Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Upper Manhattan, 3/29/11, 8:50 PM

Sometimes, there’s just something about a Manhattan weeknight. It all started innocuously enough: Rhea’s been battling a cold this week, and I decided to head on down to the city and surprise her with a bag full of food from Fairway. After all, overworked students can’t live on two-for-$3 Filet o’ Fish deals alone – not when they’re fighting the flu, anyway.

Initially, I’d been planning on hitting Fairway at 125th and then hoofing it the fifteen blocks or so south to Rhea’s school. Some sort of police/secret service activity in the area necessitated the hatching of a backup plan, so down to 74th and Broadway I went. I’d never been to that particularly labyrinthine Fairway location before, but within a few minutes the rotisserie chicken, hummus, and vegetables had been duly located, paid for and bagged. Time was slim, but the subway gods were on my side: as soon as I walked into the 72nd Street station and down the stairs, a headlight became visible in the tunnel, soon followed by a large red 1 in a circle. Through the doors, then, and into a seat; it was almost too smooth, really. Hell, no one even complained about the fairly overpowering smell of the chicken.

Fifteen minutes or so later, I’m getting off the train at Cathedral Parkway/110th Street with an unexpected minute or two to spare. As I’m heading towards the turnstiles and the stairs up to the street, and elderly woman taps me on the shoulder. I take off my iPod headphones and look at her: “Hello.”

She smiled. “I just wanted to tell you that I was enjoying your singing. You sound very happy.”

I momentarily froze. I felt my cheeks redden in embarrassment as it slowly occurred to me that, yes, in fact I had been singing out loud. I looked back at the elderly woman, who was smiling at me without a trace of sarcasm, and decided just to go with it. “Thank you. You know, there have been times in my life when I’ve not been happy enough to sing out loud. It’s always good to enjoy and acknowledge the times that aren’t like that, I guess.”

Her smile got a bit wider: “Ah, bless your heart.”

“And yours as well. You have a great night now.” With that, I started up the stairs and caught a lung full of the unmistakable smell of a beautiful New York night. There’s something to having your soul bolstered by being in the right place in the right time, and there is also something to the fact that your chances of having such an experience increase exponentially on the island of Manhattan.

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