In the Neighborhood

I wrote this post back in February when I was in production for Superstar. I didn’t finish writing it back then; finding peace in ambiguity wasn’t high on my skills list in the middle of tech. But it’s been on my mind lately because I keep passing the intersection where this happened.

New York has different vibes in different neighborhoods, and those vibes are time-of-day dependent. I work in midtown, which is packed full of office people during the day and tourists at night. I’m rarely there past 11pm. This week the show is putting me up at a hotel because we have a short turnaround during tech rehearsals. Last night I walked out after midnight into a very different vibe in the neighborhood. One that I can’t quite shake.

I was walking to my hotel and came upon two young guys with skateboards. I watched them move very slowly out into the street; they were looking intently at something in the road. I followed their gaze and saw a man lying in the bike lane, unconscious, next to a taxi, liquid spilling out on the ground away from him.

I asked one of them, “Did he get hit or is he drunk?”

(In case you haven’t been here, you totally talk to strangers in New York. It’s just what you do.)

“I dunno,” the young guy said. He looked really worried. The cabbie was standing over the unconscious man. His cell phone was in his hand, but he didn’t seem to be calling anyone.

“Has he called 911?”

“I doubt it,” the guy said. We were two blocks from a police station and about an avenue over from a hospital.

I moved closer. Other people, take-charge type people, suddenly appeared. A woman picked up the unconscious man’s cell phone from the ground and started looking for a contact that said home. A man asked the cabbie what happened as he pulled his own Blackberry out and dialed 911. The cabbie said the man hailed him and he hit him while he was stopping.

I saw that the liquid spilling out on the ground wasn’t urine as I had assumed, but Snapple. A broken Snapple bottle peeking out of a plastic Duane Reade bag.

An old man came up next to me and said, “Is he a doctor?” referring to the take-charge man on the phone. “I think he’s a doctor,” he said.

It was pretty to think so. Comforting enough for me that I decided to walk away though I didn’t feel good about it. But I wasn’t going to add much to the scene. The take-charge type people were there and I had half a brain cell left and I needed it to find my hotel.

The old man said to me, “New York. Always something happens here. You be careful,” and he smiled at me and we went off different directions.

That Richard Thompson song Did She Jump Or Was She Pushed was running through my head and I was wondering if the unconscious man was going to be okay when another voice interrupted me.

“Hey, you don’t know where the Hudson Hotel is, do you?”

A friendly guy in a suit. The only kind of strangers in New York I don’t usually talk to. Especially when we’re walking the same direction and that’s my fricking hotel that he’s asking directions to.

“Um, yeah, it’s just up here another street and then almost to the next avenue. You go left,” I said, and then I slowed my pace, hoping he’d pass me by.

“The weather said it’s supposed to be sixty-seven degrees tomorrow,” he said, matching my pace.

Crap.

I made some small talk back over my shoulder as I changed tactics and sped ahead. I hoped he’d lose sight of me. I had the extra assurance of knowing that there is no name on the outside of the Hudson Hotel. One of those swanky New York things that had always annoyed me up until this moment. You go in an unmarked entrance and up an escalator to get to the lobby.

CC was working early mornings and should have been sleeping at this time, but I hadn’t talked to him all day and the events of the evening had me raw and edgy. I hit speed dial 2 on my phone and it rang and rang and rang. I got his voice mail. I hung up and resisted the impulse to look over my shoulder to see if the suit was still right behind me. I tried to pick out his footsteps. Tried to judge how close he was. I was all twitchy.

And here’s why I love my husband. He called me back all sleepy even though he had to get up in like three hours and when I said Hey I just saw a guy that had been hit by a cab he stayed on the phone with me til I got to my room. Because he gets it. He knows from experience how messed up your head can get during production. He also knows the neighborhoods, how they change at different hours. How at some point in your city life you will probably walk away from someone on the street who may or may not be dying because help is on the way, and you are not it.

And because I get it- how when you’re the spouse at home while your other is away in production,  you worry- I didn’t mention the suit. I stayed on the phone with CC not talking much, me listening to him try to stay awake, him listening to me trying to get to my room.

Before I hit the elevator I allowed myself a shot across the lobby and saw that the suit wasn’t there. Me, in the clear. There never was anything to see here. All in my overextended imagination.

Imagine that.

In my room, I said goodbye to my husband and took off my work boots. I cracked the window above my bed and let the sounds of the city spill in across the windowsill, down the wall and onto the pillows.

The words of the old man came back to me: New York. Always something happens here. You be careful.

Yours, Mine, and Ours

I’m lucky enough to belong to two great writing groups, one of which meets in New York every week.

We meet in a Public Space near Julliard close to Lincoln Center. I had never heard of a Public Space- spoken of in capital letters- before I met these excellent people. A Public Space is a place where you have the right, just by being a member of the public, to be there. Seems like a no-brainer, but it’s something of a big deal here. They don’t kick you out because you’re taking too long to finish your cappuccino or someone else wants your table; they only kick you out for being seriously annoying and/or dangerous, in which case the cops do the kicking. Not that I would know about that.

At the Public Space in which we meet there is a Public Restroom. These are rare and highly valued in New York. One of the reasons I’m not revealing the exact location is so that you don’t show up and I have to wait to use the restroom because you got there ahead of me. I live in Jersey. We don’t play nice.

There are actually two public restrooms in this Space, but one of them has no door handle and while you would think you would just be able to push the door open and go in, you can’t. I have no idea how to open the door. I’m not writing about that one.

I’m writing about the other one.

I had to be sneaky to get these pictures. Every corner of this building is under surveillance, and authorities here don’t take too kindly to people taking pictures of the insides of buildings.

A Unisex bathroom. I’m down with that. Except. . . it has multiple stalls. Huh.

 

 

Even though the door goes all the way to the floor, it’s weird.

 

 

for girls

Because girls go here…

 

 

you are totally allowed to leave the seat up

And so do boys.

It got me thinking. Somehow there’s a very European feel to this restroom. I base that on absolutely nothing, because the only two places I’ve ever been to in Europe are London and Berlin. While I did have a unique restroom experience in Berlin which you can read about here, that restroom looked nothing like this restroom, with its instructions on how to flush:

 

And how to panic:

(Here’s the panic button. You can’t miss it)

 

My natural inclination, upon walking out of a stall and running into a member of the opposite sex in a public restroom, is to panic. However, to date, I have restrained myself from hitting the panic button. It’s poor form.

Have you ever run across multi-stall unisex restrooms? If so, where? Is it weird, or is that just me?