When I Need A Pick Me Up, by my friend Ryan King

Saturday, November 15, 2008

One Minute I Held The Key ...

...next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt, pillars of sand.

I mean, I'm okay now, but today I tripped a little into some sloshy emo territory. again, I dunno why. Except something very notable happened. I purposed to have barbeque today before I sequestered myself in my room. At the 125th subway station, I saw a developmentally disabled boy who I've seen on the "1" train before. He appears in his early twenties, afro often uncombed, and on the train he often stands up looking out of the windows. He sways back and forth as though he were blind--like Stevie Wonder at the piano. His fingers are often splayed at odd angles, fiddling with the opposite palm with unfocused preoccupation. And it's clear to me, he's getting a thrill from the ride. What I don't know is if he's just riding for riding's sake, or if he's going somewhere specific.

Today at the station, just as someone jumped the turnstile (yes, this was theft and if the rapscallion were caught by a policeman, he'd have been fined $500 dollars) I saw the boy rocking in the station "lobby". He wasn't looking at me--he doesn't do that. He doesn't make eye contact with anyone. But then I heard him clear as day saying, "Train fare so I can get home?"

Yes, he was panhandling. And panhandlers turn me right off. I just can't do it. Too many scam artists out there just making a living off scavenging people's compassion. And I hate to be suckered. But this boy was the real thing. I knew this because I had seen him before. I'm sure he wanted no more than to get on the subway. No money--just a ride. Unfortunately I had expended my last 2.00 on the farecard in order to get to this station. But I could easily replenish it for him--and when I purposed to do so, he had dashed away down the staircase out the opposite side of the station (it's an elevated platform over the street. Pictures forthcoming...) He was gone. I saw him across the street, but I couldn't go looking for him. And because I'd seen him before, I knew he'd get back on the train eventually, just as he'd done before.

But something about the fact that he was able to speak--and he was using his ability to ask for people's mercy--and that people weren't giving it, or he couldn't focus long enough to take it just then--something about that really got to me.

Plus, I'm reading "The Time Traveller's Wife" still, and I'm at the part where they'd been married and the wife, after waiting so long for the wedding that he's told her about since she was 12, is learning to cope with her husband's vanishings, and being left alone.

That's what it was. It was the boy's aloneness. He was there in the station alone. He had no one travelling with him. He had no one to pay his way onto the train. He needed a friend. And I knew the feeling.

So alone, I walked to Dinosaur BQ and alone I took a table from a very attractive waitress. And alone I watched large parties of families with kids and couples having a Saturday treat. and alone I ate my ribs. And alone I tipped and left the restaurant. And alone I took out my camera and started taking pictures because I wanted to share the day with someone

---and that someone is you.

Always you.

The 125th St Elevated Subway Station

The View From the Station, Looking West Towards The Hudson River

Close-Up To The World's Famous Cotton Club
After eating my lunch I go back to the station, but I have drifting on my mind. So I walk up Broadway to the south. After climbing the hill, I look back north up Broadway.

Looking North

The First Building of Columbia University

Travelling Southward The Next Building on the West Side is Union Theological Seminary

Continuing South
Next up, Barnard College

These buildings are all on Columbia University's campus. As are, as you can imagine, several thousand college-aged students. When I looked up suddenly was Joe and Johnny College flip-flopping their wonderful way through life. They couldn't wait for an opportunity to bare them feet. Evidently.

After making it past Stud 1 and Stud 2, The Perfect Couple met me at the corner as they came up from Riverside Drive and I continued south of Broadway. I wanted to push them over into the shrubbery.

Eventually I stopped at 110th & Broadway and sat myself on a fire hydrant. I settled down for some self-flagellation to watch the dozens of families crossing the street. Fathers with their children. Husbands with their wives.

But one father and his two daughters stuck out to me. He looked like such a gentle soul while living in the body of a rugby footballer.

He crossed to where I was sitting and rounded past to go towards Riverside behind me. I couldn't hate on him. He was the most inspiration I received today. He was more than a concept. He was real. as were his girls. He smiled like a young Santa Clause to his youngest in the cradle as he zipped her up against the wind off the river.

I was going to go down to karaoke to sing alone, but decided that I'd had enough melancholy for the day. Instead I'd rather home and be productive. So here's my entry for the day.

Tomorrow back to work. Goodbye weekend. Hello mad dash through another week. But at least there will be clients. By the way, I left a message at the phone number of the guy who offered me the part-time full-pay Manhattan position. I received no reply.

Charlie Brown: "I got a rock."


Trixie said...

Oh Alan, my heart went out to that guy on the subway...and you. I would LOVE to sit and eat ribs with you honey!

Thanks for sharing your walk, cause ya know, we are always here for ya.

Alan said...

Aw Trixie, I know. You're a beautiful person inside and out. Them ribs are good too, girl. Gitcher plane ticket and let's go! lol!

GrizzBabe said...

I thought I had heard the name Union Theological Seminary before so I looked it up on the internet and discovered that (just as I thought) they are progressive in their theological views. I was also blown away by their alumni and faculty list:

Paul Tillich (This man is so heady that I have a hard time reading him)
Deitrich Bonehoeffer
Dr. James Cone (Founder of liberation theology. Jeremiah Wright, anyone?)
Dr. Cornel West
Marcus Borg (The man who saved me from fundamentalism.)

So many great theological minds have passed through their doors that I feel like I should fall down at the steps of the seminary and bow.

BTW, where's the picture of the ribs?

Alan said...

Marcus Borg = Resistance is futile! Sorry, Star Trek joke. During our honeymoon, I'll take you by there. One day you'll call me out on my marriage proposals and I'll crap myself--lol.

I didn't want to break out the camera in the restaurant and blow my cool, detached guy vibe with the cute waitress. I left her a huge tip and my phone number.

No I didn't. :-D

Kathleen said...

What a beautiful entry. I wonder if it's easier to be alone in New York or suburban Detroit. I have gone out to eat alone (always with a book), but I don't do it often, as leaving the house can sometimes be hard. That, and I'd lose my parking spot, and now it's winter...see, there're always excuses, aren't there?

Shades of Scorpio said...

Oh I love when you do the photo walk!!! I miss me some NYC strolls. I haven't been there since June and it looks like my next trip will be wit my mama most likely!

I'd probably be staring at that guy just observing to the point of being a tourist. Its very hard not to give money. Very strange that he'd take off too. You wonder if guys like that have someone who hugs them from time to time.