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Barefoot in NYC


I went on an indefinite road trip mid September, my main destination: Vermont. After packing up camp and taking a quick detour to New Hampshire, I drove to some friends' farm in New York. 

"I'm thinking about going to the city," I'd told them. 
"Well, you can't go without us," they told me. 
"Fine. But I have things I want to do. You don't have to do them with me, but I will be doing them."
"Alright." 

And so the three of us girls, barely knowing each other in real life, drove for the city, their boyfriends freaking. "We're not sure you should be traveling with this crazy girl. We heard she doesn't wear shoes or a seatbelt." 

"Don't worry. She's not so crazy in real life."  


We didn't want to drive into the city tired, so I pulled off at a rest stop about forty-five minutes outside of the city. We piled all of our luggage on the front seats then stretched out side-by-side in the back of my station wagon, piling under wool blankets and using coats and fluffy clothing for cushioning... didn't work all that well. Never have my hips been so sore! It was uncomfortable and fun.

Yes, fun. Uncomfortable things are often fun if you don't grumble. 

We awoke early and cold and ready to get going. Stuff was moved back. 

We had no idea where we were going to stay, or what we'd do with my car. So quickly we talked about it and began researching options. At last, we reserved a recommended kitchenette suite and calibrated the GPS accordingly. 

It was starting to feel real. 
We were going to the heart of America. We all had our own reasons. 

Mine were:

  • I wanted Döner Kababs
  • I wanted to be where Jack Kelley had been 
  • And I chose now because people said you couldn't. Not without a mask or vaccine passport. Watch me, my soul sang. Watch me thrive in NYC during the "craziest" times, and watch me do it barefoot!
We made it. We found a parking garage a block away. It was a valet garage ran by a bunch of men that barely spoke English. None of us girls knew just what a valet garage meant. Could we get our car whenever we wanted? No. Could we get things we needed out of our car? Yes, but we'd have to ride the car lift with one of the guys. 

Ok. So it would be.

We piled up with all the things we needed, each of us carrying a large portion, and still needing to come back for a second. 

I told my friends, "We will need all these things. Just wait. I've traveled plenty before." 

And so we managed.

Our apartment wouldn't be ready until 3pm. It was 8am.

"Can we leave our things here in the hall?"
Yes.

We piled our luggage onto a cart, returned with our second load, then asked for a public restroom so we could freshen up.

Now in clean clothes we were alive. We were ready. 

We were in New York City.

"Oh. I'm so glad we came!" 
"We did it!" 
"We're here!"
First we walked a little over an hour to China town to meet up with a couple that has followed my GoodReads' reviews and blog posts. It was a pleasant brunch and meeting, and they helped us feel oriented, and encouraged me in my art.
A highlight was climbing this building! 
That first day in New York was many lifetimes. We walked and walked and built up courage to see just how New York City would treat us. 

People didn't care about us not wearing masks. No one attacked us (we attacked no one).

As the day wore on and our feet ached more we decided to brave the ferry to Staten Island. 

"Just pretend to know what you're doing and walk straight in"

It was definitely an aggressive act. Because I felt it might not work. But I walked as if it was the only thing that would happen... and it did. We boarded the ferry, wandered around, then split ways. 

I started feeling introverted, so I charged our phones and read while the girls went up higher to look out for Lady Liberty. 

The fire alarms went off as soon as we entered our hotel. We sat on the stairs watching people panic. 

"Everything is ok. We just had a water pipe burst."

After the clerks had the others taken care of, they gave me the keys. We had to carry our things up because the elevators were turned off until the alarms could be fixed.
The next day was good.
I left early, alone, for a private adventure to the library. 

Walking barefoot in NYC surrounded by strangers put me on high. Ah. This is what it means to be confident. 

A homeless guy said, "You haven't shoes." 

I smiled at him.

People stared. I was oblivious, as confident people must be if they wish to remain sane and dignified. 

I walked back to the valet garage for some little things we forgot. Two Indian men helped me. 

