So this is what happens when you procrastinate or are focusing on other things (you know, like your job) and forget that, whoops, it's already late August and, uh oh, the entire Key to the City project ends on labor day (thankfully running extra-date this year) and you, ahhhh!, have TEN DATES TO DO IN TEN DAYS?
Can you do it? Will you make it? Damn right you will! And gosh darn it if you won't even have some fun!
Which brings us to the beginning of the end, and date numero quince!
The Guy: Tom, introduced through college dorm-mate Meg, 26
The Place: Freshkills Park, Staten Island
What Creative Time Says: It took us half a century but we made this together.
About one month ago I emailed Doug, the tour guide and booker for the Freshkills park extravaganza as, in order to open this key you had to secure a spot on one of their coveted tours. Thankfully, Doug was waiting for me as he wrote:
We were wondering if you'd every come out! After I read the NYT piece I looked back on our rosters and noticed that you hadn't been out - I do most of the tour organization and lead many of them and didn't think any blind dates were happening...
Thank goodness for small graces! Tom and I had also been waiting for our big moment as Meg tried to set us up way back when I only had maybe three readers aside from my parents and our schedules just never clicked into a date. Thankfully, and finally, with almost one week to go, we finally cleared our schedules for each other!
Ok now readers, so at this point in the game, I'm pretty good at a first date and I've also come to expect pretty much zero from the whole thing. It's down to a science, say hello, hug, comment on getting there, comment on the key to the city, and dive into a few hours of getting to know you chat. I wasn't expecting much, heck, Tom and I had barely exchang substantive emails before agreeing to meet, so I was going into this really pretty blind.
But there was something about this guy! Nothing big and fancy, nothing glittery, but damn if the more we talked the more I wanted to just keep talking. And the conversation wasn't all, where are you from what are your views, it was more, let's talk about that childhood pet we accidentally killed and the novel you have written that you want to keep working on (seriously, and tragically, we both had that in common.) It wasn't othat our lives were mirror images, but our life views and the rhythms of the choices made seemed to, well, compliment each other.
And see? I'm not even talking about the key site! Which was, totally awesome and fantastic and beautiful and I am losing my adjectives with which to describe it. Freshkills Park, kills meaning stream in Dutch, is a 2200 acre former landfill now being adapted to make the second biggest park in NYC. Soon (well,thirty years) to be featuring kayaking and picnicing, playgrounds and hiking trails, this massive expanse of land now operates as some kind of sanitation boneyard with long retired cranes creaking about the mountains and run down garbage trucks lining the gravel roads. Our tourbus, and fearless leader Doug, wound around the paths, over tons and tons of rubbish, literally, through highway passes and over creeks, all in the name of learning about this soon to be awe-inspiring space. I for one am happy I will still be living in NYC when it's all open.
Being on a tour bus meant the actual key part was a singular event, one girl opened the padlocked box to reveal a giant pair of binoculars (note: objects in magnification may be further than they appear, while using them I ducked out of the way of a dragonfly seemingly soaring towards my head which was, in all likelihood, closer to Manhattan than myself) and all of us key-bearers cheered at the surprise (two of them later recognized me and told me they were loyal readers, FUN!) I still made Tom open the lock, of course, and tried to explain to him why the entire thing was so exciting to me and Tom, bless his heart, tried to play along. Well, if I can't find someone who will squeal with delight when I stumble upon a purple piece of glass on the street, than all I can ask for is someone who will smile as I do so. We had a delightful time scavenging for gas vent kegs and trying to capture a picture of the elusive butterflies and bees on the hill.
Let this be a lesson to anyone who says NYC is all buildings and crowds, my friends, you simply have not ventured out enough. The paths and grounds went on and on and I felt just as I would on top of a conservatory area in my hometown of western, MA (minus all the landfill covering but hey, I used to sled over an old landfill near my house, as long as you don't lick the snow right?) I was sad when the tour ended (I was dying to climb up onto these giant blue sculptures, I mean plows, just waiting for human contact) but Tom and I chatted the entire way back to the ferry, often in hushed tones because we were the only ones on the bus still engaged in conversation!
After we disembarked most everyone made a beeline to the ferry but not us, we were brave adventurers here to conquer Staten Island! Walking past the scariest clown-painted bar I have ever seen in my life, a homeless shelter for youth, and the tiniest bait and tackle shop I've ever seen, a cart of used books caught my eye as carts of used books are want to do and soon we came upon the most fabulous used bookstore I have yet been to in NYC. Everything Goes Book Cafe and Neighborhood Stage is everything that I truly miss about coffee houses/bookstores in NYC. Sure, we have housing works and McNally Robinson, which I love and are certainly able to do the trick, but here, in the heart of the oft-forgotten borough, was a place full of vintage records and current novels, 19th century playbills and local artists, but without one bit of the pretension that often occupies these areas in Manhattan. The couches were free to be sat upon, the regulars had out their tarot cards, and the hummus was homemade, I was in heaven.
Tom copied my lunch of an iced mint tea and a bagel with cream cheese, tomato and fresh basil (brilliant new combo!) though he preferred his bagel to remain untoasted, and we sat out in the completely unoccupied back porch area to delve into the realms of children's literature and our favorite movies. I don't think I've ever been out with someone with whom I had such opposite tastes in culture (the man hasn't read Matilda or The Fountainhead, people) and yet whose opinion made me want to look into the movies I may have otherwise skipped over. It was just like the bagel, familiar and delicious with just a new enough twist to keep me delightfully on my toes. I went to acroyoga after the date and for the first time in awhile I didn't even need to be flown before I was smiling like crazy. It had been a good day, a very good day indeed.
So I think it's fair to say this date may have been one of the more promising of them all. Not only does Freshkills have a lot of potential and a lot to look forward too, but I do believe Tom may reappear in this week of insanity himself as another key date.