Ah, summer. Happy frolicking New Yorkers swing dancing in Lincoln Center, lounging on the grass in Bryant Park, and populating every rooftop bar from the lower east side to Harlem. Yes, we urbanites enjoy many seasonal perks when the weather's warm, but one activity, more than any other, seems to be happening on every lawn, pier, and park in the city. The outdoor movie. Most Americans, when considering seeing a film out of doors, hop in their cars and go to the drive-in. The New York version of the drive-in summer flick involves a blanket, a picnic from the nearest Pret a Manger, and a few friends and has quickly become one of the more popular pastimes of city folk young and old. Free showings of films from all eras are being projected this summer in Bryant Park, Central Park, Pier 54, Hudson River Park, and the Intrepid (to name a few). I decided a few days ago to lug my lawn chair over to Pier 54 to see a free showing of Julie and Julia and to partake of my first drive-in movie . . . New York style.
I arrived a good 45 minutes before the start of the film, staked out a spot in a sea of laughing, munching young adults, and settled in to read a book (Bonfire of the Vanities, people - it's a must-read). Soon, though, I realized that since I would be blogging about the experience, I should take a picture to document my presence before the sun finished its relatively quick descent into the Jersey horizon. I asked my nearest neighbor to snap the shot above. Interestingly enough, my nearest neighbor was a portly older guy named Bob whose genuine New York upbringing became apparent within the first minute of conversation. Bob snapped my picture.
"You know, I don't know how those new-fangled phone things work. My daughter's going to teach me one day to do that texting, though. She's on her way here with my possible future son-in-law. Ha!". A knowing nod and a roll of the eyes under his bushy Italian eyebrows.
"Wow. Yeah. Thanks for the picture." Good book not being read + talkative old man = grumpy Michelle. I love how people assume that I'm a friendly and approachable person just because I look unintimidating. I am not interested, people. Get that?!?! I walked back and sat down in my camping chair. I had started it, anyway.
"Hey, do you know the history of this pier?". OMG, what had I gotten myself into?
"Nope". Look down at the book. Don't engage.
"Well, remember the Titanic?" No, dude. I don't. I wasn't alive then. But, apparently you were and I'm guessing you're going to tell me whether I like it or not. "Well, after it sank, the nearest ship, the Carpathia, brought the survivors to this dock. Back then, this was Pier 23, though, not Pier 54. See that steel archway that you walked through to get here? That's the original entrance."
Hmm . . . okay. I was interested. I wondered for a few minutes if this guy was a flake and was making up stories. It made sense, though. And he seemed nice and genuine enough. All right, I thought. I'll have a little history lesson from Bob the New Yorker. I put down my book.
"Really? I love history." All I needed to say. For the next 20 minutes, Bob told me all about New York when he was growing up (okay, he wasn't alive during the whole Titanic incident, but he was a veritable expert on the subject).
"See that building over there? That used to be the ABC building." I raised my eyebrows. Now, he's really making up stuff. He chuckled. "American Biscuit Company. Now the company has moved and changed its name. Nabisco. There was a train that ran down 10th avenue and would run right through the building."
"Death Avenue", I interjected.
"Very good, young lady!". I knew a few things (see January 3rd blog for more info on Death Avenue).
We chatted until Bob's daughter arrived with her boyfriend. He introduced her to his new friend (me) as "a nice young bloggy lady" that he just met.
"You write a blog? I'm vegan. You should write about being vegan in New York. Did you know that the percentage of Vegans in New York has almost doubled in the . . . "
OMG. Well, I could tell where she got it from, anyway. Luckily the movie started and we settled down for an altogether adorable flick. I looked up into the navy sky and cherished the breeze that was intermittently ruffling my hair. Now, this was what people should do in the summer. I looked around me. This was more than seeing a free movie. There was a lazy camaraderie amongst the folks on Pier 54. It was free, but the people seemed free as well. Almost as if we had hung our protective New Yorker coats at the entrance to the pier to enjoy the company of strangers on a balmy evening. It was a big urban slumber party. I looked over at my new friend, Bob. He had understood the New York drive-in etiquette. He shared his history with me in a way he would never have done (and I would have never let him) if we were strangers on the street. I felt like I had gotten something for nothing. A lot of somethings for nothing. I guess sometimes it pays to put down the book, disregard your mom's advice, and talk to strangers.