Sunday, January 02, 2011

The Mumbling Man

I have known Gogol Bordello would be giving a performance locally for about a month, but kept putting off getting a ticket. Gypsy punk music with Eastern European roots kind of sums up my childhood, so I wanted to go with someone like a sibling- you know, someone who would 'get' the music, and dance along with me until the last set. Having no handy siblings, the tickets sold out, and I was left with the next best option: posting on couch surfing for a like-minded fan. I was happy to find a Gogol Bordello group had already formed and were sharing tips on getting last minute tickets to the concert. Before I knew it, I was waiting inside the Time Warner building for at least one of those fans. Aren was supposed to meet me by a designated escalator entrance. I arrived early, and was struck by the throngs of New Year's day crowds, well dressed out of towners happy to be spending their money. I witnessed several impassioned reunions, and found myself smiling along with the anonymous reunitees. For a moment I felt like I was in an airport. When Aren arrived, we shared ideas on best practices for negotiating with a scalper. Armed with no concrete plan, but an abundance of confidence, we inserted ourselves at the end of the ticket-holder's line. We waited a short while until they had checked our IDs and given us charming paper bracelets to allow us access to alcohol purchase if we so desired (I didn't, thank-you- this was New Year's day and I was still a bit groggy from the previous evening's adventures in Green Point). Security checked our bags for weapons, and sent us inside to enjoy the show. Of course Aren and I were not quite ready for this step, and were instantly turned away without our tickets. Standing in the unlit street was a a big guy with an over sized bomber jacket, telling us to come over to him so we could 'talk'. A security guard opened the velvet rope allowing us to exit. I was assigned the task of talking, since Aren was too dressed up to be considered for the sliding scale rates. I shifted my gaze non-challently, as if I really didn't have any interest in buying these tickets, and asked casually, 'How much?' The scalper countered, 'What were you looking to pay?' 'Twenty dollars.' The scalper grimaced, and in a raised voice, answered, 'Now miss, I know you didn't come to a sold out concert thinking you were going to get a ticket for $20.' I work with three year olds, I wasn't falling for this circular logic. I thanked him, and walked away. I did have a sheepish smile though, as I mimicked the guy's words to Aren. It was pretty funny. So plan b was to tend to nutrition needs first, and avoid the trap of purchasing under desperation. This band has been around and touring for twenty plus years, this wouldn't be their last concert. We got a bite to eat, talked about things couch surfers love to talk about, and tried one more time. Crossing 11th avenue in its notorious darkness, two lurking scalpers remembered our plight. 'Got tickets,' they said as smoothly as a Barry White lyric. How much?' Aren asked. '$80' was the answer. 'No thanks.' We kept walking. One of them called after us, 'You won't find anything cheaper. Go back to the movies.' Every one's a comedian. We did find something cheaper, but still overpriced. I was really tired, and we decided to call it a night. We parted and I headed back uptown for home. I remembered I needed to buy stuff to make playdough, so dragged myself into D'ags. I picked up an appealingly green bunch of broccoli rabe. As I studied it, the sprinklers for the fresh vegetables activated and startled me into jumping. I was too tired to laugh, like I usually do. A song I liked was playing in the store's system, and I started singing softly into my broccoli rabe. I was alone in the produce aisle. I walked around looking for items I needed. Passing the pasta section, an older man who may have been homeless was mumbling as he looked up at some out of reach boxes of pasta. I couldn't tell if he was talking to me or himself, so I kept walking past him. I got around the corner, and thought, 'Wait. Maybe he needs assistance.' I walked back and asked him if he needed some help. He was in his own world, and didn't hear me. I asked him again, this time approaching him from his other side. He turned to me, and had one cloudy eye. He looked around 80, but was probably only 60. His face softened into a smile when he realized I wanted to help him. With a thick island accent, he replied, 'No, I'm fine.' At that moment, I saw a man that seemed to be completely alone in the world. He had taken to talking to himself as the rest of the world had stopped listening. I felt overwhelmed by sadness, and had to leave. As I started the three block walk to my apartment, the sultry dark night swallowed me in its emptiness.


paz13 said...

Tamar: That was quite and interesting post that went in a few different directions.

I was on the edge of my seat as you were dealing with the scalpers and if this were the movies, and not real life, you would have bought the ticket. Glad to see that you stuck to your price and didn't buy an overpriced ticket. I've often told my wife never to fall in love with anything before we buy it since we might no buy it.

I'm hoping you do a post about your New Year's Eve adventures in Green Point. That would surely make for an interesting point.

I think that was very nice of you to try to help the apparently homeless man. Most people would have ignored him.

Happy New Year.


Tamar said...

Happy New Year to you too, Kevin! :-)
You're right, that night did go in many directions. I used to be more impulsive about getting things I want, but I'm learning to weigh choices more. I think we all have a lot in common with the man in the store- it's hard to find people to listen to you. Thanks for listening, Kevin! :-)