The yin and the yang of a day in New York City…
I was taking my morning constitutional recently (that’s a fast walk, dear reader, not a cocktail!) when I came upon a disturbing yet heartwarming sight. It happened on the corner of York and 87th when a young woman pushing a stroller… a stroller containing an adorable little girl… suddenly stopped in her tracks and burst into tears. What the hell? But before her tears even hit the ground or your friendly bartender could react, as if on cue, three different women from three different directions immediately stopped what they were doing and ran to the rescue. “What’s is it, miss?” said the first. “Is anything wrong with your child?” asked the second. “Is there someone we can call?” added woman number three. It was like a rescue team responding to a red alert. But instead of it being the EMS it was three women bearing the gift of TLC.
Geez… how beautiful! I thought, as I stood there watching this amazing scene unfold. This is a side of New York that people don’t see. Now I’m not a native of this wonderful city so I’m not trying to serve home cooking, nor am I trying be the adopted Mr. Manhattan, but I’ve been here long enough to know what’s up and this is really what’s up when it comes to New Yorkers. Believe me! It’s people who are tough, maybe rough around the edges, often construed as rude because they’re in a hurry, but when it comes to the handling of any kind of crisis… a small one like this or the one I don’t even have to mention… just watch them swing into action and respond to the moment. Their arms are locked and it’s them against the world.
I never found out what the problem was that brought that woman to tears (nor was it any of my business), but I sure ascertained in a flash what the temporary solution was. Because when I continued my walk heading east toward the river and looked back over my shoulder at the scene on the corner, the tears on that young woman’s face were dampening a smile. Good New York!
That very same night I had a couple at the bar, first timers in from Vancouver, who’d been steered to our fine establishment by their hotel concierge. The woman was celebrating her fortieth birthday (looked nowhere near that number) and a trip to New York was the gift her husband had given her. So after taking a seat and taking in the room, soaking in all its history, birthday girl ordered a “Cosmo” while her husband decided on a Balvenie chilled with one ice cube. Then a few minutes later, as we started to talk about this and that… Chamber of Commerce 101 about their town and mine… I noticed the ears on the guy sitting next to them perk up. Like satellite dishes! This nosy Nellie couldn’t wait to haul himself in.
“So,” he finally said, seeing an opening, “first time here in New York, huh, you guys?” He knew the answer to the question but that was his launch pad.
“For me, yeah,” said the woman. Her husband had been here a couple of times before.
“And where have you been so far?” pressed the guy… this guy in his mid to late forties who, even though I’d never seen him before, was now an expert on our bar and most of Manhattan. But, hey, since a group of four suddenly walked in the room demanding my immediate attention, I was grateful this guy could continue this verbal tour.
Well, this clown gave a verbal tour all right, a tour through a whole bunch of words that started with “F”.
Now as most of you know I’m not a prude when it comes to using the “F” word, and I’ll use it whenever it fits what the fuck I’m writing about. But what your friendly bartender will never do when it comes to the use of that word, is assume he can say, “You’ll fuckin’ love it!” or, “Wait til you fucking hear this!” to a man and his wife whom he’s known all of ten fucking seconds. You can bank on it. But that was sure not the case with this guy sitting next to them.
Looking back, I think he suddenly saw himself as some kind of real New York item, or at least a version of a New York item last seen in every movie Scorsese ever made, and he wanted to impress these people as one of those types. (This is how we talk here, whaddaya’ think, kids?) For this to him was the “cool New York”, swearing every six words, and this would provide this couple a slice of The Apple. But the funny part was (at least to me), before Vancouver had come in, his conversation with me was anything but… he was a regular suit and tie who talked liked one. Talk about method acting.
Anyway, the moment he let his first “fuck” fly (let his freak flag fly?), I immediately turned to see the couple’s reaction. It’s instinctive when you’re a bartender, you hear the word, your head wheels around and you make sure those within earshot think it’s okay. And since guys use the word in front of women these days and women use it right back, especially in a bar, as long as it’s not too loud you let it slide. Which was the case here. This couple was nodding to the point he was making, smiles were still on their faces, and it wasn’t blistering through the room so I let him continue.
Well, after a good half hour of this guide through the city and at least thirty “F’s” or ts derivative, Mr. New York left a lousy tip and then split. Which was doubly ridiculous when you think about it. For if you’re going to act like Mr. New York… to talk like the subway actually runs through your veins… leaving a two dollar tip is the wrong way to go. It doesn’t fit the character. You’re not in a Martin Scorsese film you’re Clifton Webb in “Cheaper by the Dozen”. And to round out the yang to the yin of this day, your whole performance was nothing but Bad New York!!
Ah, but now that this guy was gone my curiosity got the best of me. I just had to know. So I leaned in and said to the couple from Vancouver, “Do you mind if I ask you guys a serious question?”
“Not at all,” said the forty year-old birthday girl, now on her third Cosmopolitan and handling it perfectly.
“Okay, here’s the deal. Is it me, guys, or was that a little unusual that a perfect stranger would use the “F” word like that? You know, to a man and his wife whom he’d known all of ten seconds?”
“Yes!’, they blurted in unison, as if they’d been waiting to be asked that very question. “But we weren’t going to say anything,” said the woman. “And it’s not like we haven’t heard it before,” said her husband. “I actually found it funny,” then added his wife.
“Well, thank you,” I declared, triumphantly. “I was beginning to think I was stuck in some other century. That settles that!
Then we talked some more about cussing in public, when and where it’s appropriate, and needless to say the “F” word got used in that discussion. Like a lot. Which is why I couldn’t resist throwing out as both got up to leave, “I hope you guys have a great fucking time in New York.” “We already fucking have!” said the husband, and the the smiles on both of their faces told me he meant it. Then out the door and up the stairs went Vancouver.
And just for the record, dear reader, the tip they left was larger than the other guy’s whole bill.
Over and out from Bar-land… see ya’ next week-end.