This is the story of the time I picked up a guy on a New York City street. It doesn’t just happen on TV.
On December 31st 2009 I lost my Unlimited Monthly Metro Card. I’m sure I was not alone in my plight, I’d even hazard a guess that more people lose their Metro Cards on New Year’s Eve than any other night of the year. For most people, you suck it up and buy a new one, start the year fresh. For me this carelessness changed my life.
The card was due to expire on January 5th, so the loss was rather small considering the monthly scale. But considering 6 days and $2.25 a pop fare, I decided to see how far I could get avoiding the subway. Pretty far, I’ve discovered. I haven’t bought an Unlimited Metro Card since.
And so I’ve been walking to and from work everyday. Well, every day it doesn’t snow. I love starting the day this way- fresh air, sunshine (if I’m lucky), and people watching. It’s wonderful to be in control of my commute, picking up the pace when I’m late rather than pacing in frustration when a subway is delayed. I enjoy seeing familiar faces on the streets, people who do the same walk as me every day. Shop keepers rolling up security doors, setting out produce in the morning. High schoolers traveling in packs, often comical in their naiveté and the fact that I know I was much the same and just as annoying during that phase. Dog walkers and the hideous, absurd winter get-ups they inflict upon their animals. The dad walking his two little girls (ages 6 and 9 maybe) to school everyday, his back laden with Hannah Montana backpacks, his hands grasping little pink mitten-ed hands makes me think of my daddy and our elementary school walks.
The walk home occurs less frequently and is generally less “savored”. Getting home is a goal that drives me more than getting to work and thus I’m less prone to distraction. Plus it’s often dark- harder to see things. It takes something bigger than dog sweaters and a colorful fruit display to get my attention.
The other day I was walking home from a rehearsal. It was about 9PM and I was lost in my own thoughts when I blinked and noticed the man walking two paces in front of me. Can you measure a person’s attractiveness from their back? I can’t. Sometimes I think I can and wind disappointed. That’s not what brought my eyes to staring at this guy. It was the banjo he had strapped on his back.
Now I live right by Lincoln Center and work in the Theatre District; Julliard students lugging around upright bases and pit orchestra players with trombone cases strapped to their backs are a common sight. But a banjo? Who plays the banjo and then walks up 9th Ave with the naked instrument slung over his shoulder like a messenger bag? I was driven to find out, more so than I was driven to get home.
My (annoying but I’m making progress to change it) proclivity of waiting for people for people to come to me gets trumped when I have something very specific to come to with said person. With Banjo Guy I have just that. I need answers to all questions this banjo brings to mind.
I sidled up next to him,“So I have to ask, do you carry the banjo around just to look cool or do you actually play it?” (I’ll leave it to you to decide whether that’s a better line than my Trader Joe’s check out line line.)
He looks at the person assaulting him on the street (me), our eyes meet (me to myself: now lookie there he is cute! that’s lucky. Possibly a hipster, definitely from Brooklyn, the banjo indicates clear musical tendencies…), and he smiles at me (dimples!! ahhh!).
“You think it makes me look cool?”
I am so in. That’s not a Uh, why are you talking to me? Not a Fuck off, rando. Not even a Oh you think you’re clever? Nice try. It’s a genuine Ok, I accept your random offer of conversation, it’s welcome rather than weird. Sweet.
I would later learn he had a fixie bike in addition to the banjo. Along with many ironic t-shirts and leather jackets. And hipster glasses that he occasionally wore. On top of it all, he denied being a hipster, thus making him the perfect cliche. [image credit: dustinland.com]
Our conversation begins in the west 40s- I’m walking to the 60s (home), he’s looking for a bar to get a drink. Where in Hell’s Kitchen, he could have found a bar at pretty much any point during our 20 block walk. But he doesn’t, he walks with me all the way up the street. My burning questions answered: He dabbles in being a street musician (omg! me too!
Christmas caroling for ever!) when he’s not tailoring men’s suits (omg you’re not an actor? I extra ♥ you!). Yep, he lives in Brooklyn (told ya!!!) Seems nice, a little bit off sense of humor, but I might like it.
I’m the one who ends the walk – needing to make the necessary veer left to get home. Before I make said veer, Banjo Guy asks for my phone number. Striking up a conversation on the street? Total success. Not only that, he actually used the number to call me and make a date. Which actually happened last night. No blog worthy story from it (I’m spoiled. My first two first dates in NY were good stories. I now think all first dates should all be that way and this is far from reality) but it was a good date.
Yes, I had fun. Maybe I like him. No, didn’t bring his banjo along.
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