Struggling with the question of whether to venture up to 191st street to the lady who runs the Mister Softy truck for my cherry-dipped chocolate soft serve cone, I wander out of my apartment, up in the elevator and through the lobby. On the radiator where people often leave things they no longer want someone has deposited three books. They are all New York guides: one for free stuff, one for nightlife, and I don’t pay attention to the third but scoop up the first two. First come first served. I continue out the door and around the corner to my neighborhood park, J Hood Wright Park and settle on a bench in the sunshine. People are barbecuing on this Father’s Day, an activity that is expressly prohibited by metal signs placed in the park. As with many ordinances here, it is ignored.
I continue debating the question of whether I truly want an ice cream cone. Ultimately, I know I won’t stop thinking about it till I have one so off I go, into the subway station, where an uptown train arrives as I descend the stairs. I take this as a sign that I have made the right decision.
My underlying thought is that I just don’t want to walk anymore. At this point I think it’s just habit, as I’m not feeling quite as beat as I have for the last week. Maybe my vitamins are kicking in or maybe I ate the right thing, but I feel a little less tired than I have since starting this new waitressing job and returning to dance. I round the corner at Cabrini Boulevard after coming out of the subway station and am thrilled to see the Mister Softy truck and hear it’s generator humming away. I smile as I approach the wagon and the lady in the truck window. She turns her back to me. She turns back as I arrive at the window and smiles when I order from her. I am happy to have my bright red swirl topped cone in hand.
Working with the drips of chocolate leaking through the red shell, I contemplate that there must be some kind of wax product in this confection to give it it’s wonderful, crackly texture. Probably not entirely good for me, but hey, life’s short and sacrifices must be made.
I wander onto the Heather Garden path with my dripping cone, stopping at certain flowers to study them. A woman is letting her dog sniff a low lying salvia plant and I just know she’s going to let that dog pee on those flowers. Some people.
There is a gentleman with his gentleman friend on the path and they are discussing the name of a flower and how lovely this combination is together, or that they have that flower in their garden. We engage in conversation about the plantlife, and I mention that I think I have seen a hummingbird here. I also mention the lady who let her dog pee on the flower, but after some discussion choose to feel that there are decidedly more important things in life to be concerned about than a dog peeing on some flowers.
The gentleman introduces himself as Christopher and tells me there is an Oriole’s nest in ‘that tree over there’. He describes the Oriole as a bright orange bird with a black stripe and assures me I would know if I had seen it. He wonders if the bird still inhabits that nest or if it has fledged or been shooed out.
I let Christopher and his friend travel on away from me as I study other flowers on the path. We meet and separate again a time or two. Towards the end of the path we see some dancers in white ponchos floating and prancing towards us.
“They look like Isadorables,” I say. Dara, a friend of Christophers who had joined along the path laughs and says ‘Is that what they are?” I ask if she knows what Isadorables are. She does not. “It’s what Isadora Duncan’s progeny were called,” I educate her.
There is a tour guide with the dancers, and a small group following him. He is talking about how all of Fort Tryon used to be covered in ice. A scientific tour!!! I leave Christopher and Dara and the other gentleman, and join up with the tour group.
The guide, a lovely young man with cafe au lait skin and dark eyebrows brings us to an archway and tells us we must be brave if we are to continue on this journey with him. The dancers join us, no longer in their ponchos and we are brought to a large rock wall where we are instructed to place a hand on the wall and one of the dancers talks about , well, I don’t remember what, but it had something to do with feeling the curves and spirit of the rock or something, and then he tells us to touch our faces and feel the curves there, which I don’t do. I mean, we just put our hand on this rock and it is Manhattan after all. Ewwww.
As the tour continues, we are brought to different people who give us different spiritual experiences to try; one has us remove our shoes and feel the grass and ‘the worms and ants and beetles moving beneath your feet’. Another has us hold the wrist of the person to our right, close our eyes and suggests, “you are on a mountain top. What do you see?”
Once I get over wanting to giggle at all the earthy-crunchy, touchy-feely stuff it’s kind of cool and I decide to kind of go with it and I feel a companionship with the tour group.
After the last woman, above us on a staircase, tells us we will eventually embrace all of our cracks and scars, she gives us each a marble. We follow her around a corner and when we get there all the actors and dancers have evaporated.
I strike up a conversation with a woman named Susan. She is a student of acting and has two daughters, one of whom is a dancer in LA with her own company. When I get home and on the computer, I go to the website that Susan has given me and see her daughter, Nehara’s website and bio. The final line of her bio is “Nehara is a word for the light that shines from your face when you are happy.”