Whooaaaaa we're halfway there, who-a! Living on a Prayer! That's right folks we are exactly halfway through this crazy Key to the City dating game, combining locks and keys and New York and men, all to find what exactly? My next true love? My next relationship? My, let's be honest here, first ADULT relationship? Or just to strengthen my bond further with my adorable and smoking HOT city. Only time can tell. But for now let's rejoice in getting to that halfway point and pray that I'll round it out by labor day. Time is ticking so let's go!
The Place: The Point Community Development Corporation, 1391 Lafayette Ave, The Bronx
The Guy: Omer, 28, met online, natch, at Okcupid.
What Creative Time Says: You can make artwork while participating in this artwork.
I was perhaps, more excited for this date than any other. Omer and I had shared a delightful repartee online involving discussions about hulualu and the Phantom Tollbooth. Our online flirtation began when I "winked" at him which some would say is a no no (girls are meant to be winked at, not winking themselves) but of course I ignore all gender-based dating rules and jump right into the fire myself, both feet forward, eyes wide open. Plus, Omer is a teacher in the Bronx, working with kids with special needs and my own children's rights heart took a double beat on the prospect of discussing education in our country, perhaps while hopping through some child's hopscotch drawing on the Bronx streets. Yes, I may be just a little bit crazy but these fun visions are what get me revved up for the endless legion of first dates I go on!
I was also excited about this date because Omer chose to visit The Point whose rusted door hides an interactive art project. Let's get really meta about this, I was using public art, to create my own personal art, which is in itself relational, BY making physical art. Whoa, was your mind just blown? Because mine was!
Omer and I met up by the Hunts Point Ave 6 train stop, which, I should point out, took me three differnet subways to get to after my morning brunch in Park Slope (first time riding the new M train, yea yea!) Once I got off the train there was a wide open space with racks and racks of colorful discount clothing, a sparse yet existent farmers market, and music blasting from pully cart speakers next to men selling Icee on the street. Now THIS is what I call NYC in the summer.
Omer and I walked towards the community center and he had a surprisingly wonderful sense of direction and sense of purpose. Later, Omer told me that Hunts Point is actually one of the most dangerous in NYC, but on this day I just revealed in the open fire hydrants (I think I scared off kids when I ran my hands and feet through them myself, squealing with delight), baby Chihuahuas on the street, and the fact that I now knew where a rocking episode of This American Life: Middle of the Night, took place. I will definitely be back one day at 2am to check out the fruit vendors in insomniatic action!
But today we were here for the Point Community Development Corporation and after winding down steep hills and past giant warehouses and seemingly empty train tracks, we came upon a lovely patch of land featuring fountains to play in, grilling quinceanera participants and yes, even free boating every Saturday in handmade wooden boats. Omer and I chatted with the people who ran the project, asking about the possible involvement of our various youth groups, before the delightful Cici lead us towards a giant locked wall full of rusted industrial machinery serving as art. From there we walked inside an open space where boats were made and youth empowered, past a bright garden featuring fresh basil and to the very door itself. Turning the key and opening the door, we came into our very own Pollack-esque art wonderland, a sanctuary of a shack right here in NYC.
Once you open the door an EXPLOSION of primary colors rushes up and greets you hello like your new family in a foreign exchange program in high school. Everywhere they call "look at me! look at me!" and you just want to dip your hands into a huge vat of blue and place your handprints everywhere, shaking hello with the art like a train-caboose politician. Paint and newspaper and paper and crayons lay open to your disposal, to add onto the already existent art or make your very own imprint on the space. Omer and I climbed rickety ladders, helped add onto rainbows, and made paper mache hearts before being greeted two fantastic women on their own exploration. Bonus, they were on a date! Double bonus, they met on okcupid too! Triple bonus, they had read my blog! It was a match made in funny connection BRONXNYCKEY connections. Obviously, we had to take the below picture!
I've begun to notice that I'm not the only one using these keys as a way to find love. Shelley and her date actually made their first encounter in Times Square while receiving the keys and countless others have expressed their self-love, searches for love, and symbolism of love on the pages and walls of the point art shack. People wrote, on the walls, both the cheesy (smile more because you never know who is falling...) the touching (whoever you are just know that I love you), the personal and silly (psst-don't tell the G-meister that I am in love with him, he makes me smile <3) and even, perhaps a reference to this very blog!!!
(Excuse me for a moment, "Empire State of Mind" with Jay-Z just came up on my ipod, I must dance around my living room now.
Back. :) So after making some art of our own, (I had to create the above giant heart, yes, sometimes I even make myself nauseous but you've got to put sunshine in the universe if you want it to come back!) we walked off in search of the point cafe, promised to lie just up a hill. Omer and got a little lost, made some mechanics a little confused, and talked about our various travels in Guatemala. Finally, we reached the gate of The Point to find it locked. Hungry and sweaty, we were at least somewhat amused by a very bitchy newswoman attempting to shoot a story about a killing in the area. I wish you could see her outtakes.
Real Azteca, not five minutes away. We were definitely the only gringos in the place and the children definitely stared at me with more than a little curiosity (who is this girl in a sundress loudly delighting in the carved pictures of a man eating another's heart?) which added to our adventure feel. We HEAVILY over-ordered (my parents always told me my eyes were bigger than my stomach) but the food was so darned good, cheesy and bright with cilantro with tortillas to make you melt into their corn-thick goodness, that we were soon both leaning back into our chairs and rubbing our bellies.
After filling ourselves to burs, we headed down to central park where I do acroyoga as often as I can. Omer and I discussed the over-medication of kids, charter schools, (can you sense a theme?) and sibling relations (he has a twin!) before we parted ways after an hour of yoga with the kindest people in NYC. Seriously, if the acroyoga bunch isn't filled with love of the universe I don't know who is.
Though it was an utterly fantastic perfect NYC day, I told Omer a few days later that I didn't think we worked in the romantic sense. He is, like almost all the guys I have met on this project, incredibly nice and smart and, perhaps more than anyone else I have yet met on this journey, I respected and admired his career and contributions to the world. Our energy levels, however, were just a bit off (perhaps I am getting to yogi for my own good but what can you do?) Omer is quiet and unassuming in a wonderful zen way but my mad-paced tea party view of the world doesn't always jive (though I often wish it would.) I dated a guy in college whose stillness when we were together calmed the chaos of my soul (not an easy feat!) but sometimes I get self-conscious when my yips and bounces are met with quiet which is, admittedly, my own fault and no one elses.
But though there was not a love connection, this was a perfect example of why the project works and how I hope it will influence dating generally. No, I probably won't end up marrying Omer but the day was one of my best yet of the summer, full of creation and spontaneity and really really good Quesadillas. Just try and beat that with a first date at a bar with a beer.
Playing in hydrants and dancing in my living room in Sunday morning P.J.'s,
PS. This blog post is dedicated to my sassy gay friend Anthony who, if he hadn't overslept on our brunch date, would've never allowed for the time for me to finally write this overdue post!