Spreading Joy in New York
I have to take back what I've said about NYC, at least some of it. Today I met 2 more beagles (life is good) - young Emma and old Sadie. While giving them both a good petting, I suddenly remembered that our family had a beagle called "Lady" for a short time when I was about 10; her barking drove the city neighbors mad so we couldn't keep her. No wonder I love hounds!
In places like NYC people pay a lot of money to have someone walk their dogs every day. Some of these dog walkers manage six or more dogs on leads at a time and it's a sight.
I walked on down the river and quietly observed two pair of geese and their goslings spending quality time over by the rocks. It was a beautiful day and I was feeling happy; it seemed like that alone was enough to call it a day and get back to writing and packing for my big trip. I turned and headed back uptown through the park.
But so much more was in store. At the 79th Street Boat Basin I came across a strange sight...ahead were two big biker-clad guys...walking their bicycles. That got my attention right smart. These were no ordinary guys -- or bicycles. They looked like some silver-chromed cadillacs and there was plenty of music streaming out from them.
Imagine the most fully-dressed Harley Davidson bike sort of over-the-top chrome and leather and add in a whole bunch of chrome skulls and gigundo boomboxes and island flags, and a full array of airhorns...and picture a couple of hispanic guys, one in a big cowboy hat and a few teeth but one of the most delightful grins I'm sure I'll ever see in Manhattan, and there you have it.
It was getting way better than anything I could have dreamt of. I got right down to business trying to talk to them about what they were about. I talked to the guy in the hat (above) who I was told was called Pedro but it turned out that these guys didn't really know each other - not even by name! I tried to talk to Pedro and he kept smiling really big and nodding his head up and down vigorously - so much so that I realized he hadn't a clue what I was asking him. So I turned to Mike who told me he's Puerto Rican and Irish and he told me about the vintage bike club "Bronx Classic" they're both in and how they're going to all be riding in some annual Puerto Rican Parade in the Bronx this Sunday (so check it out if you're in the area - should be a spectacle). There are about 50 members, mostly guys, and they love to get together on weekends in parks and ride their classic bikes around. Now these two obviously took great pride in their bikes - all the chrome was polished till it shone like diamonds.
We got to the north end of the boat basin (we were walking along all this time) and paused at one of the last benches. A couple of pretty young ladies, one pregnant and the other wheeling a baby carriage, stopped and started talking to "Pedro" in some island tongue...and things got more interesting. "Pedro," who later shared that he's single, 56 and lives with his 83 year old mother, moved right on in. He already had his boom box going pretty good with sizeable speakers mounted on the place where his handlebars should have been (but instead he'd installed, I kid you not, a faux fur-covered STEERING WHEEL). So the speakers were pumping out this good Cuban music and one thing led to another.
"Pedro" dances for me
Back in the early 80's I spent a year working on a yacht in the Bahamas so I know a bit about island culture - and I dearly love the happy, laid-back attitude of island folk. I knew what was coming. A few coy smiles, some outright flirting on Pedro's part, feet starting to move and hips swaying and it wasn't very far into the first song that Pedro and the pretty young miss were dancing right there on the promenade. Now this was a Nikon moment and I was living 100% in the moment, enjoying the incredible light (did I tell you how amazing the light was just then?) peeking between the darkening clouds, lending an intense glow to the joyful proceedings - and I was loving it totally but a little teeny part of me was desperately trying to figure out how I could get my hands on a camera NOW! This was PRICELESS. The looks that passed between these two strangers...(but it was a joyful thing).
It wasn't as if me and the two young ladies with their big smiles and pretty plaited hair and the two biker guys were the only ones there in that glittering moment by the Hudson. If you've never been to NY imagine a lot of really stressed, uptight, probably self-centered, fast-paced, cell-phone-wielding people passing by every second or two taking in this unusual scene. In NY it seems like pretty near anything at all can happen and it fails to elicit a response from most passersby (perhaps I'm overstating my point just a little) - in other words, you can walk for a long ways and never make eye contact with anyone, let alone speak or interact. People sort of travel about in their personal bubbles.
So here is this outrageous scene unfolding and all these uptight folks passing by running, cycling, skateboarding, rollerskating, walking or what have you are like....cracking up! Or at LEAST looking with a bit of interest and maybe even cracking a smile, a REAL smile. A few actually stop to check out the bikes. Now this is BIG to me - people getting other people's attention in a place like NY. So I am mesmerized by these guys and their effect on folks.
The song ends and "Pedro" decides to crank it up a little and puts on a really fast little number. Oh, I know Island People. I understand. Pedro later tells me with smiles and sign language that he just likes to be happy all the time and make other people happy, too -- and he is VERY good at what he does. Pedro is spreading joy throughout NY as a big thunderstorm approaches and the light on these happy dancers intensifies. Now Pedro throws in a belly-rubbin' CD and they do a sensual, unhurried swaying dance from side to side with schooners and ketches bobbing behind like jealous wallflowers at some junior high dance. It's just an amazing picture.
How could I _not_ talk to them? And could I help but grin? Nope! I was hooked bigtime. My immediate thought was, "Why the heck did I leave my camera at the apartment?" Now I can walk around NYC and never want to snap a picture, but these guys had it all! To call them a conversation piece would be an understatement.
I was so impressed with these guys and their cool vibe coupled with their flashy bicycles that I begged them to wait till I came back with my camera. Since I was on foot about 2 miles round trip from my camera it was awhile before I could get back. I was holding my breath, all excited as I returned with my Nikon. Just before I arrived I saw the two pretty young ladies coming toward me; they smiled and assured me the guys were still waiting, and my feet fairly flew to meet my new pals.
There isn't much more to tell. But today I saw more New Yorkers smile and even stop to talk to strangers than I've ever seen before. Maybe folks just need a conversation piece to start things off. Pedro and Mike provided that. I wish there were more people around like these guys. I reckon they should be give keys to the City. Wherever you are, guys, thanks for spreading your particular brand of joy.