Sunday, June 13, 2010

The First Date

Alright folks, hold onto your hats, make sure you're sitting down, because it has finally happened. Last night I went on my very first date with the Key To The City project!

The Place:
Bryant Park, 41st Street and 6th Ave, Manhattan
The Time: 10:55pm, Saturday June 13th.
The Guy: "Luis", a 26 year old met on OKcupid.
Creative Time Says: Many things that we own in common are invisible, yet in plain sight.

I wanted to chose Bryant Park as the first site to visit because the site the key unlocks, a lamppost box with a switch control, seemed like an iconic beginning. Not only is Bryant Park near the pulsating center of Times Square, but creating light is fitting as the start of my quest.

"Luis" (a pseudonym, unless guys expressly consent I won't be using any real names, posting any pictures, or giving away any identifying characteristics in this blog) and I decided to meet up before this project began and luckily he was game to grab a key and explore! Luis has lived here ever since he moved from the DR when he was just a kid and he clearly shared the same sense of wonder and love for this city as I did. I was running late from a photoshoot and didn't get home until 10:15. Frantically realizing that the park closed at eleven, I called Luis and asked if he thought he could meet me in half an hour. Luckily, he was game. My kind of man.

We met behind the great screen being erected for the start of the bryant park film festival, at approximately 10:52pm. My heart was beating that we may not make it in time as I watched a large group of excited teenagers approach the box, turn the key and flick on the light. Finally, Luis approached, dressed perfectly for a casual date on a saturday night, and after a hugging meet and greet, we went up to the box.

I handed Luis my key, wanting to allow him to do the honors as I had basically dictated the terms of our meeting. As he opened the box a couple approached, then another and another, until a whole little group surrounded us. When Luis flipped the switch we all cheered and it felt like a true collective effort. People had left notes announcing their past presence in the space while a perched daffodil waved a happy greeting. The man of the first couple began asking me questions about the key and, wanting to share the love, I explained the art project and how he too could be a recipient. Finally, I crouched down to open the box, worried it would be impossible to retain excitement after having watched it be done so many times before me.

I was wrong. There was something so satisfying and delightful about the key simply sliding into the lock with such ease. Bryant Park was a site I loved to visit and now I had the key to open one of its many secrets. I felt delight and joy, like I would soon burst with shared ownership and pride. I held my breath as I flipped the switch and looked up, imagining I could watch the jolt of electricity I had released travel up to the light.

But it didn't go on!!! I tried turning it on and off again and nada. Here is the dialogue that followed:

L.A.: Luis, what time is is?
Luis: Uh oh, 11:01.
Portly Policeman while unnecessarily blowing a whistle: GET OUT OF THE PARK!!!!!!!! THE PARK IS CLOSED!!!! GET OUT OF THE PARK!!!!!!!!!!

Tragically I was too late! The power circuit must somehow be connected to the park's internal clock and I missed it by sixty seconds. I was not too late, however, for Luis to snap this picture of my everlasting sadness.

(My shirt is by the amazing Sine Die by Beetle)

Soon, however, we were laughing it off, sharing in the hilarity of the build up and crash. At least Luis had gone first. Imagine a date with such a person as I and then not even being able to participate fully in the project!

The second part of the date had to, as outlined by my rules, brought us to a bar or restaurant neither of us had previously tried. Before running to meet Luis, while scarfing down pizza and washing my hair (the photographer had it teased), I dashed onto yelp. Entering "midtown east, $-$$, bar, and "outdoor", I got a number of hits and let Luis chose the spot. His choice:

Pinetree Lodge, 326 East 35th Street.

We didn't realize quite how far east 326 East 35th street was but luckily the walk was quite visually stunning. I'd never been that far east on 35th and the townhouses we passed along the way were a mixture of NY's beauty, history and quirk. Plus, I learned where the country of Malta is. Check out these sights from the walk-->

On the way Luis and I talked about the world cup and his sister's upcoming wedding, immigration to New York and the perils of online dating. I wasn't sure if we were having a romantic click but I was definitely enjoying the conversation, it just flowed.

We knew we had arrived when, many many avenues later, we saw a blinding swirl of christmas lights and, you guessed it, pine trees. As Luis pointed out, the Lodge looks like it belongs on the side of the road off some quirky city. I suggested Austin, TX. When we walked inside it fit out hypothesis perfectly, christmas lights strung in between mounted deer and tilted TV screens.

(Toto, I don't think we're in the east village anymore.)

Sadly the outside seating area was closed (9:30?! What, do first year bankers not enjoy fresh air past twilight?!) but we grabbed a comfy couch, albeit bedecked with more animal hides, and settled into our drinks.

By the end of the night it was clear we probably wouldn't be seeking a second date. Though I had a good two hours chatting, that's really all it was: fun talk in new places with another lover of our city.

No worries, I'll try turning on another light to see if the electricity catches....

Till next time,


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