Since the Fifth Avenue sidewalk that I camped on this Sunday was not besieged by hot dog and shish kebab and pretzel vendors that usually choke me with their cooking stove fumes, I took in the human parade leisurely. Then I thought of making myself more useful to humanity by scribbling notes on my paper pad designated to take down customers’ emails.
Here’s who caught my attention as they passed by. If you recognize your spouse gallivanting in New York City while you thought s/he’s slaving away on business, or your ex who avoids paying child support or alimony, well now you know they’re lying and I can testify in court if you pay my travel expenses.
Fifth Avenue Human Parade. Pets Included.
[Though consider that while I was writing down my notes I wasn’t looking up at the street, so many might have escaped my vigilante eyes]
Buddhist monk in front of Bergdorf Goodman fortress.
The store windows were filled with feathers. One full of raven black feathers, the other with swan white feathers. They were frozen in a downpouring to highlight the boring black and white clothing, with a touch of gold decorations.
Ice cream eating children. Alarmed father to his little girl, “You’ll be spilling all over!”
‘I like it. Congratulations!’ smiles at my pictures a lady in a neon green windbreaker.
A romantic couple of ruddy pensioners with backpacks, white hair.
Across from me an elderly man with a beggar’s cardboard note chants like in western movies American Indian chiefs sing Haja-Haja-Haja-Ha! After half an hour of fruitless chanting he folds his poster, puts it in his pocket, and stops by my table to look at the pictures. He asks me if they are from Germany. No, but they are from Europe. How much is a large one? Well, I ask him how much can he afford. He says $7.50. ‘Oh, I’m sorry, Sir, but that won’t cover my costs. But I have smaller ones, like greeting cards,’ and I shuffle them for him. He sees a sunflower field and says ‘That’s Germany. But I’ll come back when I have $7.50.’ ‘But Sir, this is not $7.50! This is just $2 for you!’ He insists he shall bring me one day $7.50 and then buy one. And he left. Indeed Germans are gaga about Native Americans. For all I know this guy was Karl May who wrote Winnetou… I gobbled down all that series when I was a child. Published in Biblioteca Petru Toţi.
Another guy fingers my bags while talking on his cell phone. He walks away still talking, he tells me he goes to get cash from the ATM machine. Sure, without even asking me how much the bags are.
Red, orange pumps, sneakers, bright blue shawls, strong colors are in.
Now and then joggers dart by in their spandex.
Shawls, ponchos, blue with white polka dots, or lung pink, or navy blue with red dots, iridescent sunglasses.
Oh, still cold, no spring, windy. I’m shitting bricks here, it’s time I launch in a ‘I’m having a great time!’ cheer leader pompom routine dance.
A corpulent lady with a walking stick and several metal necklaces like large dog tags, appraises my pictures. ‘Where are these from?’ ‘Romania.’ ‘Oh, I know Romania. I’ve been there, Romania, Bulgaria.’ ‘And you are from?’ ‘Czechoslovakia.’ ‘Oh, I’ve been to Prague. Lovely puppets you have there. But locals were so sad. And it’s full of Americans who scribble and dream they’ll turn into Kafkas there.’
Here comes the pedicab teamster to sell his goods by stalking passersby. [Damn it! I never know if it’s passersby, or passerbys, or bypassers?] ‘Pedicab is $50 for 20 minutes in this South Central Park area, and $85 for the entire park with three stops to take pictures in front of the Bethesda Fountain for Facebook or to send back home, it’s very cheap!’
He’s from Tajikistan. He explains that it’s next to Russia, but towards China. He needles me if I live in Brooklyn? Queens? ‘No, in Manhattan.’ Oh!’ he brightens up. I guess I rose in his eyes. Do I live with my family here, daughters? ‘No, just my son.’ And he won’t marry you so you can get a green card, bumpkin.
A pink double deck tour bus rolled by had written on it Make a difference… Celebrate… Donate… Maybe it was a cancer bus…
The guy on the bus on my way here had thick snot coming out of his right nostril down to his upper lip. He was so talkative and conversed with two other travelers who were smiling. I was about to vomit. The crap American people tolerate.
Two mature guys, one in jeans and suede jacket saying, ‘Soil rendering plants…’
All kind of wheels roll by to help people locomote: wheelchair, strollers, walkers, regular scooters, but also one with a cushioned bench you can rest one folded leg while riding it.
