Sunday, March 28, 2010

NYC People Watching

This weekend I was in NYC. Besides seeing a couple Broadway shows and visiting perhaps the classiest bar and the towniest bar in the city, I spent some quality time people watching New York Style. These were some of my favorites.

Multigenerational groups of women all dressed the same. There were a lot of these, actually. I assume they were tourists; at least the group I saw at the tenement museum were speaking in extreme Southern-belle accents as well as all wearing matching black and white plaid coats. Especially common in Times Square, these women most commonly hail from the Midwest. Two or three generations of women wearing the exact same outfits chattering to each other whist looking only up, never forward, become a terrifying challenge to those simply trying to walk here.

Good-natured but clearly crazy rabbi. While sitting on a bench outside the Tenement Museum waiting for my sister's tour to start, a man dressed in full Orthodox Jewish rabbi regalia came wandering up the street. And by "up the street," I don't mean on the sidewalk or on the side of the street, but weaving his way back and forth across the actual street. Said street happened to be a one way street that saw a fair amount of traffic--and of course he had his back to the direction from which traffic was actually coming. He wandered over nearish me with a huge grin on his face and merrily shouted "Shabbat shalom! Are you Jewish?" I replied "No," and was going to follow that up with something like "but I'd love to listen," as I wasn't doing anything in particular and had never spoken to a non-Christian street-preacher before. But the instant "no" was out of my mouth he had already zipped away, greeting his next target in the same way.

Confused club girl. She seemed like a lovely person, but my only interaction with her was pretty odd. I encountered this girl at the super-townie bar I was at on Saturday night, where some on my sister's friends were playing a show (they have a modern bluesy-folksy-rockish band featuring an ammped washtub base and a girl with an accordion). She spent most of the evening flitting between the band, draping herself across her official gay friend, and sitting on the pool table for some reason. At one point I was introduced to her as "Doctor Lohman," which caused her to stare at me with a baffled look on her face. "What kind of doctor?" she asked. She was informed by someone else that I had a Ph.D. in chemistry, which she considered for a minute then responded "no you don't," and flitted away again. I'm pretty sure she though I was pretending to have a doctorate in order to impress the ladies, as typically the ladies all swoon for unemployed academics.

New York 20-something couples yelling at each other. Also a very common sight were young couples walking down the street yelling at each other in heavy New York accents. One in particular were having a spirited discussion on how fast they needed to move, and if the woman wanted to walk so fast, what was she doing looking in all those windows and to what degree that affected her speed.

Enraged old guy at the nice restaurant. We were having dinner at this nice Italian place near Times Square, fantastic food and wonderful people working there. We'd been there about 20-30 min, just finishing our appetizers, when this older guy at the table next to us completely loses it. The host, a wonderfully pleasant guy who bounced around the place spreading sparkly happiness, had just gone over to their table to tell them their food would be right out. The guy, who was seated about the same time we were and who also had just finished their appetizers, starts yelling--literally shouting in this tiny little place filled with other people trying to enjoy their meals--about how long they've been waiting, and to stop assuming he was a "simpleton" because he know how long it takes to cook risotto, and how he'd go back in the kitchen to show them. I just kind of helplessly stared, while the poor server kind of stood there going ""

Extremely flamboyant gay man in a kimono and tattooed guy with 25 face piercings
. I don't believe these actually happened. My sister says we walked right by the both of them (these were separate incidents) and that she was too stunned to say anything until they were gone. I never saw either of them, and don't know how that would be possible, given the descriptions she gave me. So, either she made them up, they are part of some NYC delusion brought on by breathing the air in Queens for five years, or they were so bizarre they radiated some sort of S.E.P. invisibility field that made them imperceptible to anyone who isn't already inured to New York weirdness.

Everyone in a car. I'm used to road rage, living in Boston-Cambridge. But every native New Yorker completely freaks out the second they get behind the wheel. The instant a light turns green, they start honking. If you stop because you're trying not to run over pedestrians or are about to park, they start honking. Multiple times, I saw people driving down a street completely empty of other cars, pedestrians, or animals, just honking away, as if to say "Hello world! I'm alive! And annoyed to be driving in New York!"

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