Pennies from Manhattan

13 10 2008

When I was a freshman in high school (a long time ago), we were given a chapter of Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek to read in my English class. The chapter, entitled “Seeing” is a meditation on what we see and how we see it. In it, the child Dillard enjoyed hiding pennies, and thrilled at the thought of a lucky passerby finding “a free gift from the universe.” The adult Dillard wonders who really gets excited by a penny, given that any small enjoyment or happy experience counts as a penny.

We only read the first few paragraphs for class, and I have yet to read the rest of it. And yet (being the nerd that I am) I perused those first two paragraphs so thoroughly and so often that to this day I can recite them from memory, almost verbatim. Yesterday I slowed down my fast-paced New York life for a bit, and Dillard’s words returned to me: “It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won’t stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days.” Simple. Lovely. True.

And so, because in my actual struggling author poverty I too often forget to cultivate my figurative poverty, some pennies:

1) Fall days. I know I pull the California girl and have a tendency to be whiny and annoying when winter rolls around. But despite the fact that it’s the season before winter, fall is fabulous. Yesterday was one of those perfect days that sets all the city into a buzz of activity: warm but not sticky, with a light fresh breeze and that great crisp scent that can only really be had in a place with seasons (sorry California).

2) Bethesda Terrace. Dominated by Bethesda Fountain, this area overlooks the lake, where city slickers can (gasp!) row boats, and can be entered or exited through the stunning, tiled arcade that’s more reminiscent of ancient Rome than modern New York (at least to this New Yorker).

Can you say picturesque?

Can you say picturesque?

3) Eccentricities. While lost in the park I came upon many of these, but two were particularly notable. The first was an elderly man with a bushy beard dyed green and orange, dressed in a frilly lace dress and a gold hat with a bird on it, and dancing to rhythmic drums to the delight of a crowd of onlookers. The second was a tiny (and by tiny I mean about eight years old) street performer who silently and adeptly performed a series of circus tricks, adroitly juggling rings, then balls before moving on to a unicycle. Amazingly enough, less people stopped to watch him.

And I end, these being just a sampling of the pennies I picked up in the course of my Sunday. Perhaps one day does a millionaire make.





September Highlights

7 10 2008

It’s definitely autumn in New York. The air is crisp, some leaves have started to change color, and I’m left bewildered and wondering what happened to September. Oh right, September was that quick little month during which I: started a new job at the Harlem Children’s Zone, scurried around Fashion Week, and curated a major literary extravaganza.

Somewhere between the sore feet and the frantic running, I managed to fit in two of my favorite things: travel and girlfriends. I got to take a little trip to the tiny town of Altoona, PA, where my dear high school friend Rachel, whom I hadn’t seen in a frightening five years happened to be for a wedding. My travel time of six hours each way about equaled the waking hours I spent in Altoona. The trip itself consisted of crashing the wedding, brunching and talking the following day at Friendly’s (east coast staple) followed by a long and thorough exploration of Target (more talking) before re-crossing the highway and returning to the hotel to lounge and talk some more. It was a simple trip and an amazing one, the kind that proves it does not matter where you are, or how long you travel, so long as it’s to meet a good friend.

And speaking of long trips, my lovely and amazing friend Liz made a huge one across the pond to visit me in New York. We walked all over town, gorged on sweets, and talked until it seemed we must have sucked the air out of the room. And still had so much left to say. It was fun to see New York through unAmerican eyes, but the best part was the realization that over a two week stint in Argentina I had made a lifetime friend. The wonders of travel.

Even more amazing, that in the midst of the chaos of September, I managed to fit in quality time with two amazing women and two great friends (old and new) who, in vastly different ways, are something of kindred spirits to me. I wonder what October will hold?