"You stand there," they told me. They drove a car onto the lift. Then joined me. We stopped before my car. 

"Stand here," they pointed to a corner. 

I watched them maneuver the car into a spot with hardly three inches to spare. When all three of us were back on the lift I said, "Parking like that must make you so proud!" 

They grinned. 

"Is it hard to learn to do?"

"No! Just takes lots of practice!"

Then they warmed up and we chatted until we came to my car. They watched me as I carefully held my door so my hand was between the door and the next car and I crawled into my car through too small of a space.

"Good," the approved. "Take your time. We'll be back."

I found my umbrella, shoes for my friend, and some food stuff we forgot, as well as a couple more jugs of water. 

I put as much of it into my backpack as would fit. Then filled my arms. Just as they returned for me.

The girls were ready and waiting. "We were thinking of going to Central Park," they said. "And buying bagels on the way."

I loved the idea. 

I told everyone to take some vitamin C and Vitamin A, my staples on the road. Made sure we all had water. Put a knife and book into my backpack, as well as chapstick, an ink pen and a little black notebook, and then some nuts. 

Then began our second day.
(I never found needles, but lots and lots of money I did find!)


All of us girls were obsessed with the fruit.
The fact we all color coordinated is a complete accident. A lovely one. 

We visited Central Park. The top of my right foot hurt like no pain ever has. I grumbled and pleasantly as I could manage. We rested when we felt like it, but mostly explored.

We walked alongside a woman who said we were beautiful. We said she was, too. We asked here where her favorite thriftstore was.

"In the Bronx." 

We went to China Town in Flushing, and we decided to see if we could take the subway maskless... and yes, we could. 

I'm pretty sure the girls didn't really care about wearing masks. And really, deep down I don't either. I just wanted to see. And it did something wondrous for all three of us. We saw that indeed the world is much finer and safer and funner than it would admit. 

The subway ride was excellent. Gave me cozy Germany memories.
Later that night one of my friends, the photographer, wished to take some nighttime NYC shots. I was her willing candidate. 

Our feet killed us, it was drizzling, but we were determined. We brought a backpack of clothing props and extra camera parts. I held the umbrella over her while she adjusted her camera, then I ran to wherever she told me, sometimes with the umbrella. 

It was fun. Mostly. Some friendly Indian guy came over. "You're barefoot! Can I get. Picture with you?" 

Feeling like a celebrity, I smiled for his phone camera. 

My friend noticed a crown of young Mexican lads around a bouquet of roses. They seemed nervous and excited. We watched them. Suddenly one of them broke away and hurried to us. He said to me, "Hi! I'm being challenged to hand this rose out. Will you accept it? Please?" 

"Yes," I laughed pleasantly.

My friend and I were cold and wet and decided we had enough photos. Nearly back to our apartment we passed two young cops. One of them said, "Where's your shoes?"

"I don't wear them."

"This is a dirty city." It wasn't his words, but his sinister tone. It was the one time I felt unsafe in the city. 

My friend said the next day, "It took me awhile to get his voice out of my head."

"Yeah. He was evil."
Life changed the next day. 
Drastically. 

One of the gals got a phone call from her boyfriend. "I think you should go to the lobby."

She was smart. "Are you here!?" She squealed and ran downstairs.

A few moments later she returned with her guy and two of his brothers. Happy, happy, happy! 

The three guys eyed me, the crazy gal.

"You're not mad we came?" 

"Nah! You guys are just what she needed this morning. Besides. We've had a couple days for ourselves. You came at the right time."

We chilled until we were buddies. They let me know they'd stalked my Instagram and laughed at it and knew I wasn't as crazy as I pretended to be.

I told them we were thinking of going to Brooklyn and Williamsburg today via subway. 

"Just do what I do," I told them. "You won't have issues with masks. Don't accept any mask handed to you." 

The boys bought a room near us, then we headed to Grand Central Station. 

I chatted as if they were brothers, all of us laughing and teasing each other right away. It was good... the perfect self-expressive clique. 

