Friday, March 30, 2007

What Happens When Normal Comes to New York

Last weekend, one of my favorite Atlanta couples came for a visit and absolutely made my weekend. Chris & Amy O'Stean, my friends from Bolivia trip 2005 & 2006, spent the entire day with me on Saturday, and were lucky enough to witness firsthand the weirdness that seems to follows me here in NYC.

First thing, they stopped by the apartment to get a glimpse of the teensyness that a heaping helping of money rents in NYC. On the way to brunch, just one avenue away from home, we experienced our first run-in with weirdness. While waiting to cross the street, a relatively large and seedy-looking man stood right in front of me. I thought he was going to ask for money, but no, that would be too typical. Instead, he said, "Ma'am, you look real nice, yeah, real nice. I noticed you don't have a wedding ring. I want to marry you. Let’s get married."

He started to reach for my hand. As you probably know, I don’t like anyone in my personal space, especially freaky strangers, and here this guy was reaching out for my literal and figurative hand in marriage. I had to think fast, so I came up with the most bizarre, outlandish and totally astonishing lie I could think of.

I have a boyfriend and he’d be really mad if I got engaged. So sorry, no.”

He said okay, gave up easily and skulked away. Chris and Amy looked at me in bewilderment, and believe it or not, that was not the weirdest person we came across that day.

After a lovely brunch, we walked to Central Park and since it had gotten a bit cold, we holed up in the Boathouse bordering the Lake (the same Lake where my brother went swimming for his girlfriend’s sunglasses.)

We chose a table with a lovely view right next to the live pianist, and yet the audible scenery was not quite as pleasant as one would think. Behind us in a tucked away and unnoticed corner of the Boathouse, was an older lady/hippie/transient sitting alone. On her table she had three empty water bottles, several Styrofoam cups and a couple of unfolded newspapers – she clearly hadn’t ordered anything from the bar or the restaurant, but just seemed to be reading the paper at her leisure. Beside her was a middle-schooler-sized green Army bag full of who-knows-what. Her hair was braided a la Pippy Longstocking (sans the upturned look), and she had multicolored ribbons woven throughout each braid. She looked like she was wearing some sort of canvas tarp over her ankle length denim skirt. Though she seemed out of place with the Boathouse’s swankier clientele, she wasn’t completely frightening upon first sight – and that’s where the “clicking” comes in.

This may be difficult to explain in words, but as the afternoon hours passed and the three of us sat at our table, this woman made the most ridiculous noises and faces I have ever seen. She was clicking, or hissing, or rattling out of her mouth. I couldn’t demonstrate if I tried. It looked as though she were straining to squeeze the sounds out of her teeth. Her face made me think she was perhaps giving birth to a live chicken or something. Had we been sitting outside, I would have thought maybe she was bird-calling to some of the water foul, however, we were in a nice restaurant! And she kept on and on and on, clicking and clucking and twisting and contorting her face. Maybe it was a nervous twitch brought on by the peaceful sounds of instrumental Frank Sinatra on the piano. During the clicking, she continued to read the paper, seemingly unaffected by my casual glances in her direction. I really wanted to know what in the world was going on with her, but eventually she blended in to the piano accompaniment and by the end of three hours, we’d almost forgotten she was there. But she never stopped.

Round Three of weirdness happened as we were shopping in Columbus Circle. Amy and I were freshening up in the bathroom, when this little girl came barreling into the bathroom and decisively planted herself behind us. Looking out our reflections in the mirror, she pointed at us both and hollered, “YOU AND YOU ARE SOOOOO PRETTY! YOU AND YOU! WOW!”

Amy had the presence of mind to say, “Thank you,” but I just gaped as the little girl’s voice echoed throughout the bathroom’s tiled walls. Apparently I have a limit for random encounters with strange New Yorkers in one day, and I had reached capacity. Quickly, we set off in the rain for a delish dinner at Ruby Foo’s, where there were no clicking transients, nor marriage proposals from strangers nor odd screaming children.

Apart from the curiously large amount of weirdos who seemed to be following us all day, the O'Stean's presence in NYC was like a breath of fresh Southern (but pollen-free) air. I forgot how nice it is to have grounded, normal, married friends, and I never feel like a third wheel when I’m hanging out with those two.

So who’s coming to visit next? Weirdos are guaranteed, or your money back!

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