Yesterday after work, I went down to the lower east side, between the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges, to meet an old friend for a bite to eat. The neighborhood is populated mostly by Asians, Jews (this is the land of the Jewish settlements), Dominicans, and, increasingly now, hipsters. Hipsters with money. Which is where my old friend fits in (as fate would have it, his apartment building is just two blocks away from where my pal's grandparents first lived when they came to this country).
As I waited for my man in front of a playground on the corner of Essex and Strauss, I watched young Asian and hipster moms with their kids. I'm always intrigued by watching women with little boys. Sometimes, you will see women--mothers or nannies--curb little boys' enthusiasm, their aggressiveness on the playground. But that wasn't the case here.
One beautiful, but hard-looking young Asian mother pushed her son on a swing and occasionally looked at me warily. Another tall Scandinavian woman chased her son around a tree, and then led him to one of those jungle gyms that have stairs and a plank bridge and slides. She led the way and then waited for him to climb up the stairs. She stood several feet away as if to challenge him, but in a sweet, reassuring way. He then passed her and went down the slide. She followed, her long legs awkwardly bent like a stork attempting to sit in the kitchen sink.
I turned back to the street and saw a group of four boys, maybe all of 13 cruise down the street. The kid in the front, wearing all black, stood up on his bike, and cocked his head to the side with a cell phone pressed to his ear. He coasted through the traffic sign and his gang followed behind him. Just then, two Asian girls, maybe all of 10, walked past me. One of them clopped back and forth in that seasoned way of city kids, who look much older than they really are. This little girl, with absolutely no hips at all, actually had a switch, even though she had nothing to switch around. Man, these city girls are tough.
I listened to Slick Rick on my i-pod and stood in the fading sunlight. Old Asian women passed me, carrying transparent blue grocery bags filled with produce. I wonder what they'll be cooking tonight. Behind them, a hipster with a takeout bag in one hand and a Whole Foods bag in the other, wearing over-sized sunglasses looked typically ridiculous.
Then a little girl, maybe 7 or 8, walked by. She looked up at me. She had a good shiner on her right eye. Her face was round and quizzical as she looked right in my eyes. She was wearing a purple jacket, red skirt, white tights with little cartoon characters on them, and bright red shoes. Like most kids, she looked like she was almost going to tip over from the weight of her backpack. She was holding hands with an older, squat man in a green coat. Just as she looked at me, "Mona Lisa" played on my i-pod and I heard:
If you see me walking down the street
And I start to cry...each time we meet...
Walk on by...walk on by...
Thats all that I have left, so, let me hide
The pain and the hurt that you gave me
When you said goodbye...
You walked on by...
I looked on the ground and saw a little strip of white paper. A fortune cookie. I picked it up and it read, "Be tactful; overlook not your own opportunity."
Tonight, Phil Hughes, gets his first start of the season, the first chance to take advantage of the opportunity the Yankees have given him. Jay Jaffe and I will brave the cold and be at the park.