"My goal is to get a Hasidic Jew to speak to me," I told the guys. "And find some good Brooklyn thrift stores."

And so we went forward. 

We checked out many thriftstores that bored us. Then we found the loveliest Brooklyn street, vibrant and strong and real. 

First we found Monks, the cutest vintage clothing shop. We girls all agreed it had the best selection. Then we found another thriftstore called Junk or Mother of Junk. The place was packed with the best selection ever, missing only books. There were marbles, silverware, dishes, furniture, and more. We all bought lots. And then had to carry it! 
And yes. Many Hasidic Jews spoke to me, coming and asking me what I was, if I were Jewish. The conversations were short, but satisfying.


After walking over Brooklyn Bridge we boarded Staten Island Ferry again. I again introverted a bit more, charging phones and journaling. 
On the last day we accidentally color coordinated again. 

The boys wanted to see a bunch of memorials and stuff that I and one of the girls didn't want to see. So we all split ways, meeting up only to have lunch at a German Berlin style Döner Kabab venue... so worth going to New York for, yummy!! 

We two girls found thriftstores and bookstores, and interesting people to speak to. We were also tired and rested a lot! My right foot throbbed! But sometimes it would numb. 

There was one fun looking thriftstore that wouldn’t let us in without a mask. My friend wishes to go in, though. I was tired anyway and proposed that I'd people watch while she went in.

I sat on a step, our backpacks around me and fell out of the fast street life and became a fly on the wall gathering tid bits of everything and nothing. So many different fashions and words and...

A tall white guy, looking like an ex hippie but dresses like a gentleman saw me. "You alright, sister?"

"Yeah! Just waiting on my friend inside."

"Good!"

After exhausting ourselves thoroughly, we made our way to the subway station, but stumbled over a roadside table with books piled high.

At once it was obvious this was a grand selection, better than most of the other stores. A large black man hurried over. 

"How much are your books?"

"I have to look each one up." He took away our selections, hobbled away behind a bush to where his friend sat with a computer. 

A tall, young black fellow came over and started talking to me about the books. He asked if we were Mormons? 

"More like gypsies, or anarchists." 

He laughed and said he was an anarchist, too. He asked more questions. Whatever I said he said, "Me, too."

So I started saying outrageous stuff. He agreed and seemed ever the more in love. And I liked him for it and would have given him my number had he asked... obviously he knew something about books...

"I don't think he's ever read any books," my friend said. "He was just there to chat."

Back at the apartment we watched a horror film that disgusted all of us. I'm not sure how it even got to be chosen. And we all went out to timesquare.

I love the night life. So many things to see...

"Keturah is so oblivious," one of the guys said. "If it weren't for us she'd have been mugged before."

"No!" I protested. 

"Don't you see everyone staring at you? It's strange."

I didn't notice until one guy reached out and grabbed my wrist. I gave him a violent look and leaned toward the boys away from his touch. He walked on. I grinned to my friends, saying nothing.

"Good thing we're here. " 

I laughed, and talked them into staying and watching a bunch of street performers, then to get nearer an arrest in progress. 

I really wanted to dumpster dive in the city, but unfortunately we never made time for it except once when I found a black bag full of fresh pizza slices. I took them and we ate them over the next couple days. 

The next day we packed up and was out. We were able to carry everything to our car in one trip with the help of one of the guys... the others had to hurry to their car. 

We made it to my car with time to sit ;D Don't we look like hobos?
I had one goal when driving out of NYC: to maneuver my way out smoothly without been honked at once. 

I succeeded, and had fun while at it. 

Then outside the city we stopped for one more look. "Wasn't that fun, y'all?"


Comments

  1. OK. I officially want to go to NYC now.

    Lovely post, Keturah. All the pictures. *heart eyes*

    ReplyDelete
  2. Apropos of nothing: You MUST read this.

    https://gutenberg.org/files/837/837-h/837-h.htm

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. oohh, I love E. Nesbit, and have read many of her books. I'll check out this one!

      Delete
  3. I mean you'll have a conniption in about 5 places.

    ReplyDelete

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