Another cozy, romantic New York bar bites the dust.
Another cozy, romantic New York bar bites the dust.
Working as a background extra in New York City is really glamorous.
Last week, for example, I had to get to midtown at 5 am to catch a charter bus to Long Island. It’s amazing how much activity is around at that hour of the morning. We will be shooting some scenes for a tv series.
50 minutes later we are in a quiet, residential area with very large lawns and brick fences. We check in to the holding tent, get our wardrobe, report to hair and makeup, and then hang around in this big, hot tent for the next 4 hours. (Bonus: tons of free food and drink!!) After awhile some of us head to set, which today is the front lawn of a mansion. The house sits back from the water and a huge lawn leads down to the bay. A few sailboats drift slowly by. It’s very picturesque, tho we are not allowed to take any photos. The morning is beautiful but already very hot. In the 80s and it’s only 10:00. A large white wedding tent is set up on the lawn. There are white tables with white tablecloths and ‘champagne’ flowing from little fountains. The Production Assistant eventually assigns our starting point, a makeup artist rushes to refresh hair, droopy in the 80 degree heat. The show’s stars are cooled with battery fans and protected by umbrellas so nary a sweat mark will be seen. We are all in our places, dressed for another era, a previous century where they wore powder blue polyester.
“Background! First positions,” the P.A. calls. My ‘husband’ and I stroll slowly, arm in arm, among the partygoers, silently greeting our guests. We walk to the other side of the tent, and head back to the beginning. “Cut! Ok..regroup at first position.” We stroll, smiling, nodding, along our same path. “Cut! Regroup at first position.” We stroll, we smile, we wave, we raise our glasses. “Cut!”….
I could go on, but you get the picture.
I’m wearing a polyester pantsuit and shoes with teeny heels that sink in the grass. I step and sink. I have to pick grass and dirt off the little heels. We are all very, very hot. The temperature is now in the 90s and we are wearing clothes that stick to our skin. But we’re all happy to be here.
Many hours of strolling and smiling later, of hanging out and eating huge amounts of carbs, the light is quickly fading and we hear those three little words, “That’s a wrap!” We head back to holding, our tent away from home. We’ve had a 10 hour day. We are all happy with the day, chatty and full of energy. But mostly, we are so excited to put away [burn on a giant pyre] the polyester suits we’ve lived in for the past two days.
We wait in line to check out, get forms signed for our lavish paycheck, and return our clothes to Wardrobe. Street clothes on, our space cleaned up, (grab some last-minute snacks), we eventually get on the bus for a quiet evening ride back to the city. The chatter and gaiety of today behind us, we retreat back into the 21st century, our phones, into our own spaces. It’s dark outside and peaceful and quiet in the bus. Perhaps many of us will see each other again – maybe in some other era, some other century.
So what makes this worthwhile? The enormous minimum wage ‘background talent’ get for a 10+ hour day? Maybe it’s the remarkable allure of being a tiny part of ‘show business.’ I think what makes it worthwhile is what we all give to it. We show up – sometimes at 5 am – knowing we may be thoroughly bored for hours, the day might be long and tedious at times, but we will also meet interesting people and enjoy a day filled with fun, food and surprises. Most of all, we all have a great time. I gotta go now, I have to get up at 4 am to do it all over again.
I came to New York later than most young hopefuls who arrive here to fulfill their dreams. I’ve wanted to live here since I was 20 but, as the saying goes, life got in the way. So here I am, 40 years too late. I made it. I’ve got it all but now I’m not really part of it all. I have some of the same hopes and dreams I had at 20 when I should have come here, but new expectations, lower ones.
My body and my energy deny it, but I am in the sleep aid and reverse mortgage ad demographics. Being an old fossil means if people acknowledge me at all, it’s usually to give up their seat on the train. The sign in the train asks riders to please give up your seat to an elderly, disabled, or pregnant person. I acknowledge their courtesy but I prefer to stand. Nobody’s gonna tell me I’m old. Heading to my weekly lunch date in South Seaport, I saw a cute guy on the train. He stood with his back against the doors. Black jeans, leather jacket. Ear buds. Attractive. He was only 20-something, so my admiration was pure. But he made me pensive; why didn’t I have one of those when I was young? So afraid to talk to boys, I never gave myself a chance to know one so I didn’t date. Men only want one thing, I was told. What is that? I didn’t really know, only that it was bad. Well I got over that fear, luckily because New York is a city for meeting strangers and making friends. Be completely alone if you crave it, but the opportunity for meeting people is tremendous.
