Outside the Helen Hayes Theatre, waiting for the doors to open, a very agitated male teenager passed on the sidewalk. He was walking briskly and talking in a loud voice with himself. He was also gesticulating, and in so-doing was using up all the free airspace in all directions.
“What’s the matter with him?” asked the woman on the line ahead of me.
“’T’s an angry young man. What can I tell you?” replied her husband, as indulgent as he could sound.
This was my introduction to blasé New Yorkers.
Slowly the line shortened and I was up at the wicket at Lincoln Center. I was mostly interested in seeing the spectacular setting and inside of the 16 acre site—home of the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera and the New York City Ballet. I was ready to listen or watch. As it became my turn at the wicket, I asked:
Wicket keeper: “Joo-lee-us Cee-ah.”
I guess I paused for a New York beat too long, so wicket man added:
“’Ts an Apra”
I bought a ticket and achieved all my goals.
I would regularly walk on near the Ed Sullivan Theatre, home of the old David Letterman Show. I watched the show on hundreds of occasions, and was in the studio audience several times. I’d occasionally stop in to chat with Rupert Gee, the deli-operator who was also a regular guest on Letterman. Rupert is as he appears on TV—a little startled with the attention, but sincere.
On one occasion there was a big crowd extending down the block. I thought perhaps Rupert was having a sale of special deli sandwiches.
No, it was a lineup to see someone coming in or leaving the stage door of the theatre. This is where the guests came and went. This time I was the talkative New York street performer:
“Who’s all this for?”
“Wa-keen Phoenix” said my fellow street performer.
This was early in Mr Phoenix’s career. I guess after all my trips to New York I still paused a New York moment too long, because an older woman in the crowd showed some empathy:
“Ever since Frank Sinatra died, I don’t know any of them.
Way out in the Rockaways, I ran out of gas. My GPS told me there was a gas station close by and so I locked my wife in the car and began walking. The GPS was wrong and the gas station had closed. I thought of lining up at a bus stop, but didn’t know how often busses came or where they went. I lined up at a red light and thought I’d hitch hike. Up came a convertible Thunderbird. I could see inside and the driver could see me. I explained my situation and asked for a ride.
“Sure” he said as he started moving a mountain of stuff off his passenger seat to the small spaces in the back of the car and between the seats.
“Oh, don’t worry, if you see my gun, I’m a cop.”
I pointed to a spot of blood on my shirt, and said:
“Great, and if you notice the blood on my shirt, I’m not an axe murderer, I just reached into my shaving kit this morning and cut my finger on my razor.”
“No problem. Get in.”
Unlike so many New York stories, this man was a cop, seconded to the Triborough Bridge, and I wasn’t an axe murderer. Many people go to the Big Apple to reinvent themselves. Others remain who they actually are.