Various people either wrapped in a blue and white flag, or carrying miniature blue and white flags. I asked a girl wearing one, ‘What country is it for?’ and she said, ‘Greece.’ ‘Hey, is it your national day?’ She was too far by then to answer me. But I yelled after her. I flesh out my street performance. I am the jovial vendor now. Enough of self-indulgent pity partying. No sales, no sales. So what? Girl, be grateful you can partake in this roadside show, the best attraction in the country. Be the eyes of the nation for all those far away in the boondocks of America and beyond. Just think about it: All those tourists pay a pretty penny to stay in a hotel while you have this spectacle day in day out, you just need to get yourself out of the apartment, off the internet, and let the show begin. So I am your eyes and ears. Plus I made $20 today and lots of advertising. We shall prevail.
Back to my unsung fellow humans strolling by me:
A teen girl in an orange fleece jumper, eating ice cream of course, trotted by me towards the Americana vendor next to me, pointing her finger and screeching, ‘Justin Bieber! Right there! Right there!’
The picture stand displays pictures of street signs: Gay Street, Brooklyn, 5th Avenue, New York, Fashion Street, Madison Avenue, and portraits of Justin Bieber, Marilyn Monroe, The Hulk, Captain America, Wonder Woman, Thor. A little trophy to take home and display. The greatness of our city, or of America, in your bathroom for your viewing pleasure.
Groups of six, or four, or eight Chinese comrades walked by. They were all in navy blue suits, like the team that we had in my hometown when I was a child and I ate at my mom’s work place cafeteria. A group of comrades from China were tasked with performing knowledge transfer for a few months at our town’s tire factory. Each day they’d show up for lunch at their separate large table with the Romanian and Chinese flag in the middle of the table. We’d always look at them eating, but didn’t dare to talk to them.
I now say hello to this bunch respectfully, you never know when they kick us out of New York City, they own us by now. Well done, American government, very well done.
American flags waving in the wind further down the avenue reassure us we’re still in America.
Two black hunks excited, ‘They got suits in there, Bergdorf!’
Plain but decent guy with eyeglasses, reassuring someone on the phone, ‘Just stay in the area, alright? Alright.’
More blue and white striped flags worn as shawls.
Two kids, the one holding the other’s shoulders, shrieks, pointing at the picture on the stand next to mine, ‘Gay Street!’ Hilaaaarious!
Two little 8, 9 year old girls with pink helmets and scooters stop, their father ties one of the girls’ shoelaces while she eats ice cream. He says, ‘I’m sure they wouldn’t mind that at all.’
Woman on cell zipping by, ‘Yes, honey? Good!’
I pick a golden 2” by 3” piece of cardboard; it says Work Smoothly Life Time Peace Kai guang Amulet. The saffron Buddhist beggars probably dropped it by mistake on the sidewalk while they aggressed possible donors. I won’t give it back to them. Well, it’s a sign, isn’t it?
An elderly lady wants me to sell her a bag with an outside pocket, so she can stick things in it, she shows me, like her vintage Channel bag has. ‘Alright, I’ll make one for you,’ I venture. I even praise her delightful blue shawl. She says it’s from the guy on the other corner. She supports her neighborhood vendors, I see. Upon finding out my pictures are from Romania, she smiles knowingly, she knows Romania, has Romanian friends. Well, I give her a business card so they get to know about me.
A distraught, nerdy, Wall Street type fellow carries various sized shopping bags, for his female tribe of two. His high school or so daughter wears a rosé sequin skirt.
A man carries a transparent garbage bag filled with coke cans and sprite and empty water bottles along the sidewalk.
A fifty something guy in a biker jacket, thinning hair ponytail, browses my goods. I inform him they are from Romania. He thanks me and walks away cautiously.
I like to be thanked, not robbed.
Oh, I shall, I shall tell you what happened to me lately. Soon, I shall.
Two school girls in pressed accordion pleated gray miniskirts and knee high gray socks. I can’t tell if they mean to be sexy or it’s really their school uniform. But it’s Sunday!
A guy in red velvet pants takes pictures of the New York City picture stand.
Three tiered skirts pass by at intervals. One green, one alternating black and burgundy stripes, one made of black tulle. I have one like that.
Everybody eats ice cream. I shudder. America. America. No sore throat menaced children. The entire population of Romania would be aghast at such parenting. ‘Shut the windows, no ice-cream, no walking out after showering. You’ll catch a cold. You’ll get sore throat. You’ll die. Our gene pool will die with you.’
