A man dressed as Spiderman looks at his phone, wanders, looks at his phone. Maybe he really is Spiderman, waiting for people to save. Spidey-sense: we have an app for that.
Behind me an old man sits, black skin contrasting a long white beard. He has a blue beanie and a straw coming out of his mouth. He sits comfortably, leaned back, one leg over the other. A plastic bag and a disposable cup of coffee rest on the table in front of him. The tables here are red and made of steel.
There are more people dressed up here, running around. Minions, Hulk, Predator. I can’t figure out what the hell they’re doing. Lure the kids in, then Predator jumps out to scare them? That would be entertaining. The air is chilly but easily tolerable, the breeze light. My back hurts so I sit some more, look at my watch. In my left back pocket is a bunch of change I’ll give away.
Further behind me a Latino man in a black hoodie and blue baseball cap sits, a bag between his feet, a phone sideways in his hands. He leans on the table, taps the buttons. A cord snakes up to his ears.
A family use a selfie stick, a white-haired lady and probably her son; neon is the backdrop, but that’s true almost anywhere you look here. The square wears a false skin, made of light.
Two cops wander by, discussing the time in the loud way New Yorkers talk. One hangs his hat from his belt. I look at my watch as they stand, confidently, kings of the city. There are a lot of them. I am a Londoner. I am a New Zealander disguised as a Londoner. I am a New Zealander disguised as a Londoner disguised as a New Yorker. I want to be everything. Well, not everything.
A guy dressed as Elmo walks by on my right. His Elmo laugh is creepy.
In the middle of Times Square is a US Armed Forces recruiting station, with Old Glory brightly-lit on the side. That, and the barrage of flashing advertisements, endless unceasing, are all you need to know about Times Square. That, and the people, so many of them dressed up; so many of them cops. I think about going into Starbucks. Maybe later.
The floats don’t get down this way until gone nine o’clock. I could’ve slept in. The guide said arrive at seven am for a good spot. I said, you must be ’avin’ a bubble.
I don’t talk to the pigeons, not yet. I sit up and rub my back. I wonder if the ihop is open today.
People talk in that way that’s normal here. it’s hard to come to New York and then complain about American accents. My phone tells me the word of the day is gormandize. It couldn’t be more appropriate.
The Rail Line Diner, Part Two
At the table across from me they discuss politics: the evils of Donald Trump, the blatant racism of Fox News. He wears a red hoodie, and has a beard. He talks of ideological differences. He scratches his face and declares: ‘If Trump wins I’m moving to Canada.’ I can’t hear what she says. They refuse more coffee, and leave.
There’s a ball game on TV. Philadelphia – Detroit. Tempting to stay and watch, even. But the TVs face the opposite direction to the tables. The food is good – as usual it’s a lot. I control myself – a little. The waitress is friendly, attentive. She drops off the cheque. ‘Happy holidays. Spend it with your family. Have a few drinks but don’t get drunk.’ I smile. Maybe I will.
Central Park is unseasonably busy, due to the unseasonably warm weather (there’s still ice skating though). I buy a hot dog from a vendor. As I wait, the vendor gives a man some ice, free of charge, for his son who bumped his head. I walk past the rocks and the water, and find a seat. I think about reading my book.
A guy plays guitar, and sings. Wild Horses, All Along the Watchtower, Stairway to Heaven. His voice is gritty, his beard long, and he is happy. He collects tips in a suitcase with water bottles atop. In my back pocket, my change digs into my butt.
If I lived in New York, I’d miss all the grass. Sure, it has grass, but most of it is caged.
People take pictures and throw bread to the ducks (even though it’s bad for them), and then take pictures of the ducks. I have jumped on the picture wagon. I have five or six of Central Park, which I’ll put on my computer and never look at again. I really should rename the images so they make sense when I’m older, but aint nobody got time for that.
Selfie sticks. Whatever happened to holding the camera? They must be a city invention. Do we mistrust all strangers, or are we alone so much? Is this progress?
If I lived in New York I would walk its streets for hours.
The player stops playing. On the bench next to me, girls discuss… something. Look at pictures of cats, make dinner plans. I find them attractive and repulsive at the same time. Is it my fault? I look at my watch.
People feed squirrels. I guess that’s a novelty. I was glad to see black ones at the zoo, so it’s one more life experience in the bag, I guess. The squirrel runs behind the bench. The girls comment on it, then ignore it. Or is that me? Beside me, a toddler shushes herself and points at the squirrel. (My friend’s dog is fine with people, but barks at toddlers. What does that mean?) The girls out down empty ice tea cups. One wears mittens and light brown boots, and waits to catch me looking at her. She is the prettier one and probably used to it. The other one wears jeans and a short brown coat. They get up and walk off. I think that I might not be cool, but at least I don’t wear mittens.
A girl with a hat slashed with dark green flowers walks past; her hair matches the hat, and you can’t help but see it. She pretends to hat attention. She talks to her friends in a voice at once fast and slow. The guitar man still isn’t playing, but there’s some kind of brass instrument from somewhere. The green girl and her friends walk on up the slope; she seems a little self-conscious about her weight, the way she moves (I can tell). But, it might be my assumption; the way she’s dressed, it’s perfect for autumn weather.
More photos of ducks and scenery, with expensive cameras. A heavy man in a grey and black tracksuit sits down next to me. I hope he doesn’t want to talk. I am getting hungry, so I decide to leave. I head towards 59th Street, but it will be another hour before I eat.