Late afternoon, I was walking towards Times Square when the world turned. A blast of cold air fell upon us (probably down from some strange place like Canada!). I was ready – toque, hood over toque, Arctic mitts, three coats including a down jobbie. A few folks semi-ran by me with nothing on their noggins, and their necks open to the blast. How can you do that and stay alive? Most people, though, were reasonably bundled up like me.
I’ve made it a spiritual practice to cross at an intersection only when I have the walk light. It gets my ego out of the way … no pushing forward, just letting go. New Yorkers feel otherwise. Red or green – if there’s no cars coming, it’s a go. Waiting as the stream of humanity flows by is good for me, but I can feel my heartrate surging, especially as the cold invades my eyes.
The snow started. In my mind, that’s supposed to mean it’s warming up, but not so yesterday. A whole bunch of white folks (irrespective of their skin colour) turned it up a notch. I had a bit of face skin open to the elements but that was it. There began a desperation and I started searching for an inviting door. What seemed like “finally” showed up, and just like that I was perched at the bar of an Irish pub. Thank God.
Then there was Bryan Cranston. He’s the star of Network, a Broadway play at the Belasco Theatre, and I got to go. Bryan played Howard Beale, a TV news anchor who’s losing it. The world has gone to **** and he’s “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore”. The guy’s unravelling into madness and we’re right there with him, yelling from the audience. Corruption, sleasiness, violence … it’s all smashing Howard in the face. A Type-A network executive sees only ratings before her eyes and wants the man to implode on the 6 o’clock news. He’s happy to oblige.
The intensity was astonishing. I really wasn’t pissed off at the powers-that-be in the world but nevertheless I was swept up in the dizziness of it all.
At the end, there were video snips of a series of US presidents taking the oath of office – all the way back to Gerald Ford, I think. The same words but such different souls. When George W. Bush was onscreen, we were silent. I knew who was coming next, and when Barack’s gentle face appeared, we the people cheered. I trust him so.
We filed out into the night, scarves and gloves firmly in place, knowing that we had been in the presence of greatness. The frigid evening came calling and I rushed to the subway. At the other end, I prayed for a quick M14A bus. Alas, no. Three M14D ones came by as my body stiffened. “Not fair”, I wailed. But still a little smile emerged. “Don’t worry, Bruce. You’ll survive nicely.” And I did. A half hour later, the covers caressed me as I pulled them up to my chin.