Friday, June 29, 2007

In a New York Minute – A Bostonian Navigates Midtown Manhattan

Although I am a Bostonian through and through, I spend enough time in NYC that it often feels like a second home. I am able to comfortably move within the nooks and crannies of all of the boroughs and I enjoy the unique energy that is New York. A couple of experiences that occurred on my last two visits to the city I think are worth sharing as quintessential New York moments.

A few weeks ago I needed to take the #6 train from 77th Street to Grand Central Station. While I was waiting on the platform, I was standing in front of a very talented group of buskers - a couple of gentlemen in their 60’s and a young woman. They were all singing vintage Motown – Al Green’s classic tune: Sha la la la-- la la la, I love you. A middle-aged white woman entered the platform and joined in with the harmony, so I took my hint from her and added my voice, as well. We sounded good. Just then the train came, and the white woman and I entered the crowded subway car. Just before the doors closed, the young black woman who had been singing slipped into the car.

“I thought you were one of the performers!” I exclaimed.

“Oh, no. I live in the neighborhood, so I am often here and join in singing with them when I can just for fun.”

The three of us – the young black woman, the older white woman and I - were clustered together as strap hangers in the crowded car. As the train rattled its way southbound, I started gently singing: Sha la la la-- la la la, I love you. At the same instant, the two women joined in, and, in perfect three-part harmony, we serenaded the other commuters, many of whom smiled in appreciation. When we reached the end of the chorus, the young woman remarked to me:

“I can tell by the way you held that last note that you have had some vocal training. What do you do?”

“I am an Executive Recruiter from Boston. How about you?

“I am a personal trainer.”

I turned to the older woman and inquired: “And how about you – what do you do?”

“I am a real estate agent.”

She turned to the personal trainer and asked: “Do you have a card? I have been meaning to get in shape, and I think you might be able to help me.”

As our train slowed as it neared my destination at Grand Central, the realtor turned to me with a wry smile and said:

“Mr. Boston Executive Recruiter, you have just experienced a New York moment!”

A couple of weeks ago I was back in Manhattan for a quick visit. There was an evening event I had been invited to attend at the Copacabana on 34th St. and 11th Ave. (Yes, THE Copacabana immortalized by Barry Manilow.) I arrived in the city mid-morning, and wanted to find a place to park near the Copa, so that I would have easy access to my car when the event was over, since I would be driving to Brooklyn to spend the night at the home of some friends.

As I drove along 34th St., I was delighted to find a parking garage on the corner of 10th Ave. – less than a block away from the Copa. But, alas, as I approached the garage, I could see that it was filled to overflowing. There were cars spilling out onto the sidewalk and onto the street. Still, “nothing ventured, nothing gained,” so I pulled up and got in line behind the last car. The attendant began frantically waving me off – signaling that they could not possibly take any more cars.

Having spent a year living in the mountains of Haiti back in the mid 1970’s, I have many Haitian friends, and I speak Haitian Kreol fairly fluently. I could tell by the way the garage attendant looked and by the way he carried himself that he was probably Haitian, so I rolled down my window and shouted:

“Eske ou sort Haiti?” (“Are you from Haiti?”)

His face lit up, and he replied that he was indeed from Haiti.

I then hit him with a rapid fire string of Kreol words that, loosely translated, conveyed the following message:

“I am from Haiti, too. In fact, I am a white Haitian! I can’t believe that you can’t find one little spot in your garage for the car of a white Haitian!”

He broadened his smile and then started laughing out loud. He replied, in Kreol:

“OK, you win. Leave your car right here and I’ll find a place for it, my friend.”

Only in New York! Or Boston!

Life is such a marvelous series of adventures!



No comments: