Sunday, August 22, 2010

A New York Minute

Yesterday afternoon by chance, I found myself in a small piece of real estate that the city mothers and fathers have graciously designated a peaceful stopover for the public at large. Located on the corner of East 46th Street and Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the United Nations, the place featured a little water fountain at its center, lots of colorful impatiens, healthy green shrubbery all around, as well as scattered benches for passersby to rest their weary bones and, in my case, and increasingly weighty prosthetic, which after several miles of walking felt like a ball and chain.

Earlier in the day, I had met an old friend and we had zigzagged around for a few hours, beginning our odyssey in lower Manhattan and ending up contentedly exhausted in this benign urban setting. There were no sorry souls sleeping it off here, a rare and welcome bonus in big city parkland. And soon after plopping ourselves down at the water fountain’s edge, we observed a very well-dressed elderly man shuffling his way into this sleepy alcove. As soon as he sat down, my friend said: “That guy looks familiar. He’s an old character actor. I’m sure of it.”

“He looks a little bit like William Windom,” I replied, but knew he wasn’t our man. We inconspicuously attempted to get a better gander at the gussied up geezer, but he nonetheless sensed our four eyes checking him out. Visibly showing his disapproval, he glared our way.

At that exact moment, a much younger fellow entered the stage. He was there expressly to meet and greet this possible old character actor—it was no chance meeting. But when he bowed down and kissed the man’s hand, the old character actor theory went up in a puff of smoke, unless, of course, this former thespian found another and decidedly different line of work. The attentive toady gently grabbed hold of the mystery man's arm and out the pair went, but not before one final and very piercing glower came our way.

I want those two taught a lesson. Is this what this aged Mafia don was whispering to his underling as he gingerly shuffled away across Second Avenue to God knows where? Or maybe it’s just that my friend and I have watched too much television and movies through the years. From Bill Windom to Don Corleone in a New York minute.

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