A two year old holds his ice cone at a dangerous angle. It shall flop on the sidewalk. Oh, the heartbreak then and his parents don’t intervene to prevent it.
A gigantic poodle carries a lady in an orange cardigan; she smiles in the freezing wind. I do love my fellow humans. Today my love focuses on those in front of my eyes. The things others far away did to me. I shall not indulge in that torment.
Two red bikes rolled by two black hipsters, like a he and she bike combo. Her hair is decorated with rolls of hair in the shape of large unraveled curlers.
A three generation Chinese family, the mother stretches her arm to show me a subway map, asking me where the nearest subway stop is. I point to her, ‘It’s by that red awning, two blocks further, around the corner is the N, R, subway entrance.’ I am privileged. Do you understand how privileged I am to live in my apartment on this island? Then live it up! No more transoceanic activities.
Live it up here, that’s why you are here. HERE.
The lost Chinese woman’s little daughter, in her hot pink fake sheep skin, looks in wonderment at me, her finger tip on her lips, delicately. My life is so very rich.
A group of guys, perhaps French Canadians. One of them, fatso and bald, with mid-calf long moss-colored corduroys with many pockets, wears sneakers bewinged with Pegasus angel wings. A messenger of swiftness.
Bring me good news, Pegasus.
And then a face I have a hard time taking my eyes off, a dark face surrounded by the orange fur trimming of a sheepskin jacket. Not orange, pulsating amber, like wood consumed by fire. I stare hard, I don’t want this face to go away, I want these eyes, this jaw line, surrounded by dormant fire imprinted in my memory, photographed. But I let him go, only to see him stop at length in front of the beggar sitting on the sidewalk with her blue shopping cart by the store door. He reads her plea. When will I stop censuring myself? When will I stop stopping myself in my tracks in midair? When will I stop mistreating my impulses? They come into being in me, and it’s been a lot of work to create me and that impulse that lives in me. Why I don’t treat it as a fragile and yet crucial impulse? I should have said, ‘Hey you, loiter over here. What I see in you, I must have. Hey, you. It’s important.’
Well, girl, next time, fetch your camera about.
Youngsters with hip haircuts, shaved napes shock of hair on the head top, lots of fringe. They look like Tin Tin from the French comics magazines, bandes dessinées, that my mom used to get me from the news stand when I was stuck at home convalescent from hepatitis and hospitalization. Only two such magazines were mailed to our town, one for a subscriber, and one for sale. I got it because my mom was on some committee that checked on the honesty of shopkeepers. Thus, my friends, this is proof that I am a privileged brat, profiteering form corruption under communism, and I should not point fingers so eagerly, cast stones.
A father pushes a stroller, above his head float a bunch of round pink helium balloons surrounding a large red heart shaped one, all tied on the stroller handle.
Yet another family in uniform: daughter, son, father in shorts stoically attack the steep hills of Fifth Avenue like we’re on the White Mountain of New Hampshire.
Two girls in Uggs, one says irritated, ‘Whoooot?’
A devout Orthodox Jew with his small cloth skullcap on as if a navy blue velvet balding spot.
Annoyed guy to girlfriend, ‘Ye, ye, ye.’
Guys carrying naked guy torsos on shopping bags.
A blonde girl in a coat singing some radio hit.
A little girl holding a gray plush puppy.
Dreadlocks like mattress springs approach. Guy in fancy flip-flops walks to my table chewing on a chocolate bar. God, what if he drips saliva on my stuff! But we get along when we smile. I present him the work of my hands. He thought I’m from Poland. Close, close.
A black Sudanese looking guy, skinny and tall, sticks out and wiggles his red tongue, like a cat.
Apoplectic jogger in blue spandex and matching sweat eyebrow band.
Spiderwoman red eye paint mask covering also her cheeks in spider web.
More death of fashion dour Orthodox Jewish ladies followed by devout father rolling travel bags.
A petite Thai woman. [I don’t know even if I’m a nice person when I try to identify everybody where are they from.] She looks Thai to me, walks in a gorgeous red cloche coat with double fur trimmings on the bottom of the coat, on its sleeves and collar.
Skinny, long legs, gum chewing lady, braves the wind, torso head-on holding several Tiffany’s turquoise paper bags.
