Talking to Strangers in NYC is Always a Good Idea

A Fancy Business Dog I Saw At Starbucks Yesterday
A Fancy Business Dog I Saw At Starbucks Yesterday

Today is Thursday. National Nacho Day ya’all! So, do what you will with that information.

Yesterday, I got my work schedule for this new part-time gig I’ll be doing so I don’t feel completely useless when it comes to contributing to household finances. It’s only fair since I spend the most money on cute knit hats and grande macchiatos. But to be fair, Ari spends an unreasonable amount of money on Magic cards and ridiculous cat toys (such as catnip flavored bubbles and a packet of 40 ping-pong balls for Whiskey to chase. Now they litter the floor and it feels like I live in the aftermath of a frat party). Cest La Vie.

All I know about this job is that I’ll be giving out candy in supermarkets in Manhattan on Mondays and Wednesdays and cookies in Brooklyn on Thursdays. My new boss seemed very excited to give me the sugary stuff. I think she assigns food based on people’s personalities or how much she likes them. “Oh, you want to take off Friday? Here’s some onion work out bars to shill. Good luck getting people to eat that, spaghettihead.”

Either way, I’m bizarrely excited for my “supermarket theater” I am planning on developing. I have also been working on my stranger A-game.

I used to be a very shy child. As my parents like to point out frequently, I would scream and scream as a baby if anyone except my mother held me – a fact that my father has not yet forgiven me for. I have come to realize that my parents met me as a baby, gathered impressions of me, and have not changed their mind since. Which leads to comments like when I was 18, “Traveling? You hate to travel!” “What, no I don’t.” “Oh really? I guess it was someone else who screamed all the way to Pittsburgh when we went for a bar-mitzvah” “You mean, when I was two?” But I digress.

So I have been trying to speak to more people, strangers, for no reason or to learn something new. Yesterday (sorry if you already this story on Facebook), I was at a Starbucks in the city. The one at 39th and 8th – where I met Ari. I like to sit at the table we met at because we have a dumb meet story (internet dating – which is fine and good at very 21st century. But mostly when people ask us how we met we become a poster couple for online matchmaking.) and this is the only thing I have about it. So I go upstairs and I see the seat is free with some cutesy biker guy sitting there so I’m like can I sit here? And he’s like well I’m waiting for a friend but you can sit here til she comes so I’m like yeah cool, I like sitting here cuz this is where I met my husband and he’s like wow that’s a lucky booth then! And then eventually his “friend” comes and I’m like okay I’ll leave and he’s like nah nah sit we’ll find somewhere else and I wanted to be like fine, don’t get married see what I care! I gave you a magic chair and you gave it away! But I wisely did not say those things. Nevertheless, I felt very HONY. (Later, I was near their table and overheard her explain why she loves kale – I was like, yeah man I get it now)

I reviewed a show last night for the theater website I freelance for. I invited my friend Mel, who is my theater buddy (as well as my try-to-win-Newsies-lottory-NINE-times-before-we-win buddy). This show was called “Awesome People” and it took place at this teeny tiny black box theater called “Under St. Marks” in the Village. I think the Village is my favorite part of Manhattan. Each neighborhood in NYC feels like it’s own little city and the Village, especially when I’m down there late at night, has a campy, college town feel to it. People sit on benches outside tattoo parlors and smoke, teenagers skateboard, young adults spill out of bars and smoke, there is a couple on every corner making out. The girl is always wearing some sort of black fedora and knee high socks, the guy in boots. It’s wonderful (the area, not having to push romantically intertwined people out of the way because seriously guys, it’s rude, move to the side).

This show was four people, telling stories about other people who have inspired them to be “more awesome.”

The performers were seemingly very random, an author and former reporter for the NY Times, a UCB dude, a lady who wrote a book on Joss Whedon. I have never been to a story-telling event. Apparently it happens all the time. It’s not quite stand-up comedy and it’s not pure acting. It looked fun. And I learned a lot. Like the fact that Napoleon became BFF with a little girl named Betsy when he was exiled on St. Helena and that the child actor Sean Astin might be a psychopath.

After the show ended, I did something I never do after shows I review – I went up to talk to the actors. Jeff, this big guy in a leather jacket who told a story about his dad, was super friendly and we talked about UCB and ‘All About that Bass,’ I jokingly said he couldn’t say he liked Megan Trainor and look like a scary bouncer. He said “I’ve built up enough music cred throughout the years that I can say whatever I want.”

The former reporter for NY Times asked me if I ever heard of the child actor Sean Astin. I said I didn’t, and he said “Really? You never saw Goonies? Rudy? Lord of the Rings?” “Oh, yes, I vaguely recall being forced to watch LOTR by my husband.” “Well, he’s Sam.” “Oh, I remember. I’m very proud of myself for remembering any other character besides Elijah Wood and Orlando Bloom.” He laughed. I told him I had never heard of “storytelling” as a thing people did and he said it was”getting really huge right now” and that I should “look into MOTH – a competition and event they hold all the time.” I nodded and added that to the long list of things I wanted to try very soon.

I grabbed my notes and Mel and I walked back to the subway – passing more couples making out, a guy selling belts and eating Indian food from the Yoga/Indian food/book store he was standing in front of. I sat on the A train uptown. Across from me was a couple in big sweatshirts leaning on each other. They were eating popcorn and staring – straight ahead – at me, like they had paid to see my sit on the subway. I felt like I should be at least a little interesting if they were going to spend the ride watching me. Instead I closed my eyes, continued to listen to Amy Poehler’s “Yes, Please” on audiobook and thought about what kind of story I would tell on stage one day.


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