Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cinder Block Blues

The first guy with the cinder block had it clutched to his chest, like a fireman holding a baby he had rescued from a flaming building. Two arms were underneath it, the right arm slightly askew from the bottom, just past the corner of the right side.

He was wearing a blue t-shirt. What else, I don't know. I was looking at the cinder block.

The first guy with the cinder block had copper colored hair, before the patina set in. Brown, with pervasive red highlights, wispy in the front but enough to lift in a wave and sweep back over his head. His cheeks were full, chipmunk-like, with the yellow and burgundy flush of peaches in total exertion.

The cinder block was grey.

The second guy with the cinder block was different.

Let me stop here a moment and share an observation.

Prince Street in NoLita does not often entertain cinder-clock carriers. Everything else, yes. Cinder-block carriers ... well, this was a first.

Prince Street in NoLita is a "great neighborhood" in Manhattan, particularly for those who don't live on Prince Street in NoLita. God only knows why, but this section of Manhattan - hard against The Bowery and its historical queasiness and the Lower East Side (LES) and its ethnic barrios - has suddenly become the "in" place to be. Not "in" for the residents, but "in" for the one million tourists who seem to prowl its streets every weekend.

Walk down Prince Street, or it's sister to the downtown - Spring Street - and it's unlikely you will hear English. None of the people with the maps out, the shopping bags in their hands or the odd dialects emanating from their mouths, have grown up in Dubuque.

Can you say melting pot? Can you say, get the tourists out of my neighborhood?

Needless to say, the guy with the cinder block was an interesting diversion.

The second guy with the cinder block was shocking. What was this, a cinder block parade? Was this another clever marketing ploy for Obama '08? Was someone giving away cinder blocks?

The second guy with the cinder block was thin. He was also tired. Perhaps frustrated. The cinder block sat, upright, on the sidewalk. Guy Number Two had dark hair. He was older than Guy Number One. I think he wore jeans, but, hey - who can tell after two cinder blocks?

Most memorable is that Guy Number Two took a deep breath, looked like he wanted to be someplace else, then bent over and lifted the cinder block onto his left shoulder. Shazaam! A whole new way to carry cinder blocks on Prince Street. Stop the presses!

Okay, perhaps not so dramatic.

Until you got to the corner of Prince and Bowery, directly across the street from the New Museum of Contemporary Art which is, in fact, a new museum. An icon, already. Seven floors of off-center boxes, clad in chain-mail, with no windows. This is a building?

Anyway, at the corner of Prince and Bowery, was the Girl With Two Cinder Blocks. It was an odd alignment.

Girl was on her cell phone. Obviously, not with Guy Number One or Guy Number Two, who were too busy carting cinder blocks down Prince Street to carry on a reasonable conversation. But, Girl was on her cell phone. At her feet sat TWO cinder blocks, one of top of the other, the one on top vertical.

Was she calling for help? Was she calling for directions? Was she calling for more cinder blocks?

The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind. The light changed and it was time to cross Bowery and get home.

New York City ... this is My Kind Of Town (wait, wasn't that Chicago?)

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