One of my walkabouts in New York City began on a cool-ish morning, but the temperature heated up significantly by lunch. I had dilly-dallied on my way up 5th Avenue. I stopped to chat with a fruit vendor, and decided to buy a red apple because, well, the whole “Big Apple” thing. But that was dumb, because I don’t particularly like red apples, so I handed it off to the next person with a sign (along with one of the dollars I was giving to every person I saw with a sign, hat, cup, can or box).
I realized at that moment that I was hungry, thirsty and hot. I glanced across the street and saw that I was in front of yet another iconic building. The New York Public Library. I had passed it a few times before while walking, and had even snapped a few quick pictures, but I had yet to venture inside. It was one of those buildings I really wanted to dedicate an entire day to exploring. There were a number of people relaxing on the white marble steps, under the watchful eyes of Patience and Fortitude (the marble lions who guard the main entrance). A street vendor was at the bottom of the stairs, so I headed over to grab a bite and sit on a step, patting myself on the back for again living more like a local than a tourist.
As I crossed in front of Patience, I nodded “hello”, and waved to show him my tattoo (his namesake). He had such a look… I knew I had to continue up the steps and peek inside.
I abandoned all hope of appearing local when I dropped my jaw, tilted my face upward, and absentmindedly opened my bag for the security man to peer into. I wanted to breathe this place in, but I couldn’t close my mouth long enough. I knew I had to sit my touristy butt down.
To my right, tucked under a grand staircase, was a tiny bakery. Ann’s Breads, I think was the name. I took off my glasses and stared into the case. “Can I help you find something?” Brad asked. I really didn’t know. I mean, I REALLY didn’t know. So, I said the first thing that popped into my head… “Bagel?” He shook his head and told me that they didn’t have any bagels, but pointed to an odd-shaped brown piece of bread that he assured me tasted like a cinnamon raisin bagel. It was my turn to shake my head. I was still reeling from just standing inside the entrance of this building. I was star struck. Then he put on his best perky voice and suggested a vegetable scone, but followed that with an almost apologetic, “But I like savory… maybe you prefer sweet?”. Holy cow! DID I prefer sweet? I had no idea. I looked across at poor Brad and asked, “What’s the best thing on that shelf?” He brightened and answered without hesitation, “The cherry cream scone!” I nodded and remembered that I was still thirsty. I squinted and looked over his shoulder into the cooler. “Is that cherry lemonade, or strawberry?” Again, he seemed happy to answer, “Neither! It’s blood orange lemonade!” Well THAT sounded lovely!
I paid for my snack and walked over to one of the five small tables on the edge of the grand foyer. I sat down and spent a few moments taking everything in. I was momentarily snapped out of my reverie by two young mothers who had taken refuge at one of the tables and were attempting to feed their children.
Exasperated mom to rambunctious toddler: “Sit down! Do you want to fall and bump your head?!!”
Me (picturing a word bubble over the toddler’s head): “Well duh. That’s kind of my end-game.”
It was then I noticed a large number of women, probably between the ages of 35 and 55, fashionably dressed (great hair, great shoes), and they were all facing my general direction. Many were chattering excitedly, but most were holding their phones and taking pictures just above my head. They didn’t seem particularly interested in the library itself as much as what they were focused on. So I slowly rose and made my way back into the foyer to turn around and look, up behind where I was sitting, and it was then that I realized. THIS was the staircase where Charlotte and Miranda had escorted Carrie Bradshaw and her breaking heart downstairs and out of the library. Followed by a moment out front between Charlotte and Big that DEFINED how fiercely best friends defend one another.
I had witnessed a similar “FANomenon” (do you love that word? I totally thought I made it up. Sigh…can’t I have anything of my own?) last September when I wandered down the street where Carrie’s television townhome was located. These same women were standing in front of the chained-off steps (the current owners were obviously fed up with the throngs of Carrie-loving women on their stoop) and one at a time, they were having friends take their picture.
My mind wandered back to a date with girlfriends. It began with hunky men serving us Cosmos, and ended with us sobbing in our seats as we watched the staircase scene play out. Only to be followed by one of the (in my opinion) most touching best-friend moments (between Samantha and Carrie) on the big screen. (For anyone who may be lost, I am referring to the movie “Sex And The City”, based on the television show of the same name.)
So when was that, ten years ago? Yes! Ten years ago. And still they come… in well-dressed groups… to take pictures of the staircase. And while part of me wanted to feel outrage that they were completely missing the point of this beautiful building and amazing library, I secretly understood. Completely. Those women were all women. The friendships and heartaches, fashion and humor, sex and romance. We saw ourselves in each of the characters. We would try and figure out which one of us was Carrie and who was closest to Samantha. And while I may never become a full-blown Carrie, I can identify with her. I can live (if only part-time and temporarily) in her city and tap out my thoughts on a laptop. Narrating my life if for no one else but myself. I can wander down the same streets and through the same villages and imagine…
I found myself snapping a few pictures and texting them to a friend who knew, in under 5 seconds, exactly where I was!
“…the classic new York landmark that housed all the great love stories.” -Carrie Bradshaw