done. She went right back to staring at nothing and everything, looking bored in the cop way.
That’s my New York City.