At Year’s End, A Different Kind Of List

santa tracksKenan

The end of the year is a time for recollection, for looking back at our achievements. I feel that I accomplished a lot this year. I took a job that allowed me to afford a monthly subway pass and I rode my bike all the way to the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge once. There are the little things too: I never left a drink undrunk or a hot dog half-eaten. But not many things in the past year occurred with enough regularity to accumulate into an actual list – except for one thing that happens to me each and every day. And so, here is my year in review:

The Top Five Things Hollered at Me While I Walk Through Tompkins Square Park on the Way to Work Each Day

5. “Ooooh, Honey, You Better Wipe That Sour Look Off Your Face”

This is by far the most frequent of hollers at me in the park. The rotund lady in a pink Hannah Montana beanie was the first to yell this to me from the entrance to the dog pen. I don’t like that I walk with a confused and constipated-looking expression that makes me look like I just watched the last episode of “Lost” six times, but that’s exactly what a New Yorker looks like. Sadly, when I get into work, my boss usually says the same thing. He also wears a similar beanie.

4. “What You Lookin’ At Me For? I Bet You Don’t Even Know How To Play Chess!”

Says the skinny man in a Celtics jersey who sits on top of the chess tables at 9 am each morning, sipping on a yellow Gatorade. Never is he actually playing chess either, although plenty of his friends around him are. I assume he is the referee, there to prevent cheating. Often I will argue with him telling him that I do, in fact, know how to play chess, my mom taught me once in third grade, and I’m sure I remember. But I have not yet been able to stop my morning commute and fit in a quick match with one of his teammates. I suppose in 2011 that will be one of my resolutions. To stop and smell the flowers and play a game of chess with one of the guys who wears an Ikea bag as a sweater.

3. “I Love You”

There are three people I encounter on my commute that profess their love for me. The first stands outside of Life Café and holds a crumpled 9th Street Espresso cup full of Canadian change as says the words. Another is outside the F train entrance, his mouth full of Pizza Roma’s “Breakfast Pizza,” once getting bacon bits in my hair when he said the syllables. But my favorite and most creative romancer is in Tompkins Square Park. Each day this summer he would emerge from the sprinklers on Ave B between 9th and 10th just as I stepped through the raging rivers of puddles. Sopping wet, he would pull his shiny, metallic shirt up to his face to wipe the moisture from his brow so he could properly say to me, “Sweetie! I Loff Yous!” the minute I blew past him. Unlike my other two suitors, he did not stop saying the words even after I stopped, turned on my heels, got in his pock-marked face and yelled “Oh really? DO YOU? DO YOU LOVE ME?” It was a test, and you know what? I think perhaps he really does.

2. “You Look Fat Today”

I don’t blame my friends in Tompkins Square Park for being honest with me. They see me every 24 hours, and have a right to tell me when I’m having an on or off day. Often, the ladies eating muffins and foil wrapped bagels on the benches have complimented my outfit or expressed their distaste in my choice of scarf. But only once has anyone told me I looked fat. I thought she was sleeping since she was horizontal on a bench, lying on top of a carefully lined nest of pigeon feathers and old french fries. I thundered by, scowling, in my oversized men’s sweater worn with what I thought were “sexy” sweatpants, and I heard the words emerge from this sleeping beauty’s mouth. The New York fashion show is not on pause in Tompkins Square Park.

And the number one thing hollered at me while walking to work through Tompkins Square Park:

1. “Hey Mama, That’s A Beautiful Smile”

It may have only happened once, but it came from a tall, thin, ageless man in a Santa hat and crushed velvet Prince costume (yes, with cutouts). It was July, and I was in a great mood the rest of the day.