Last Sunday was another of those unseasonably warm and beautiful days that New York has been afflicted with all this winter. I decided to go on one of my favorite walks: over the Williamsburg Bridge and into the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Comfy shoes and iPod in place, I began walking on the bridge.
I was about halfway over when I saw the gentleman in front of me turning around and looking behind him. As I caught up with him, he began talking to me. As a side note: I always assumed that wearing earphones would prevent people talking to you. In my experience, it seems to do the opposite. When I wear my iPod, I am consistently stopped by people asking for directions, wanting information, needing to chat, etc. Appearantly they think that anyone with earphones is either bored or wanting human contact. I guess it never occurs to them that perhaps I want to listen to music.
Anyway...the man in front of me, Gary, oblivious to the fact that I was listening to music, began explaining that was turning around so much because he recognised one of his neighbors riding by on a bike. He didn't like the neighbor, who made a habit of walking into people's apartments if they left their doors open. "Oh," I commented, and thus began my Walk with Gary. Gary was a short, older black man, but despite our height difference he managed to stay in pace with me, and I got to hear this ongoing monologue.
Gary once counted the 25 security cameras on the Williamsburg Bridge. "And you don't think the cops are watching but they are." Gary has seen the police arrest people drinking and smoking weed (he favors "weed" rather than "pot") on the bridge. "That's why I'm careful when I drink. I sneak it in little bottles. It's a pain in the ass, but I don't get caught. Do you drink?" "Uh, yeah, but not on the bridge." "Hahahahaha. I like how you put things!"
Gary walks over the Williamsburg Bridge every day. Every day. He also walks over the Brooklyn Bridge. [I find this hard to believe. For those of you who don't know Big Apple geography, the Brooklyn Bridge is a l-o-n-g and not particularly easy walk from Greenpoint, where Gary says he lives. However I didn't feel the need to challenge him on this or any other point.] Last year he found 10 cellphones, 55 packs of cigarettes, 3 bags of weed, and a total of $10,000.
"How much do you think I've found this year? Just this year?"
"You mean, from the beginning of this month? Uhm..."
"Well no, I was counting from the beginning of December."
"Oh. Uh, 200, 300 dollars?"
Gary Gets Drunk
The previous night, Gary drank a bottle of vodka and two 40 ouncers - one of Bud, one of Miller - "'cause I like to mix it up."
"You're lucky you weren't sick."
"Oh no. I ate last night. Where did I eat at? Oh yeah. I ate at a restaurant, and I had some coldcuts at my AA meeting."
Gary is Gay
While walking over the bridge, Gary turned around to check out a girl walking the other way. He liked her big ass and said he'd like to fuck her, then added "but I'm gay." He then proceeded to tell me about his girlfriend of ten years who stayed with him all that time even thought she knew he was gay.
At this point we were over the bridge. Gary mentioned that he was going to walk up one street, and I said I was going to take a different one. "That street's too noisy. Hmm...well, it doesn't seem too bad today. I'll walk with you." Of course he would.
Gary Carries A Rock
While walking up the street, Gary began telling me about one time several years ago when a limo was "driving down the street, hitting all the gay people. So I threw the rock I always carry at the car. It hit the windshield and the limo then crashed into some parked cars."
The Importance of Punctuality
Gary is annoyed with his boyfriend because he is never on time. They arrange to meet somewhere but the boyfried is always late. The excuse? "I was high."
"I get high too" says Gary, indignantly, "but at least I get places on time." Gary complains that his boyfriend thinks this is funny and I don't have the heart to tell him that I think it's pretty funny, too.
Something We Agree On
The small crowded sidewalks of the Lower East Side prompt Gary to begin discussing how he hates slow people who block the sidewalk. He once bumped into a group of women with baby carriages. The ladies told him he was rude, and Gary answered that no, they were rude because "[to me] No offense you understand, but I told them 'You're white people. You should know better.'"
I thought for a split second of saying that I was offended and using that as an excuse to storm off in a huff, because by this point I had really had enough of Gary. I thought of lying to him just to get away.
But it's wrong to treat people that way.