Sturdy farm girls, one in red plastic flip-flops. God, help me!
Up and down he walks, three times, bespectacled guy with The Financial Times salmon paper under his arm talking on the phone. I can read on it titles, Life, Second Coming. Here he is again, fourth time now…
Cowboy fellow with murky color crocodile or turkey skin boots, suntanned, short brisk ponytail.
At times suddenly the sidewalk is empty for a few moments. A pigeon lands on the gray sidewalk, fluttering its wings.
White hair, gorgeous lady, I want to be like that when I’m 70, please! She wears high horse riding boots, and a stiff black leather coat, with a mélange of reds shawl.
Here goes a stylized original New Yorker: a scout cap of sorts in black leather with metal knobs, or spikes or rivets, or whatever you call what punk rockers wear, metal cone screwback, pyramid studs, heavy bullet punk rock protruding weldings, and over his black sheath, robe, he wears a sleeveless coat of purples and reds. I’m so gonna strut my stuff from now on. I’m no partridge! All these birds of paradise, and phoenixes and peacocks, just watch me, Fifth Avenue!
A young woman holding her lap dog, Pekinese, with a hair tuft tied up with a ribbon, standing between his perky ears. The owner’s face, cold eyes, her lips are a dark red, she wants no communication; she lives in a different universe. Though she stands there for 3 minutes hailing a cab, and I look from time to time at her fancy beautiful lipstick colored lips and her odd dog and her frosty look in her eyes, but I am non-existent. She lives on a parallel universe membrane. I wish someone could say that she was having a hard time, someone dying of cancer, a cheating spouse, so I can explain away her cold mortuary mask face, but she just seemed an ice queen dismissive bitch.
Here we go, entire families in uniforms: daughter and mom with identical ear muffs. Parents and three daughters, all in tennis shoes.
Huge red hat with huge textile poppy flower, the rest of her attire plain, in sneakers, but what a fantastic hat!
A man with lacquered hair in a pointed party hat shape, tall, even 16” tall was his hair stiffened, he had a Scottish tartan kilt skirt but with turquoise checkers, and a punk jacket, with all kinds of menacing drawings and lots of spikes and welds and rivets.
A bald headed man with concerned brow holding his hand on his jaw and mouth as if thinking, not as if having a toothache.
A child, three or two years old, sings with gusto with a delighted swing, swagger in his step, though his mom drags him ahead.
Greek flag again.
A young fellow, in a light purple sweater, whom I saw earlier passing by, but now he talks to me asking me about my leather bags. He likes the brown ones, with the green textile handle. How much? $30. He says timidly it’s too much for him. I ask him where is he from. He says India. ‘Oh, India. Then I’ll leave it to $20 for you! It’s International Gypsy Day. And India is the motherland.’ Oh, he backpacked in Rajasthan last summer. Rajasthan, he says, is the place of origin of Gypsy people, and he met many of them, dancing and singing. ‘Well, alas, in Europe they struggle. Some of them don’t even know they came from India, so downtrodden they are.’
Befallen from India’s paradise.
Palat de cleştar. The crystal castle of Louis Vuitton across the street, the sun hitting its façade makes it sparkle like in fairytales. It is a palace.
Reminder: Look for the magic. You are on an island of magic. Look for it.
Gusts of wind.
A young plump pimply gay couple with Christmas style pullovers hold hands, starry eyed, here they are on a weekend of love away from bigoted Poughkeepsie or wherever boondocks. I sound awful, awful. I love boondocks.
And yet I judge the infinite parade of endearing human follies trotting on Fifth Avenue.
Another Asian hardened working man carrying his collection of soft drink cans and bottles in two large garbage bags he holds one in each hand, his arms stretched sideways, like a caricature of the scales of justice, like carrying gigantic spider egg pouches.
A skinny guy on a cell phone spits on the street a thick wad. He then walks about the sidewalk and then again spits a blob. He looks at me a bit embarrassed, as if I caught him spitting on my living room carpet. But he spits a third time.
I notice at intervals various hefty lovable beauties in tights. Gigantic thighs.
Here approaches another one, a red head with milky skin, with cowgirl boots on the naked legs, tattoos on both thighs.
A tall, well-built blonde with rolled up jeans, her delicate longish feet with silver nail polish in white flat sandals. Some wear knee high boots, some sandals.
