I haven’t known many who could refute the fact that New York City is in fact a drinking town. And that if you only casually drink back home, you will certainly be drinking a-plenty once you’re in the City. So it’s not a surprise when I say that the next day also began much the same as the last, and that from now on, I’ll spare you the details of hangovers long past, unless there’s something especially exciting about them (I had a hangover and then Tom Hanks showed up at my door after he read my Tweets telling him that I wanted to meet him and he brought me an autographed replica of Wilson! Okay, not really.)
After a quick exchange of words with CJ and his roommate, I opted to head in to Manhattan to kill some time. Rumor had it that They Might Be Giants would be playing a free show that eve over at the Williamsburg Waterfront, so I figured I should head back to one of my favorite parks and do a little people watching in the meantime. No, not Central Park (although if you’ve never been, you really should. It’s a fantastic park and it will take you several visits to see all of it – I am particularly fond of the Alice in Wonderland statues and Strawberry Fields is quite iconic as well). Come to think of it, this is the first trip where I didn’t end up in Central Park at all, an error that should be rectified if I make it back up there before the year ends. But I digress…
After a short hop on the L, I wound up smack dab in the middle of Union Square. Now, the first time I came to Union Square, I was 21 and it was my first time meeting up with The DJ since our first interaction (the infamous date where I had to have him pick me up from my friend’s father’s car dealership and we ate sushi and drank wine and danced to the Squirrel Nut Zippers in his North Beach apartment) back when I was 18. I was with my friends Sara and Eli at the time and the DJ called me to tell me to meet him at the McDonalds at one of the far corners of the park, so being 21, I dragged my friends along with me. That turned out to be one of the most memorable nights of my brief liaisons with New York… But that wasn’t this trip. This time, I walked around, drenched in sweat among the few trees in the park and sweat some more until I found an opening on a bench, where I proceeded to sweat more. Have I mentioned that NYC is really fucking hot in the summer? Because it sure as hell is.
People watching in NYC is definitely one of my favorite (free) activities. No matter where you are, because there are over 8 million other walking, talking, breathing individuals to choose from, you’re guaranteed to see something or someone interesting and your chances of it being terribly entertaining are automatically increased than if you were in, say, Boise, ID*. Point is, park benches (and apartment stoops) are prime real estate when you’re in dire need of some real street theater, or at the very least some interesting sights. At one point, while walking around the park again and checking out the Farmer’s Market, I got to see a group of Hasids, a group of Krishnas, a group of Greenpeace canvassers, and a group of skateboarding teenagers in the same 15 foot area and I felt there had to be a joke in the making there somehow.
After I got my fill of amateur ethnographic research, I hopped back on the train and made my way to Williamsburg (a.k.a. Hipster Mecca. Or at least it was a few years ago, I’m probably behind on the times on that). Walked around and got lost a bit in a slew of pretty brownstones, record shops, thrift stores, and organically grown coffee shops (the coffee was organically grown, not sure about the shops themselves… hrm…). Stopped in one and grabbed an iced coffee so I wouldn’t wither away under the sun and made my way to the Waterfront.
The show was supposed to begin at around 8pm, so I figured if I got there around 5, I should be fine. But it didn’t hit me that NYC has 1. a hell of a lot more people than back home and 2. a hell of a lot more TMBG fans (or at least people who know of TMBG). So I walked a block, and then two, and then another, and then two more, until I finally made it to the end of the line. Ahead of me was a family; a blond girl of maybe 15 with her mom and dad. I stood there sipping my coffee when this snowflake of a boy came and stuff behind me. I turned and asked him if he thought we’d make it in. He figured there was a good chance, and we began chatting about TMBG and he then informed me that the show wasn’t just them, but a slew of comedians including Patton Oswalt, Eugene Mirman, and Jim Gaffigan. Pretty damn sweet.
The wait lasted about an hour or so and during that time we continued to make small talk. He had this very subtle accent that was punctuated with sarcasm; I would later find it was Russian. I learned the boy’s name (but have since forgotten) and that he came to the US just a few years ago to attend college and was now making loads of money working for some Wall Street folks, or at least, that’s what he said). After a while, his friend (an awkwardly tall guy with slightly buggy eyes and a shaggy haircut, who enjoyed doing improv in his spare time) and another girl (a short, curly haired nurse with a good, strong smile) came to join us. They mostly discussed the girl’s work and talked shit about the friends they had in common. When we finally made it in, we grabbed some Bánh mì‘s from the only food vendor around and proceeded to get closer to the stage. The conversation kept dwindling and I could feel myself itching for an overpriced festival beer, so I wandered back over to the beer garden and grabbed a Brooklyn Lager. I was going to meet the group back with my beer, but the security wouldn’t let me leave the garden, so I opted to get a nice bit of standing real estate while I caught a buzz. Eugene Mirman was on first, followed by Jim Gaffigan, whose serial killer-like voice only adds to the comedy in my mind. The skies had been getting progressively cloudier over the afternoon but I was hoping for the best. Unfortunately, half way through his set (and 3/4 of the way in to my beer), the clouds burst open and it was like a horizontal dam had been broken. The red headed boy ahead of me looked back and smiled as I bitched about the rain to myself. A bespectacled blonde to my left made similar remarks, and then the three of us began our “Bonding Under The Circumstances” moment.
Between commenting on Patton Oswalt’s set and discussing how ridiculous the weather was, I came to find that the blonde girl’s name was Lori and that she had been an illustration major and was now working as a public school teacher living while in Astoria. She was friendly. She came prepared (she let us put our electronic devices in her plastic bag to keep them from getting ruined). She had cats. The boy was Danny, and he was about to start medical school in Albany, wore leather sandals, and made me laugh more than the comedians on stage whom I could no longer hear.
Rain on, rain off, and then finally, TMBG came on stage and rocked it. We danced and when we got tired of dancing, we watched the hardcore fans, the ones that all looked like your old high school Math teachers, bust a move like i’ve never seen done. It was pretty fantastic.
At the end of it all, Danny left with his friend and I left with Lori and got a few $1 beers at a bar down the way, and it didn’t rain the rest of the night.
(Part 5 soon!)
PS. On the completely non-existent chance that he’s reading this… Tom Hanks, let’s be friends?
* = To be fair, I’ve never been to Boise, so I can’t be 100% sure of that. It’s just an educated guess though.