Here’s my story inspired by yesterday’s scene starter:
I was coming into Manhattan on the Staten Island Ferry, one of the few things you can do in New York without spending any money. Unlike the tourists who climb to the top deck and spend the trip out in the weather, I had followed the example of most natives and found a seat inside on the main deck, as far away from others as I could get. The boat was pretty full this trip, so that wasn’t very far. I spent the time staring at my phone as if it had some important message on it when in fact it wasn’t even turned on. Doing this kept me isolated from the weirdness that was always easy to find in the Big Apple.
I stayed seated even after the squeal of tortured timbers announced our arrival at the Battery Park terminal. People started filtering forward while the big docking arms properly aligned the ferry and latched it into place, but I remained seated, even while the two wide gangways were lowered into place. It was only after the PA announcement that I put my phone away and followed the crowd out of the boat and onto the island of Manhattan.
Immediately outside the terminal’s wide expanse of glass doors was a dance troupe of some kind, the music blaring out of speakers laying claim to a patch of pavement where they leapt and spun. There was a hawker trying to cajole ferry passengers into watching the dancers and toss some money into a hat. The audience was pretty good for midweek.
I managed to slip past the display and made it safely across the bus turnaround to the edge of Battery Park. The sidewalk here was full of souvenir vendors and food trucks and crowded by tourists shopping, not realizing that they could save at least half the cost by simply walking a few more blocks away from the park. Supply and demand — capitalism at it finest occurring right before my eyes. You gotta love New York!
I worked my way through the shoppers to the break in the green chains that separated the bustle of commerce from the little bit of nature that made up the park. It was like I’d stepped through a curtain of calm. I knew it was all in my mind, but on this side of the chains people were here because this is where they wanted to be, not because it happened to lie between where they were and where they were going. I relaxed, just a little.
I got lucky and found an empty bench to park on while I people-watched. Like everywhere else in New York the place was full of people, but not quite so many, and more relaxed. The only people in a hurry to get somewhere were the joggers running on their lunch breaks. There was also an artist sketching in his notebooks, a couple of jugglers, some guy out walking his monkey, a woman getting her chest painted, and another woman pushing a Rottweiler wearing a bonnet in a baby carriage. It’s easy to slip into the Twilight Zone in New York.
The planets aligned as Monkey Walker and Baby Carriage Lady both stopped to watch the body painter put the finishing touches on his canvass. Everyone was admiring the way fish scales were being applied to her bare breasts, so no one noticed as the monkey reached up and unhooked himself from his leash. No one, that is, except the dog, who immediately sprang out of the carriage and started to admonish the little rascal.
The barking dog was quite a bit bigger than the ape, so the monkey made a strategic retreat, scampering up to his master’s shoulders and leaping from there to the nearby sketch artist. Realizing the miscreant was making his escape the barking baby bonnet took off in pursuit.
Shredded sketches flew as the monkey changed directions and headed for the park entrance, chased by the bonnet-wearing beast and arguing animal owners. The parade raced past me, but I stayed watching the artist attempt to recover his muses, his morning’s work ruined. He chased after pieces of paper fluttering in the breeze, while the body painter threw a coat over his subject and packed up his paints, complaining about the disruption all the while.
Moments later the cavalcade returned, this time led by the Rottweiler howling in pain. The monkey was riding it, using the bonnet as reins in one hand while beating the dog with a miniature baseball bat held in the other. The animal owners were being chased by a vendor who was complaining loudly about a stolen souvenir, and a cop was pulling up the rear trying to get everyone to stop.
The cop was my cue. Even though I was enjoying the spectacle immensely, it was time for me to disappear in another part of the cold, cold city. I casually stood up and started off toward Chinatown.