Little things are what dazzle or repel here on the Island of Manhattan. The nearly full third-gibbous moon over Morningside Heights with three tiny specks of starlight on an early-September evening looks like the cover illustration for a fantasy fiction tale; the rosy claret color of morning before the sun has risen or the vagrants have found a place to set take the breath away.
And while I am enjoying either sight, I nearly stumble over a rat the size of a raccoon ambling unperturbed out of a garbage sculpture on the curb. Or, on my return from my morning walk, as I attempt to settle into my writing routine, my next door neighbors, whose speakers are on the wall their living room shares with my bedroom, both taking the day off from work this day, will crank the volume up on their bass, and the beat will rock me to the brink of insanity.
Then comes the evening, and I stroll through the lowering dusk to Lincoln Center, where I watch the dying light transform the sky to a sapphire backdrop behind the digital projection of perfect Puccini opera. It doesn’t get any better than this.
The hunger, the joblessness, the impossibly high rent pale in the face of opportunities. One night a friend treats me to a production of Brecht-cum-Ethan-Hawke theater, and Paul Dano stands next to me in the outer lobby waiting for the house to open, talking softly to a girlfriend, sipping a small drink. Jeremy Irons approaches the entrance and held with everyone else, unacknowledged, unlauded, till the ushers allow us to enter, and afterward, when he finds a purse on the seat next to him, it is I who say to the woman coursing up the aisle, “Ma’am, does that bag belong to you?” and receive Irons’ sincere gratitude.
Another night, still teary from a pre-release screening of Enough Said, I stop at Handles for a shot of yogurt, and who’s standing in front of the eponymous handles, befuddled by the choices, but Mandy Patinkin. The cool I felt in the presence of Dano and Irons heats up; I’ve been in love with Patinkin since the first time his clear, true tenor plunged into golden baritone range then swung back again on my Mamaloshen cd. The man sends me.
This time I had to stop, breathe, remind myself that any minute now I will most likely be accosted by a foul-smelling man with oozing sores guilting me into giving him my last quarter, and I smile benignly at Mr. Patinkin, who has now figured out the delivery system but isn’t sure what to do with his yogurt at the check-out station.
“It’s easy,” I say. “Just place the cup on the scale. She’ll weigh it for you.”