Today we descended deep into the bowels of mid-town Manhattan to take the #7 subway-line across town. It was hot down there, close to the earth’s core I imagined, and crowded. The throngs – frowning, uncommunicative, tightly bunched together, all clutching their glowing rectangles waited while the platform shuddered, signifying a train in motion- somewhere – or the shifting of the earth on the molten mass beneath. Hot. Close. I imagine this to be what Hell is like. “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” Virgil’s footsteps can be heard as he escorts Dante through these subterranean canyons inspiring his Inferno. And then the train arrives and delivers us to daylight – but only after we avoid eye contact with the young man who is doing a pole dance on the subway rail to the accompaniment of his boom box in the hope that we will fund his “college education.” Susan, still in pursuit of a good deal, talked him down to only one semester’s tuition. We emerge from the station as butterflies from a chrysalis now dancing between yellow cabs, Buddhist monks offering us flowers, the opportunity to take yet another guided bus tour, a street musician and several more homeless people with a very familiar hair style. This might seem like a lot to endure to reach our destination but the truth is, we had no destination today. This was done purely for the opportunity to walk another hundred miles on pavement. As I reminded Susan: It is better to travel than to arrive, The destination is seldom worth it without the journey, and other such phrases which help sustain us during the traffic jams of life in which we oft discover ourselves. But…………here is where life lives! Plans are wonderful if you actually want to do something but no plans make you available for anything. This will be an entire chapter in my guide book – or – my “unguide ” book. The first sentence will be “Just leave the house!”
By having no plans we have wandered into bad restaurants which would have gone undiscovered had we made plans. A few days ago aimlessly wandering with no direction we chanced to look up and thirty stories above a crane was delivering furniture and paintings to a penthouse on Park Avenue across from Central Park. Below were three large humidity controlled moving vans waiting their turn to have the contents carried aloft $$$$$$$! Where once I worried about a subway mugging, my concern has now shifted to constant vigilance against having a baby grand dropped on my head. On Saturday, enjoying a leisurely stroll through Central Park I was invited to become a prop for a team of street acrobats who in the end relieved me of my coffee money. These are encounters which we would have been denied had our days been structured and planned. We have also stumbled into good restaurants, unplanned. Due to a lack of plans we have encountered many kind New Yorkers who recognized our bewilderment on both sidewalk and subway and have offered help. In the process we have learned that if you don’t need help, people don’t help you! We do what we can to bring out the best in everyone!
My most exciting unplanned event of the day occurred at the Metropolitan Museum of Art -one of the most sensational places in which I have ever set foot. Due to unbounded enthusiasm for the display, or perhaps my failing eyesight, I apparently violated the personal space of one of the exhibits and in so doing set off various alarms. Consequently I am on temporary probation at the Met. The upside is that upon my next visit I will be assigned a personnel escort. “It is the best of all possible worlds.”
The days of a tourist are exhausting. Each night we drag our weary carcasses home and are rapidly gaining notoriety as – The people who always sleep in the city that never sleeps!
As the reader, it falls to you to separate fact from fiction. Helpful hint – Susan always has plans!
Just west of the East River, Grumpa