Nevertheless, in a peoplescape defined, in ways concrete and subliminal, by stultifying conformity, the masquerade allows us to move through folks more exotic to eye and soul than the dull-edged clones we know even ourselves to be. That’s why I was glad to be back in New York last night, after a rugged day or two in session (we of the House work intermittently, but with pride). The bus from DC let me off downtown, so I figured I’d walk toward the Halloween parade, the better to soak up the sounds, smells and color of that venerable identity charade, if charade it be.
Now, usually, in costume crowds, I try to lose myself in the nuances, to be swept away by magic, to BELIEVE. But last night I was tired, so decided to enjoy the more effortlessly perceived reality of half-assed peacocks amidst the grit of the city night. I didn’t let it bother me, as it normally would, when I didn’t see a potentially interesting thing head on, like this guy who could have been Scooby Doo, but from the back and the side had goggly eyes that seemed too high on his head.
I thought, okay, maybe it’s merely a dog of the same breed as Scooby Doo. If I had forced myself to find HIS truth, I may have discovered only the Scooby I already knew. Instead, my ease (though not indifference) gave me the possibility of a veritable galaxy of alternate doggy Doos to enjoy and love.
Continuing to ignore canine details and incorrectly positioned hooves (not to mention horns), I made it to the origin point of the procession and was moved, pneumatically, by a human diorama, through the bottleneck of pretenders there. Then, like that (almost), I was done, ambulating beyond the borders of the throng to the more sparsely superheroed thoroughfares below.
My head, such as it was, was still spinning when an accented woman, with a smartphone she couldn’t understand, asked for assistance. Where, the befuddled lass in regular-folk garb asked, was Watts Street?
Sucked out of my head, but with too many pieces of me left inside, I couldn’t visualize, so just intuited. “It’s not this side of Canal, is it?”
She felt like it was.
Thing is, there are two Watts Streets in my mind, one in the west by the tunnel and another that branches off from Broome Street, near the empanadas. They are the same, of course, in different spots, but my fuzzed up cranium could not reconcile them and she needed to find the reconciliation point where, in reality, though not my skull, they met.
We moved away from each other. Then, with a biorhythmic jolt, I was back.
In New York City.
With the clarity of a native.
And, you know, native New Yorkers hate to be ignorant of the city’s details, HATE to be unable to give help. I ran to where I’d left her, but she was gone. I had failed her. And myself.
And my city.
As punishment, perhaps, I was — without even moving — thrust into a realm of mundanity. Where a masquerade had been, mere moments before, there were now only ordinary citizens in ordinary threads, one of whom spoke.
“Are you Andrew Lederer?”
“Congratulations on your election.”
“Did you really tell a town hall you never read the Constitution?”