My Man On The NYC Street

Okay, so you’re walking down a busy city street, a street crawling with people, traffic, noise, horns honking, people chattering, laughing, yelling, talking on cell phones, talking to other people, real and imagined, and you’re tired and you want so sit down for a rest. Where would you want to sit? How does the middle of the street suit you? Someone with too much time on his or her hands came up with that very idea in New York City. I’m not kidding.

On my recent trip to NYC I walked through a section of Manhattan where there were islands of pavement in the middle of the avenue where people were sitting at tables and some, to my utter astonishment, were sitting in folding chairs staring out into space, oblivious to the frenetic insanity swirling around them. Bless them, I couldn’t do it. On one side, cars drove past them and on the other side, bicyclists and pedestrians scurried by. Sidewalks be damned!
The whole thing struck me as surreal. I kept walking thinking that while I am glad I am living in the country, it was nice to visit my old home town and reacquaint myself with the fact there is something inherently charming, independent, and deliciously quirky about New York City folk.

I don’t remember what street I’d passed when I saw him. A man that looked to be in his late thirties, early forties, wearing a light colored suit and sitting in a folding chair in the center of one of the aforementioned islands. A man with a wonderful face rich with character. Something about him made him stand out, like something in a what’s wrong with this picture? illustration or, in this particular case, what’s right with this picture? What was it about this man that so powerfully drew my attention?

I couldn’t figure it out. What was it? The world swirled around him, cars honked, people walked past him and he seemed utterly unruffled by it all. And then it hit me, he was in a state of complete and utter serenity. There he was, my man in the street, the world going crazy around him and he was in his own state of nirvana. I found myself wanting to grow up and be just like him.

I am memorized, transfixed, enchanted. He reaches into his inside suit jacket pocket, checks a note he has written down, and returns it to the pocket, his face calm, thoughtful, peaceful, a folded newspaper held gently in his hands. Me thinking, How does he do it? This guy’s my hero. There are moments a bit of humor seems to float to the surface of his mind, and his face, which is wonderful in shape, form and character, don’s the expression of one who has settled on a tasty morsel of amusement.

When he, and at times others near him, but not too near, find a sight or sound attractive, of interest, he slowly turns his head and gazes in its direction, his focus fixed, contemplative, and, to me, most wonderful of all, peaceful.

And then I realize what it is I like so much about this man. His independence of spirit. He is where he wants to be and is clearly comfortable in his own skin. And so I am reminded by this man I have come to believe is a good and decent soul that peace and tranquility can be found anywhere, even in a the center of a New York City street surrounded by traffic and all the attending chaos. And this is a good thing. While I can never again find that kind of peace in the city I still love with all my heart, it warms my heart to know some people can, like my man in the street.

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Photos by author

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