On Fridays the Met stays open until 9:00 so last night I went up there with two friends. I wore the new walking shoes I bought recently, real Swedish clogs made of wood and black leather. I told my friends about taking them straight to the cobbler across the street as soon as I got them, to have little rubber guards put on the heels. One of my friends said, “If you take good care of clogs like that, you’ll have them forever.” She’s someone who has a bump on her head from running in clogs as a kid and falling out of them—and she still has the clogs—so she really knows what she’s talking about. My other friend showed us the new red leather shoulder bag that her daughter had given her for Christmas and said it made her feel very respectable.
We decided to walk across 23rd Street and take the uptown number 6 train at Park Avenue. On the way I told my friends about the burglary that just happened in my building. Early in the morning on Christmas Day, a burglar picked my neighbor Eileen’s lock and made off with her crummy old TV. She was out of town, but the person feeding her kitty realized that she’d been burgled. I ran into her a few days later as she came in carrying a new TV. “They didn’t take any of the good stuff,” she said. “I have Yankees figurines worth more than the TV.” My neighbor Sheldon came down the stairs at that point and said, “Why would anyone want to burgle a building like this? With all the luxury buildings all over the neighborhood, why us?” Then he said, “I don’t have anything worth anything, and no offense, Romy, but neither do you.”
A few days later still, my neighbor Amanda told me that on the day after Christmas she awoke to find a man climbing in her living room window. “I was naked,” she said, “and I screamed!” The burglar shouted, “How do I get out of here!?” Then he scrammed out the door. Amanda said that she felt very lucky that nothing worse happened, but then she said, “It’s the first time I’ve been naked in front of a man in years and all he does is scream, ‘How do I get out of here!’” After that I started blocking my window that looks onto the fire escape with a stick.
It was cold last night walking across town, and Park Avenue seemed a lot farther away than usual. As my friends and I crossed Broadway, a bus turned from 23rd Street into our crosswalk. Buses do that way too much; they crawl into the crosswalk to hurry the people along. We had the light and kept going, but then the bus got a lot more pushy and very suddenly, we were in real danger. Time slowed down and I grabbed each of my friends by their coats. We all stumbled backwards as the bus forced the turn. One of my clogs came off. We all saw it, but there was no hope of retrieving it. The bus took its sweet time rolling its double hindwheels over my clog with a big, loud crack. I wondered if the driver would stop to make sure that nobody was dead, but he didn’t. And I’m not at all sure that he wasn’t actually disappointed.
None of us thought to get the bus number, but we should have. There was no chance on earth that the driver hadn’t seen us. It was as if he had hoped to squash one or all of us. Not seldom enough you read in the paper about someone being knocked down and then run over by a bus or a garbage truck and killed, and nothing ever seems to happen to the driver for it. We came very close to having one or all of us end up on the cover of the Post. One of my friends went to retrieve my clog from the middle of Broadway. It looked remarkably unscathed from the outside, but the inside was another story. That’s where all the splinters were. I put a folded tissue into it to make the careful walk back home to change into something else. We all felt a little bit in shock, I think, because we knew what a near miss we’d just had.
“And I was feeling so good about having new shoes and a new bra,” I said. “Buying bras is a pain in the neck,” said my friend with the new handbag. We all three agreed that this thing going on with there being nothing but padded bras anymore is a big drag. “That’s why I go up to Saks 5th Avenue when I have to buy a new one," I said, "because at least there I know I can still find a plain but good one."
The intimate apparel department of Saks is way up on the top floor, and going there can make a person feel that nothing has changed in New York for fifty years. The saleslady I had was of the plump, no-nonsense type who comes in to the dressing room to shove everything into place for you and tell you if the bra fits. I liked the fact that she didn’t just barge in when she brought me more choices, but knocked politely first, and I came away with a very pretty, well-made bra with no padding.
By the time we got up to the Met there were only twenty minutes left before closing, but we got to look at some beautiful graphite drawings of 19th Century people made by Ingres and a shocking old photograph by Duchenne, in new acquisitions. There wasn’t time to go into the hall where the big painting of Joan of Arc hangs, the one we all like, but considering how differently our evening might have gone, none of us really minded.
5 January 2013