January in New York is a bitter existence.
Frigid winds whip through skyscrapers and salt stains the tall black boots of the girls who refuse to sacrifice style on account of the weather. The breakneck pace of native walkers is slowed by ice and slush. Sanities run thinner than usual by Mother Nature’s obstacles along every imaginable commute.
But today there is no slush, no ice, no salt stained boots. It’s January and instead of heating their interiors, shops have their windows open and music lingers along the streets. No natural obstacles are slowing the commute but commuters are walking slower nonetheless, taking uncharacteristic moments to stop and feel the sun on their faces. Its January, and its over 60 degrees today. Despite the creepy global warming implications, everyone is blissfully carefree.
I’ve had a hard time transitioning from writing about my adventures in Thailand to writing about New York. I had hoped the inspiration would come as easily as it had on the beaches of Krabi. New York City is often just as foreign and confusing as the small towns I came upon in Laos, and I swear the subways here are more confusing than the winding streets of Bangkok. But with moving to New York came rent and utilities and jobs and stresses that were nonexistent on my travels. I don’t take the time to stop and look around anymore because I lack the time and the money to be careless with either.
But today I took a little detour from budgeting and stressing, took a half-day of work, and ventured over to a little Italian Restaurant in Soho. The waiter at Ciao Café Wine Bar was delighted to have a customer. Despite the nice weather, I was the only one making use of the patio furniture. It’s always a little awkward to be the center of a server’s attention — the only thing to distract them from polishing wine glasses or rolling silverware — but he was delightfully attentive. I sat on a rickety yellow chair on the crooked surface of a sidewalk at the corner of Bleeker and MacDougal Street. Moments after ordering, a glass of House Shiraz (apparently an impressive ten year old bottle which I probably couldn’t differentiate from Yellow Tail) sat cautiously on the slanted end of my picnic table for one. The sun was on my face but low enough to allow computer screen visibility. It was the perfect afternoon and the words just poured into my laptop.
Eating solo, drinking solo, living solo — that was my life for two months of my trip and I reveled in the creativity it provoked. Who knew, I could do the exact same thing in New York City. Its just not something you think of when you’re living your day to day out of habit — eating at places you’ve been to, going to bars where the bartender knows you, and living life within specific comfort zones. But to live life like you’re on vacation, even if its just once in awhile, opens up the places you thought you knew and often offers pleasant surprises.
With just a swig of shiraz left in my bowl of a glass, I found myself in the company of a a random man with his head over my shoulder, holding his curious face about about 10 inches from my computer screen. When I turned he laughed, harmlessly, and patted me on the shoulder.
OK, so he was definitely some combination of homeless and crazy, and maybe if it had been cold and rainy out I would have recoiled and glared a solid New York glare. But it was sunny and I was writing and I didn’t feel particularly intruded upon. My initial, completely unrealistic reaction was that he was actually reading what I was writing — and enjoying it, of course. Did he catch enough of my words to realize the epiphany I was having? Or was the sunshine just having the same strange effect on him that was on me — an unexplained fascination for everyone and everything around us? Regardless, I love New York today. And I’m pretty certain he does too. So thank you homeless man, thank you sunshine, and here’s to finding beauty in the everyday.