Monday, July 25, 2011

Walking to Work

I found this old post from a blog I reclaimed. This was written in 2005 and takes me back to the olden days of investment banking ...

Walking shoes, slacks, black wool jacket, dress shirt, white scarf, one overstuffed sky blue canvas bag with gym clothes, lunch, wallet, keys, and other necessities including pointy black shoes for the office, random appropriate and conservative jewelry, recently dyed and blow-dried hair, a white trashbag full of dry cleaning, and a cell phone in hand soon to vibrate with my mother on the line. I lock the door, look out onto the street, the fog is clearing here and the day is just beginning. Clear air, empty streets, the cable car rattles by, its sound is so regular to this area that I do not consider it to be breaking the silence. This is my twenty sixth 7:30AM walk to work. In a half hour, I will be sitting in an office, staring at my computer screen, staying there until about 9PM. imagine for me, this is my freedom time.

I walk along Greenwich Street and take a right on Columbus. Up the concrete sidewalk, I pass "Just a Bite" cafe and still laugh to myself at a comment my mom made about the name months ago when she was starving after a day of unpacking. "Ain't no way I'm eating there!" The rest of this block is empty, the stores are all closed, not about to open anytime soon. But up ahead is the first stoplight, and it is here that my day really begins. I advertantly wait for the light to turn red. I love to stand at this corner and watch the rest of the people starting out their day. I can see Washington Square Park from here, and the early-morning Chinese exercisers who cover the park remind me of my year abroad in Beijing, and I feel a tinge of homesickness for my host family and life abroad. I watch as a few people pull into the garage across the street, or smile at the drivers pulling out onto Columbus from their own residential garages up the street. I imagine a gorgeous, friendly guy catching up with me at this light, only to say good morning, notice the view as I do, and casually chat as we walk to work together for a little ways. It is here where I recognize the first person I ever recognized on my walk to work.

It was the fifth day when I saw him, a man in a green shirt with a light green sportsjacket and a red scarf. He is balding, probably somewhere around fifty five years old. I can tell this man is happy, but judging from my own personal experience, the people I first recognize anonymously are always the craziest people around. I doubt myself, and I doubt this man. On this twenty sixth day, he passes me still without recognition. I think of him as a sort of whimsical creature of my morning. The only person I recognize who hasn't yet spoken to himself in public.

I cross the street and continue up Columbus Avenue, toward the coffee shops and popular touristy restaurants. They are all closed save two very popular places, Caffe Greco and Caffe Puccini, outside I see the same two men drinking their morning espressos and discussing the most recent baseball game. In the window of the second cafe, I always see the same man, dressed like an explorer from the nineteenth century, he is immersed in a book, surrounded by piles of other books and papers and highlighters. I have always wanted to walk into this cafe and introduce myself, asking him what it is he does. But, I don't, I don't even smile at him, I just keep walking. Here is another stoplight, but this one is busier and the buses are coming from every direction. I cross as quickly as I can, and head downward toward the TransAmerica building.

My hair is starting to frizz as I descend into the fog. As I descend it's as if I'm descending into another world. The cheerful morning activity of North Beach becomes a somber scene after I pass Broadway. Here is where I recognize the bums and the crazies. First, I see the skinny man in the tophat. He talks to himself, and one day I was caught walking the same speed as him with him trailing me by a few paces. I could hear him speaking to himself. About what, i'm still not quite sure, it's kind of like listening to someone talk in their sleep. I pass bums in front of City Lights, usually sleeping. And then, just a few shops down, I pass a homeless woman who was blonde for the first week, then she adopted a fake hair piece, recently her hair is blue. When she asks me for spare change, she asks me in a matter-of-fact way, like she's not begging, but rather like it's just expected, sometimes she smiles and I can see that the only teeth she has left are the two top canines. I keep walking, I still haven't given this woman a cent, something about her presence frightens me. There is something too normal about her, normal but crazy, maybe a part of myself that I would rather imagine doesn't exist, a part of myself that i'd rather not feed into existence. I keep walking.

Just as I turn the corner from Columbus to Kearny, the Happy Donuts is on my right. I look inside, without fail. Everyone in here is interesting, and deep down, I really want one of their donuts, with sprinkles and chocolate icing. I never recognize the people here, but the scene, it is familiar to me. Working class and poor men, tearing into donuts quickly while they sip on steaming coffee out of a styrofoam cup. Something about this is very comforting. Around this corner, I always see someone who appears to be semi-normal speaking to himself. Does everyone start speaking to themselves eventually? I wonder, and I worry that around this corner, I too may start doing so as well. I walk on.

Gradually I find my way to the financial section of Kearny. The bums have turned to poor people who have turned to working class, who have now turned to white collar workers. These people are either talking to themselves, motioning with their hands, or looking straight ahead, walking too fast to notice that anything is going on around them. It is these people who I recognize--men with a mission, I call them in my mind. It's a misnomer, I assume their mission is trivial and financially-based, I hope they start speaking to themselves. Sometimes I hope they trip over a curb just to break that overdone concentration.

And now I'm here, at work. I look up at the building, turn around to view the outside. goodbye for the day, for the week, I'll see you in 24 hours, I think. Or maybe say? Who knows. I'm just as crazy as the rest of them.

1 comment:

Will said...

Lol, "with sprinkles and chocolate icing." I love it!