A gloomy, suntanned, muscular guy, salt and pepper curly hair, with an awfully long, protruding, jutting chin.
A hipster in black, skinny jeans, baseball cap backwards, black eyeglasses, gesticulates on the phone, ‘Now, listen here!’
Maiden with tresses braided on her temples then gathered in a ponytail.
A fatso with an Arabian twang, ‘I don’t want to meet this guy! Okay. Let’s do it!’
Someone else says, ‘Exactly. Spend your money or…’
Then a laughing, ‘No! No!’ gaggle of African beauties, an afternoon on the town, girl only shopping spree. One steps on the back of her pink ballerina shoes, pinching her feet perhaps? Another one staggers on black platforms with curved in high heels like ingrown toenails, another one with a darling cleavage about to spill out as she pulls back in place her tight skirt that crawled up her thighs.
A pedicab driver pedals behind me on the avenue aggressing a pair of black stylish hipsters, ‘How far do you guys go?’ The hipster woman laughs him off while crossing the street.
In front of Bergdorf Goodman a guy tries to store his humungous, super lens camera in his shoulder bag while he is besieged by three small kids, grabbing onto his legs.
A brown suit, pink pin stripes, with tired eyes, walks purposefully, wearily. A store manager?
Two guys, one tall and skinny, the other short, almost plump, with blonde highlights, dressed head to toe in black, velvet jacket. They smoke in sync, both holding their cigarette in the right hand.
Variety of moustaches today on Fifth Avenue. Many curled, almost Picasso. Some full upper lip, some skinny Hitlery.
I realize those are the Jonas Brothers in various pictures on the neighboring stand. Are they triplets, quadruplets, quintuplets?
Buddhist monk waving his hand in salutation.
Kids with light yellow popcorn in plastic bags.
A group of teenage boys, one laughs, ‘I didn’t get no shit!’ Red cheeks. Blond heads.
Muslim scarfed women.
Brown hat, bugged eyed, sad face, ice cream eating scaredy woman.
Mom and son talking intently. Mom had some botched cosmetic surgery. She has many crucial insights to share. Her son listens, then asks suspiciously, ‘Why?’
A woman walks her doggie. She wears sandals, has red toe nails. I shudder.
Lots of women walking their pregnant men today.
A man awkwardly holding the string handles of a dainty shopping bag.
Asian hipster couple alert, the guy’s jacket is cut 10” shorter in the back.
Old little man with a moth eaten gray coat and several bags walks by smiling how three lap dogs bark at each other. Two belong to the beggar with the blue shopping cart that sat on the sidewalk for an hour by the shop entrance, and now is leaving, so the dogs finally get to pee on the tree nearby. When another dog walks by he chastises them it’s his tree, and they have no right to pee on his tree in his posh neighborhood. The old man watches them smiling, then after they leave dragged away by owners, he hides from the wind in the niche between the store revolving door and wall. When I look again his place is taken by a woman with a battered folding table. Girls in red were taking IPhone pictures of the feathered window.
A gaggle of Lady Astors, aţoase, sinewy/tough and waned flesh wrapped in costly beige couture and beige makeup, beige hair, beige sinewy calves, beige shoes, beige leopard skin pattern jackets. I dislike them and their beigeness. I have dear elderly female friends. What would they think of me when I talk like that about elderly women? And won’t I grow into an elderly woman too? Perpetuating ageism here on Fifth Avenue. Well done, Ella. Well done.
A smiling portentous man with a red silk turban golden rimmed eyeglasses, moustache twisted up/curled up.
A family with four kids, one in the stroller suckling at his milk bottle, another one on his father’s shoulders crying insistently.
I’m done. I’ve been out here for 5 hours. Pack, say goodbye to your neighbor, bus stop. There are three plastic bags hooked on the budding branches of the tree across the street.
On the bus before my get off stop, two teenagers, one chastising the other, 'It’s not a misdemeanor. You know what those dudes are doin’, so stop hangin’ out with them!’ while the one in trouble, was talking on the phone.
Definitely not Fifth Avenue conversation topic. Get off now. This is your place in America. Fifth Avenue is just for Sundays. Shush. Don’t tell those in the boondocks!
Let them dream.
New York City
April 7, 2013
Well, here you have it: If you’d like to throw a bit of money my way to keep my endeavors going, and also enable me to spread the money to my various causes, informing in an entertaining way being one of them, I’d be grateful.