Fuck what mommy and daddy said, sometimes strangers really do have the best candy. While I indulged strangers in conversation from time to time while living in SF, it was New York that flooded my senses and truly made me open my ears. It's a seductive sensory playground not for the meek of heart. Everyone wants a bite of the forbidden fruit. I remember when my ex came to visit and expressed frustration because I always seemed to sit near the loudest people on the train. At the time, I hadn't given it much thought. It wasn't a conscious choice and besides, while alone, I did what the majority does: I learned to disconnect. In a city swirling with near constant chaos one must. I'd shove my headphones in and immerse myself in sounds I controlled. I'd close my eyes and meditate and it was in fact my favorite place to do so. The irony...yet the speed of the train seemed to push images behind my eyelids as though I were watching a flip book.
A few months after moving east, my phone was stolen while I was working. A slick drunk thief placed a newspaper over it while I conversed with his girlfriend and slipped it in his pocket. Ahh but I am not a force to be fucked with. His credit card slip revealed his name and a quick google search along with a threatening email prompted him to meet me at Columbus Circle and return it a week later. The grand lesson I walked away with, was to pay attention. In a digital society where everyone walks around with their nose in their mini computers, I was forced to exist without one as a distraction for that week. And had I been paying attention in the first place, it wouldn't have been stolen.
Throughout the course of my time in NY, numerous thing like this happened. I had a breakdown in communication with my best friend while I was in the hospital and my phone decided it would stop working. As above, so below, right? Though I don't remember exactly when I began to truly give life my attention, I did have an extremely vivid dream where people were getting cosmetic surgery and having eyes implanted in their ears- maybe it was then? Either way, the more I paid attention, the more I realized that what I heard around me were things that if I was honest with myself I needed to. Because in some (often twisted) way, they mirrored or paralleled my life, my energy and what was happening.
Of course there was and always is white noise, but it's as though I instinctively began to know when to listen. After so many "omg how weird! Me too!" moments shared with strangers (that they weren't even always aware of), I couldn't help but listen rather than hear. And if I wasn't in the mood and wanted to turn off, I always had my headphones.
Last spring while puppy sitting, my fur friend jumped up and down barking and whining. A dog who is always cool and collected, I figured that she must have to pee. So I hurried to put my shoes on and dashed her outside. She pulled me in the direction of a square of earth she had taken to peeing in amidst the concrete and chaos, yet kept pulling once there. Now halfway down the block, she abruptly turned to cross the street. One of the things I've always been firm with regarding dogs is letting them walk me. It is an absolute honor and I implore everyone to try giving up the reins to their beast. She pulled me up 2 blocks to a small "park". If you can even call it a park. Aside from Prospect and Central, they're all a joke. As she approached the center of the triangular cement area with benches on east 10th street, she looked up me, smiled her doggie smile and squatted releasing herself. It was then I noticed a huge beautiful white bird sitting on a mans shoulder. Being in a funk and existing as a hermit for several days, I didn't necessarily want to talk to anyone but this bird was so beautiful! And his owner couldn't stop staring at my friend. He walked over and began to ask about her, forcing me to push my mood aside because sometimes when you don't want to talk to anyone is when you need to the most.
I asked what it was that he did for a living that he could afford to be out in the middle of a weekday in a pricey neighborhood enjoying the sun with this beautiful expensive bird on his shoulder. "I'm a professional magician." Not the response I was expecting by any means but I immediately reverted to my 5 year old self and stared at him in awe. He asked what I did, about the dog I was with and introduced me to his bird, Warlock. It was very much like a dream,. The sunshine illuminated his feathers in a way that seemed could only exist in another world. Now, part of my moodiness and hermit state were because I was on the cusp of making a major life change and unsure how to to go about doing it or even whether to do it at all. This complete and utter stranger, who just so happened to be a magician with a witch bird whom I wouldn't have even met had my canine companion not urgently insisted I take her to pee gave me the advice and strength I needed to make that change. He spoke the words I needed to hear, that no one in my immediate circle could say. Candy.