So I'm in line at the Bagel Maven checking out all the heaped bagels in their bins, when the guy behind the counter - he's got his hair under wraps with one of those white scrunchy hats that his boss makes him wear - and the guy calls out, C'mon pal, we ain't got all day.
I love New York.
My normal bagel is a chocolate chip. If I want to calorie splurge, I'll get cranberry (less calories in chocolate chip - true story). My problem here, in New York? At Bagel Maven on 7th? I'm not seeing chocolate chip. Or cranberry. They got plain. Maybe sesame. Wheat? Maybe wheat. But no chocolate chip. I love New York.
Pal? the baker says. And naturally I dare not ask if they've got any chocolate chip hiding in the back. Not with this guy. If my local bagel shop - Boogie Woogie Bagel Boy - is sold out of chocolate chip, my fallback is to ask if they have anything warm. I'm a sucker for warm. The problem is - in Alameda, California - there are rarely warm bagels. They pull em out around five, throw em in the bins, and that's about it. So since I'm standing here in line, at about 10 on a rainy New York Monday morning, I'm fairly certain I won't be getting warm, but it's my fallback so I ask.
My guy looks at me for a heartbeat. Looks back at the bins overflowing with bagels. Looks back at me. Pal, he says, they're all warm.
New York, how do I love thee? Very very much.
Andy and I - I'm rooming with Andy, he runs our joint in Berkeley on Fourth Street. Check it out - great place.
Andy and I head out, bagels in hand. And a couple Diet Cokes for me. We pass a shoe shop. Footaction. And there's a line in front. Bunch of guys waiting in the rain, ramshackle encampments set up to ward off the weather. Umbrellas canted left to deflect the drops. Huddled there in nylon sleeping bags. Hands cupping hot joe, faces brought close to the steam rising from the coffee. I'm thinking homeless. But it's kind of weird, they're kind of orderly in line, and it's a shoe store.
Last night I'd seen the huddled masses taking refuge in the columned doorways of St. Michael's - and under scaffolding set up to refurbish skyscrapers. Scaffolding scaffolding everywhere. But those souls I had seen last night had disappeared this morning, awaiting the night somewhere, surely, when they could lie down again and rest, again.
Yet there they were, on 7th, in front of Footaction. Andy sees me looking at these men and he laughs. Must be a new Jordan coming out, Andy says.
What? I say.
The line, he says. They must be here for a new shoe.
So the penny droppeth
Huh, I say.
And I'm about to throw stones, to mock these guys waiting for a new shoe. In the rain, have I mentioned that? But before I chuck any rocks, I remember that in my luggage, back at the Affinia Hotel, is a copy of Wheel of Love And Other Stories by Joyce Carol Oates.
Wheel of Love contains one of the most anthologized stories of all time, Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Read it, please. It's creepywonderful - and Oates? Plain wonderful. But I brought that book because Ms. Oates will be signing her new book this Thursday and since I read she'd be doing that I brought my old book because I'd love her to sign it because I'm weird that way.
So I realize that come Thursday, I'll be in line for a signature very much like these guys are in line for a shoe (the shoe, by the way? I asked one of the Waiters, why the line? and he said, Sneakers. And I said, Whose? And he said, Blake Griffin.) He's a baller, I think?
And then I said, It's Monday. When's the shoe come out? And he said, Saturday. And I said, Saturday? But instead of answering he goes back to his game of cards - he and the two guys next to him are playing Five-card draw. In the rain. Waiting for Saturday when a sneaker will be released.
Clearly, with these guys - it's all about passion. And where they put it. So instead of throwing stones I think about Joyce Carol Oates and look down at my can of Diet Coke, raindrops collecting on the rim, and I crack open my can and drink.
It's all about passion, right? And where we put it.