Sunday, February 26, 2006

Dropping in on NYC: Parte Uno

DAY 1: CRUISING BARELY ON A JET BLUE

Adventures in movies are always better edited than real life. Always. Mine began rash and romantic but quickly has became slow, frightening and very questionable. My flight has been delayed. I sit now on the floor of Gate 19, restless and grousy tired and wondering, "Is Jet Blue SAFE?"

And why isn't it called Blue Jet? Jet Blue is weird.

5:51 pm. A grizzle-faced stereotype-of-a-New Yorker wants to talk to me. I don't. My body language is not succeeding in its attempt to communicate Closed For Business Introvert Over Here. I'm an INTJ. I've got lots of I going on right now. Ok, fine, I'll ask him a question but I'm not ready for the four spiritual laws. "Watcha doing here?" I ask.

13 minutes later. He never asked me back. No arts pastor explanation today.

8:48 pm. On the plane. This plane is SWEET! Brand spanking new, fancy light fixtures, foamy soap, it's even got that yummy toxic new carpet smell. This plane rocks.

I even get to watch Television!

Not having one at home I feel like a missionary kid again. Back when we'd visit Houston, TX, in the early '80s, the rich church would put us up in the Guest Quarters double suit, super hot, trampoline-bed, free Cokes hotel. I'm watching Dog Eat Dog right now, a reality show that features three hot buxom women and three hot muscular men playing silly games against each other for a wad of money. This is truly awesome.

9:33 pm. On the plane. I have *no* idea where I'm going to stay tonight, how I'm going to get there, how much it's all going to cost or why exactly I said yes--and the cell phone sans charger I borrowed at the last moment just went dead. My only consolation, I figure, no matter what happens, is that I'll have a good story to tell my yet-to-be-born children. First, I need to get married, then the story. This is definitely not the smartest thing I've done in a long time.

And now it's time for The Amazing Race.

Sweet.

10:14 pm/11:14 pm (EST). Arrive. I exit the terminal with no one to meet me. I have a dead cell phone. I look for the pay phones and call the Great Gatsby with my calling card. Nothing. Only his answering message. I look to my right and a wizened black airport bag handler sits hunched over his cell phone playing a shooter game. I feel like the kid in the 1950s looking through the window at the candy shelf. He's got a charger plugged in the wall. I swallow my introvertedness and pluck a pisca of courage. "Sir . . . um, well, uh, I've got a problem . . . would it be all right if I borrow your charger?" He looks up at me head-cocked, squints, grumbles yes. It doesn't fit. He goes back to playing his game. I wait a few minutes, still the kid looking through the window. This is no time for pride, no time for fear. It's What Would MacGyver Do time. I can do it. "Sir. I'm sorry to bother you again, but would it be possible to borrow your phone?" He chews his gum, mumbles yes again. The Great Gatsby answers and through breathless exuberance gives me his address: Upper West Manhattan. I exit the airport into a windswept tunel of taxis. More than you could ever hope for.

11:51 pm. Sitting in the yellow soccer mom mini-van taxi, driven by Jean Baptiste, back speakers squeaking out a tinny Bob Marley, I watch the Brooklyn lights skim by like tired fireflies. Or maybe it's my eyes that are the tired fireflies.

"How's the weather these days?" I ask Jean from Jamaica.

"Oh, fine, you know," he answers with a thick baritone accent.

"How long you been driving?"

"Oh, 12 years, you know."

"Wow," I say, "I guess you know the city pretty well, huh?" Stupid question, I know, I know.

"Oh, yes."

"How many hours do you work a day?"

"Oh, about 14 hours, you know." He gets a call from his woman and excuses himself, something about a late dinner.

"So where you from?" I ask after a silence.

"Oh . . . well, Haiti."

"Oh." Oops. I search my mental google for any Haiti anything. "So what'd you think about the recent elections?"

"Oh . . . you know, it's always the same, always the same. Everybody just wants the same things, you know, food and peace, a little happiness too, you know?" Marley croons in the backseat, "Buffalo soldiers," and we ride on in silence.

1:25 am. I fall asleep on the Great Gatsby's white couch. Everything's going to be fine now.


"Poetry is a way of remembering what would impoverish us without it." --Robert Frost

5 comments:

kelly said...

So what kind of accent does a baritone have?

Sounds like quite an adventure - enjoy!

Elizabeth Smith said...

Pastor! You crack me up!! I used to live in NYC, in midtown for 10 years, late 1979 towards the end of 1990...had a house in Southampton by the water too! I arrived in Manhatten, age nineteen, in nineteen seventy-nine, with hiking boots and a backpack...I know the feeling well of being the kid peering into the candy store windows. Don't be shy! New Yorkers are the nicest people you'll ever meet...some of the worst too. But mostly the best!! And the adventure continues...

w. david o. taylor said...

The accent: Haitian.

The tone: baritone.

Thus: a Haitian accent in baritones. :)

Jeff Kursonis said...

Hey, I don't know if you've already gone home, but I am an Arts pastor in NYC, and I'd love to meet you.

I didn't make the conference this time.

My new church plant is Communion of the Arts - in Manhattan.

jeff@cotanyc.com

Elizabeth Smith said...
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