See the photo above? Of course, it would be easy to suggest such a picture results when the operator is inebriated. I wasn’t. Actually, I was working on a sweet shot of a guy carrying a huge bouquet of roses. Instead, I learned not to press my camera button too long. Or not. Thought it was interesting even if you can’t be sure what you’re looking at.
8:3o pm Valentine’s Night
Though I leave the Empire State Building empty handed, I am not despondent. How can you expect someone to show up when they don’t know they’re supposed to be somewhere? Nevertheless, I did put out there that I was making a Valentine’s pilgrimage. My friend, Bonnie, would say that this is where I get myself into trouble. She would say be careful what you wish for… She would say that throwing out the idea of meeting Mr. Right can be taken as a dare by the cosmic board. She would suggest that asking for Mr. Right isn’t the problem. The issue is being clear about defining who Mr. Right is. I’ve learned the universe like specificity. My friend, Bonnie, has several good stories about hints I’ve thrown into the universe while neglecting to specify some tragic deal breaker. On this night, I joked about wishing for an encounter with Mr. Right and, unwittingly, left the door open for the cosmic board to go comic.
Mr. Really Wrong
My loose plan was to have dinner at Grand Central Station. A simple stroll from the Empire State Building up 5th Avenue to 42nd. Just a few blocks and so I go. Before the right turn on 42d, I see the magnificent main branch of the New York Public Library and juxtaposed is a skyscraper circa 1950. A shot too good to pass up. I line up the shot. Adjust for composition. Push on the camera button — and, out of nowhere, jumps this crazy guy babbling something about needing to have his picture taken. He tells me I can take the picture or he can take it. He is emphatic that he must have a picture. I stand mute. Stunned. Mentally shaking my head, knowing that this will probably end badly and I will live down to Rose Mueller’s worries. I will have to tell her about how I got rolled for my camera on a stroll up 5th Avenue. But wait, somehow I have the forethought to look around. The sidewalks are full. I am surrounded by people. Yes, the guy looks crazy, but something inside me says he’s not malicious. To my own surprise I hear myself say, “OK.” He poses. I snap the shot and walk off. Briskly. He is happy and I am free. I wonder whether he expected to inherit my camera or just needed to be seen. Either way, all is well. He did not ask for a date.
Grand and Penn.
8:45pm With my heart rate a bit higher than normal, I turn the corner at 42nd and 5th. Grand Central Station appears to sit at the feet of the Chrysler Building. I love train stations and I love traveling by train.
My first big trip alone was from Geneva, Illinois to Chicago when I was 16 and won the Illinois Farm Electrification Award trip and a couple nights at the Palmer House. I rode the Chicago-Northwestern alone both ways. In college, Kathy Yih and I traveled from Odessa to Moscow on the overnight train. Years later, Rose Mueller and I took Eurorail from Germany to Rome to see Pope Paul VI’s funeral. And, when I spoke at the ELSIN Conference in 2009, I took the Eurostar under the channel from London to Brussels. After seeing the old Paris station on the trip with Rose, I painted an oil inspired by its interior. So many stations are incredible pieces of art.
I would have loved to see Penn Station, but alas, they tore it down to build the less than stellar Madison Square Garden. I fell in love with Penn Station when it was a central character in an old 40’s movie, The Clock. In the movie, Robert Walker is a GI on leave for a day and he falls in love with Judy Garland who he meets in, of course, Penn Station. All that said, I’m nearly as excited to see Grand Central. After all, how many times have I used the old phrase “…it was as busy as Grand Central Station…?” It is a site to behold.
9pm. I am past the peak travel time and all is quiet. The massive marble passages evoke a museum rather than a thoroughfare. I follow the signage down to the lower level and am enchanted by the ticket windows and gateways. There is a little Mexican restaurant with seating on a patio adjoining the main walkway to the trains. This is where I will have my Valentine’s meal. Fish tacos and a margarita.
9:45pm. Walking back to the hotel, I pass Bryant Park again. Beautifully decked in veils of little white lights. Everyone is enjoying the warm and quiet
night. I haven’t noticed that more people are kissing tonight, but there are more bouquets and bold red accessories (departures from the Manhattan uniform of black and grey).
That’s enough for the night. Tomorrow I will do a serious exploration the New York Public Library and much more in the next episode of “A Farm Girl in Manhattan.”