When I was a little girl, my dad took me and my brother and sister into the city for a movie premiere. He took us to his favorite Italian restaurant on Ninth Avenue and we saw an advanced screening of The Patriot Games in Times Square. This was when Times Square was still seedy, a little bit scary and definitely dirty. You hurried through Times Square to your destination. You didn't linger or stare at billboards and you definitely didn't shop because most of the shops were sex shops and peep shows. While, we were hurrying to our car (parked in a garage because obviously someone would try to steal/break into our reliable Ford Taurus. The CLUB locked to our steering well couldn't prevent vandals), a prostitute approached my dad. She was tall, dressed scantily and flashy and had huge hair. My dad, who was smoking his pipe, simply brushed her off. I was dumbstruck by the situation and I'm pretty certain that as a 13 year-old-girl, I shouted something awful at her, to defend my dad's honor. It was a great day, a great memory that we all cherish, and in some ways, that prostitute made the day more remarkable.
I took Bean into the city to see the Nutcracker. It was just the two of us. We took the train in and she held onto her carefully packed purse. Her purse contained only tiny mermaids and she brought them in case "we get bored." She looked out the window and was transfixed my sights that normally bore every commuter. The graffiti, the multiple garbage dumps and the many passengers on the train offered endless fascination to her. When we finally arrived at Penn, she immediately smelled popcorn and thought that we arrived at Wonderland. Popcorn and pretzels that were available mid-day and not in movie theatre was mind-blowing to her. We took the subway downtown and arrived at the West 4th Street station. I tried to tell about how I used to work down there and she mentally turned off because all she wanted was the popcorn from Penn Station. We ran into a bodega and bought her a bagel and she was yelled at for touching the candy by the stern cashier. Embarrassed and instantly shy, she walked out behind me, eagerly eating her bagel and making the short-lived vow to never touch display candy again.
While we stood outside, eyes blinking at the intense noon day sun, an older woman approached. She looked somewhat lost. There is nothing I love more than giving directions to tourists in NYC. One, it makes me feel like I don't live in Jersey. Two, I genuinely like helping people. And three, I want any visitor to NY, to go home and think about how nice and helpful New Yorkers are. So when this stranger approached, I didn't walk away, but stood and was prepared to answer her questions.
"Excuse me, but do you know what a dildo is?"
I stared at her blankly. She was an older woman, maybe early 50's and her accent suggested that she was from the UK. She looked frantic, and somewhat annoyed with my reticence to answer her.
"D-I-L-D-O!" She spelled it for me, as if I didn't understand the words coming from her mouth. Oh yes, spelling would certainly move along this social interaction. At this point, I start looking around for a camera. Clearly, Billy on the Street or some You Tuber is filming me, right? I move my head around trying to find the camera and smiling weirdly/uncomfortably. I reach around to find Bean's hand to try to indicate to this strange woman that I have child with me and that I'm not ready to discuss sex toys with her at this moment in time. Bean looks up at me, cream cheese all over her face, and is completely oblivious to everything other than the bagel.
"Fuck off then!" She mumbles at me and stomps away to the bodega, presumably to pepper the cashier with more dildo queries.
I grabbed Bean's hand and we walked to the theatre. She gazed up at me and said "I love being in New York with you."
"Me too, my love. Me too!"