Meet Ups offer events every night of the week to get together with people who share your interests. Mindfulness, Walking Tours, Bizarre & Wonderful NY Food gatherings. There is a Greyhound Playgroup. I love greyhounds. I’d like to go but would it be weird to show up without a dog? I could meet a guy with a dog…but then, he’d be 30 years old. I just got an alert for a new meetup, Laughter Yoga – a Good Time to Have a Good Time. I have never once laughed while doing yoga. I went to one called The Secrets of Grand Central, very enlightening. After the tour, the group headed to an Irish bar to watch football. Since I don’t have a tv and I love football, I was up for it, knowing everyone there would be under 40. I like to hang out with young people, tho this group all seemed to know each other. I sat at a table with a couple of nice young guys who were kind enough to talk to me. It was really loud and I couldn’t see the game anyway because two young women with really big hair, were standing in front of the tv, talking and gesturing and not even watching the game. And the bartender was busy with the youngsters at the end of the bar. I’m going to stick to the Over 60s playgroups.
I’ve been here nine months now and making it my own place, like millions of (young) hopefuls before me who came and never left. I figure I’m in a whole different class of new arrivals: Applying for Medicare instead of grad school. No longer waiting for that ‘big break,’ I am still feeling lucky every day, overwhelmed – that’s a good thing – by all the possibilities that exist here, even for someone old enough to remember when movies cost $1.00.
I’m from Minneapolis. “Wow, it’s cold there!” people chuckle with a wide-eyed expression and clearly no idea where that is. They’ve heard it’s cold. Its close to Canada – it’s not in Indiana.
Minneapolis gets cold, and it gets snow. Sometimes lots of it. If you grew up in the ‘50s and ’60s, you remember walking to school amid 4’ snow drifts. We call those the ‘good old days’ because we didn’t know any better. Maybe because we didn’t know we were cold. We were kids. That kind of snow doesn’t happen often anymore, and I am grateful for that.
New York weather is much nicer, as far as I can tell in my short time here. But this past Saturday, Snowmageddon 2016, was a Minnesota day. It started snowing in Brooklyn Friday night and all thorough the night and the next day, finally tapered off around 9 pm Saturday. We were snug and cozy in our lair, watching movies with nachos and beer, looking at the blowing, swirling snow out the window. We were grateful we had someplace comfortable and warm for the night.
Since this snowfall was predicted, and The Weather Channel suggested it would end on Sunday morning sometime, it didn’t occur to me to ‘stock up,’ though apparently that was the order of the day on Friday. Friends from Minnesota called to make sure I had enough food, had I made it to the store for ‘supplies?’ Like firewood? Bottled water? A shotgun? I asked.
We all understand the need for toilet paper and beer. But on Friday, the line outside Trader Joe’s looked like the apocalypse was at hand, snaking down the block, all preparing for one entire day holed up inside with no connection to the outside world. Would they survive? No one, apparently, was taking any chances.
Photos surfaced on Friday, the day before the big one, of stores in D.C., all with totally empty shelves in the dairy aisle. They had all run out…of cheese. Every brick, every bag of taco shreds…gone! It’s good to know that, up and down the east coast all were cozy and safe, and all had enough cheese. Nothing takes the gloom out of the apocalypse like a plate of nachos.
Once you have lived in New York and made it your home, no place else is good enough. – John Steinbeck
I made it across Central Park yesterday* (cheering, fist pumps.) It usually swallows me up and I stumble down some dark path into middle earth. From the west side to the east, all those crazy but beautiful, winding paths – they all look alike. And I emerge a few short blocks from where I went in, somehow not making it from one side to the other. Some people like to get lost. Not me. It makes me anxious. But yesterday, on this quiet summer morning, I made it! Fifteen minutes, drifting mindlessly but with direction, enjoying the quiet beauty, from the west side all the way to 5th Avenue!
*(Full and shameful disclosure: I had a knowledgeable partner, a generous guy, who walked with me but I have no doubt I could have done it by myself.)
