The Ice Breakers
January 15, 2010 § 32 Comments
We are gathered around the glass table, lounging on a white L-shaped couch. Few of us are just beginning to dig into the hors d’oeuvres spread out on the table between us, while others are making a dive for that lone last piece of calamari clinging to a white plate. With a spiked and very hot apple cider warming my hands, I am busy eying my neighbor’s cup of Irish cream whiskey.
Once in a while, we’d glance around us, checking out the people milling in and out of the tables next to us. Finally, one of us speaks, breaking the ice:
“There’s one simple way to tell a group of New Yorkers and a group of visitors apart.”
He quickly wags a finger at us, stopping us in our tracks, sparing us a dumb quip.
“No, it’s not the clothes! Hell, I like wearing something other than black sometimes!”
He’s got our attention.
“And it’s not the body language. Well, let’s just say that that is not the fool-proof way.”
We nod in agreement. Take this for example: We do like to have an invisible shield protecting our personal space wherever we go, but it’s not a hard and fast rule. A few drinks down and that boundary blurs a little.
“It’s always the group with diversity. Those are the true New Yorkers. The rest of those lookalikes are just visitors.”
I am surprised and amazed at this observation. We nod our heads and smile in agreement. Some raise their glasses as if to applaud him. The food and drinks take a back seat. Conversation has begun.
We are sitting in Bryant Park, in a make shift open-air bar, that’s set up here only in the Winters. In front of us is the white ice skating rink, The Pond. It’s full of people. It’s also Friday evening, so I figure that most of them are tourists. Especially the ones clicking away or walking in their skates, hanging by the rails.
Do they see New York? I wonder. Do they see us – an American-Honduran-Indian medley, straight and gay; peering from the lit up corner, trying to read their visitors who keep sliding and and falling on cold winter ice? And if they do, how do they see us?
Perhaps, my friend is right.
It’s pitch dark and I am tired. As my camera gathers dust in my big graphic print bag, I think of the long way back home. No, I am not excited about shooting tight knit groups of squealing snap shooters. Posing, laughing. They are happy, I see. But something is amiss. My friend has just unraveled a thread in my head.
* * *
I am back the next week.
Somehow I knew there were New Yorkers hidden in that crowd that evening, waiting to shine. New Yorkers who lived here or just visited. For there’s one thing that I did not agree with my erstwhile friend on. New York City is about the spirit you bring with you, and it longs for those that bring with them open arms and an open mind. It is virtually impossible to tell those people apart. Because in essence, they belong to New York.
New Yorkers are not cold. No, sir they are not. In fact, they are the Ice Breakers. Swiveling, moving and dancing to life’s tune, wherever they may come from. Red heads, blondes, brunettes, all alike.
All these myriad faces that surround us, are the many identities of this schizophrenic city.
– The Juicer at work