Wednesday, February 4, 2015

New York City

By the time I was 20, I had only seen one black person in my life. So it was a different world for me when we arrived at the Port Authority Bus Station at 10:00 at night, a dirty station packed with travelers rushing to catch buses, vagrants and suspicious characters lounging against walls, smoking and chewing on matchsticks, giant combs sticking out of their hair. Mary Lynne was making call after call, hanging up and redialing as I tried to avoid the eyes boring holes into me, checking me out. I thought we should leave and get a room somewhere, her friend was a flake if he knew she was coming, perhaps the YWCA, but when I asked a cop who was trolling the station with a hard piece of weaponry in his hand if it was safe to walk, he shrugged. 'You're taking your chances.'

At the top of the escalator, I almost fell over a man crouched before me, crawling along the floor examining pieces of scrap paper, turning them over and dropping them and moving crablike on his feet. His hair was matted, his hands black, and he was encrusted with ten year's worth of dirt. I shrieked and jumped back, but nobody else paid him any mind, just brushed by and kept going. Outside, the street lights were a murky yellow, and with the steaming sewers and garbage and ominous vibes, I felt like I was in hell.

The YWCA wasn't that far, but the lobby was packed with people sitting on the floor smoking cigarettes under the glaring lights, yelling and fighting. The noise was deafening and they didn't have a room anyway.

Once outside again we were discussing what to do when three young black dudes in feathers and makeup said 'Heeeellllooo' and started dancing in circles around us, waving their hands. I'm sure they smelled my fear. Not wanting to be too friendly, but not wanting to appear unfriendly, I squeaked out 'hello' two octaves above my normal speaking voice, while my knees knocked together and almost buckled. Mary Lynne, seeing how crippled I was, grabbed my arm and we strode off. I cringed every time anybody darker than a caramel bar approached. Finally, we met up with a W.C. Fields lookalike carrying two bags of books who suggested the Martha Washington Hotel on East 29th, a women's hotel which he offered to take us to. But outside the Chase Manhattan Bank, I stopped when I saw a middle-aged homeless woman in a ski jacket, toque and track pants and pushing a shopping cart filled with her meager belongings get the brushoff from a woman in a luxurious fur coat that had just left the bank.

There's so much to do and see in New York.

Central Park

Empire State Building

Statue of Liberty

Museum of Modern Art

Coney Island

Comedy Cellar

Times Square