I stopped off at a tv shoot on the east side of the park. My friend was one of the many staffers and he invited me to the set. There were TV stars and delicious looking catering carts, but most of the crew wasn’t actually working all that hard. I guess there’s a lot of hanging around, standing, sitting, mostly waiting. The scenes are a few minutes long, then more standing and waiting, additional make up, lighting changes. New Yorkers, used to averting movie sets, are largely unimpressed by the hubbub. As a fledgling New Yorker I was a bit excited. Sitting on a stool two feet away from me, looking at a monitor and taking notes, was the creator of the show. She was wearing black converse all stars and cut-off jeans and a cap, looking like an ordinary person you’d see at Fairway.
Sometimes things happen and lives converge and you can’t believe you were in that place at that time. I headed east to Madison and down to 68th for an iced coffee. I sat on a shiny black bench outside and saw a Facebook post from a friend. It was about suicide and her life in the past year, her sadness and joy, ups and downs and the people who were there for her, including her little boy who misses his daddy. Tears rolled down my cheek and onto my white tank top. Big, huge tears like those giant raindrops in October that are actually more like snow. An attractive man my age asked if it was ok to sit down. He probably thought it best to ask, since I was sobbing. Sure, I nodded. He sat down with his raisin scones. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I was reading something very sad.” He nodded. His eyes were sympathetic. Then he said, “I’ll show you sad!” And he took out his phone and showed me a photo. A sidewalk strewn with clothes, and a body covered with a sheet. He pointed at the phone. “This person jumped from the 44th floor of my building this morning. I tried to walk in the park, but…I can’t..”
We talked. He was born elsewhere, now an American citizen and a very successful real estate broker. For an hour we sat and talked about death and taxes and Donald Trump and real estate and art. And what would cause a person to jump out a window.
His neighbors from the building came by, going to the cafe. The wife was still feeling distress: she saw the person jump from the window. She saw him crash onto the roof of an adjoining building and fall to the ground. The husband shook his head. “So sad,” he agreed. Our talk was somber, trying to make sense of this drama. Their friend, an old guy with curly white hair and a gold necklace, was on the phone making a big real estate deal.
I’d been on a nature walk through the park, to a tv shoot to witness the production of a television comedy, to sharing a bench with strangers on 68th and Madison, discussing the tragedy of a suicide they’d just witnessed. And it was only noon.
Thinking and trying to comprehend the eventful morning, yet feeling the need to get on with my day, I walked to the train. A thin young man in bike shorts was in the street, wheeling his bike by the curb and loudly shouting into his cell. “NO! LEAVE ME ALONE!! DON’T CALL ME ANYMORE! LEAVE! ME! ALONE!!”
“Just hang up!” someone suggested. Everyone hurrying in different directions, yet all sharing a chuckle.
Just another day in The City.
I realize that I am geographically challenged. I accept it. Don’t like it but that’s my reality, as they say. Even with google maps I can’t tell which way I’m headed unless I turn the phone all around. And, since I can never appear to be (gasp) A Visitor, I keep going with resolve – wrong way or not. I’m getting better, but there is really no cure.
Getting to the new Whitney was a challenge. The map gave a strange landmark where I was supposed to turn. Is it in the middle of the block? Why can’t they say 15th street? I can’t find this building or whatever it is. The map navigation was telling me to head southwest. Was I heading southwest? Forced to use my compass app, I rolled it around to calibrate. Yes. I was going in the right direction. (In my defense, I was with two friends last week and none of us could figure out how to get there.)
I finally arrived and my expectations were not really met. Not as grand and gleaming as I expected, tho it was a grey day. The line was about 3 blocks long. We moved slowly toward the entrance and I saw a young woman in a blue shirt, overseeing the queue. I asked the cost to get in. $22 she says. If I worked here and had to answer that, I would have been apologetic, a grimace, sad eyes..I know, it’s a lot, isn’t it? I’m really sorry… But she had none of that empathy. Like $22 is acceptable. And I guess it is for tourists. But I’m a New Yorker now. I have to watch my spending. I gotta live here where a six pack of beer costs $16. So, I decided to leave, walked around the Meatpacking District and explored (for free!) Found out later it’s Pay What you Wish on Friday evenings.
I’ll be back. I know how to get there now.