These are the moments in time that stand out when I first think of New York City.
– hearing the street vendor who looked like he should have been breaking legs for Jimmy Hoffa, with the rich, Bronx-rounded voice of Pennywise the Clown, selling, of all things, bubble guns. He breaks certain words through the middle, like a boat bridge opening to let the river of people hustling along the sidewalk through underneath. As it just so happens, I commit his speech to memory instantly.
‘Make a kid happy! Make a chi-ild smile! These bubble guns are one thou-sand BPM – that’s bubbles per minute! They’re weapons of mass fun-struction!’
I’m certain that some night, when it’s late, and my guard is down, this man will ooze bonelessly up through my bathroom pipes, and as I floss my teeth, suddenly, a corner of his face will be pressed up against the crucifix grille of the basin sinkhole.
‘Whad-daya say, buddy? Five bucks for a child-hood full of joy!’
– the man in fatigues with a sawdust tracheotomy voice who stands too close to us as we sit and drink coffee and ate breakfast in the park, who takes our polite refusal to give him our money with an easy way and a hint of croaking philosophy back to us.
‘Well, you know what they say. Life’s a bitch. Then you marry one. Then you get divorced. Then you get robbed.’
That is what they say, it’s true.
I hear that saying all the time.
– standing on the balcony of my friend Jen’s place, looking out over Wall Street. The air is cool up here, and it’s the viewpoint of a superhero. Inside, people are talking about evolution, and libertarianism, and getting their website blocked in Qatar, and I like being here, and meeting these new people. These new people are New Yorkers, man. They know about the news and the country and they make good jokes and if I lived here, I would want to get coffee with them in the morning and walk down the street talking about Tina Fey and the Hudson River and the Yankees.
I wish I lived here.
I also wish I hadn’t worn the shirt that, without fail, makes me sweat like Fatty Arbuckle on a rock-climbing jaunt.
– Zara telling me how she thought she’d accidentally hit David Letterman as she turned around.
‘But I don’t think it was him,’ she says. ‘It looked like him, but he was really tall.’
‘Uh, Zara,’ I say. ‘Isn’t Letterman, like, 6’5″ or something?’
– The 3 of Cups.
My friend Tom, who I want to high school with, and has lived here for years, comes down to meet us for drinks. My friend Bec, who has just come over a few weeks back, comes along and brings a friend.
And TNB’s NY chapter sends its duly designated representatives. Greg and Steph Olear, Kristen Elde, Marni Grossman, Quenby Moone. In the basement, as punk plays, I live up to my rock roots and order a caesar salad.
Entrekin is as dapper and charming and as bad a man as I expected.
Kristen is summery and slim and has a tattoo of Nancy Drew on her upper arm, who she rubs for luck.
Marni brings friends and launches into conversation easily, energising the group, moving through this tiny society with the grace of a school of fish.
Quenby has a perfect laugh, and we are teasing each other within ten seconds of meeting each other.
If I lived in New York, I would want to see these people every day.
– hustling to find a fake Rolex in Battery Park. We ask an old guy selling t-shirts if he knows anything.
‘Nah,’ he says. ‘You gotta find the guys walkin’ around with briefcases.’
We ask another vendor, who calls out to his friend. They speak quickly to each other, and the friend comes over.
‘You want Rolex?’ he asks.
‘Yeah, man. You got any?’ I ask in return.
‘No,’ he says. ‘But I know a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy.’
This is, literally, true.
He walks us from the outskirts of the park to one guy, who walks us to another, who walks us to a third, a man with a large black carry bag.
‘You want to go outside the park?’ he asks me.
By now we are kneeling on the ground, surrounded by four or five guys who are using their bodies to shield us from cops.
‘Uh, no…’ I say. ‘That’s OK.’ I’m comfortable staying right here in this very public arena, I think.
He zips open his bag to reveal rows and rows of watches. I pick out the one with most gold.
‘Anything else?’ he asks. ‘Handbag for the lady? I got Tiffany, if you want.’
Zara kneels down and picks out a watch as well.
It’s a pleasure doing business.
And then we were done. Heading through New Jersey and Tony Soprano territory onto DC and the South.
We’ll be back.