It won’t come as a surprise to learn that I’m not comfortable dancing. That’s exactly why last year, for my wife’s birthday, I signed us up for dance classes. The gift was not me learning to dance, it was my willingness to put up with the humiliation of taking dance classes.
Category Archives: New York
As I do most nights (and as she described in this lovely article), I was reading to my wife in bed. This time, it was a very strange story about a community of people who believe a ’90s children’s movie starring Sinbad has disappeared, possibly due to a crossover with other dimensions, a glitch in the computer simulation we’re all living in, or simply a conspiracy (read it yourself, it’s amazing). Then the doorbell rang.
I guess the Washington Square Institute thought they were making up for my previous therapist when they assigned me a new one who looked like Jay Leno. I wasn’t a fan of the TV show but found it encouraging that my new shrink seemed more amused than concerned by my problems.
Things went well enough the first few months. Sure, he had a few annoying quirks, such as only taking notes when I happened to mention a dream, or always pointing out with a titter the double meaning of the expression “it’s hard.” (To this day I still say “it’s difficult” because of him.) But such are the hazards of psychotherapy.
Not long after moving to Brooklyn I was introduced to two women at an art opening–a blonde and a brunette. They asked why I had come to New York. Embarrassed to say, “to be an artist,” I jokingly answered, “to be a poet.” The brunette pointed to the blonde: “She’s a poet!” “I’m sorry, I was kidding,” I said. “I came to New York TO BE A DANCER!” The blonde then pointed to the brunette and said: “She’s a dancer!” I skulked away.
This morning I crossed paths with the elderly Indian gentleman I see most mornings on my way to work. We went through our usual routine: I smile and say good morning, and he smiles back, performs an elegant flourish with his hand, and responds, “and a very good day to you.”
Not only is his greeting unique, the fact that I willingly interact with a stranger is itself exceedingly rare. Whenever I hear that Will Rogers quote, “A stranger is just a friend I haven’t met yet,” I think, “That simple-minded Okie clearly didn’t live in New York.” I figured that out the first year I lived here.
I’m meeting an old friend for dinner at Angelica Kitchen (yes, no possessive) and arrive early. I ask for a table for two, and the hostess tells me I have to wait for the rest of my party.
A girl in college once told me she thought that people who liked the same bands could probably be friends. Her sentiment struck me as terribly naïve, but it’s taken me two decades to question my own assumption that people who like the same books share a sensibility.
Last week my wife and I went to see the formidable Barbara Ehrenreich speak at Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn. You might know Ehrenreich from Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, her much-celebrated and controversial book about the ordeals of blue-collar workers, but I love her for Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America, in which she stomps all over our country’s favorite panacea. In short, Ehrenreich’s a bad-ass. Which is why I was so surprised by the kind of people who made up her audience.