My friend had just picked me up from the airport and already I was in a state of culture shock. There were more black people in the airport than I had seen in my entire 10 months living in Northern California and I didn’t realize how much I had missed them. It’s not like Vermont where African Americans are an anomaly, mostly because Northern California is full of other minorities, boring minorities like Indians, Asians and lame tech-geek middle easterners – but I really miss the black folks and I couldn’t help but stare and listen to the unique sounds that I had missed for so long.
My friend was driving erratically, or so I thought, she had just ran right through a crosswalk with people waiting to cross, used her horn several times and then swung into a lane without using her signal nor sticking an arm out the window to ask permission to enter the lane. She didn’t even look in her mirrors as she jumped from one lane to another in a never ending fight to beat the damned cabbies to the next light. I was horrified to tell the truth and mentioned that we Northern Californians were so peaceful when we drove and we stopped for pedestrians and cyclists wishing to cross the street.
Then I noticed the mobs of people everywhere, it appeared that everyone was running somewhere. I noticed all of the women had multiple bags and were trying to drink coffee, talk on the cell phone and check out the other fashionable ladies at the same time. It was a strange sight to see men in suits, besides for shabbos, I rarely see folks dressed up more than a polo shirt and khakis – yet here were dozens of men – all looking pissed off running somewhere in suits.
My friend dropped herself off on 17th and 8th and told me we would hang next week. I was honestly kind of scared, I wanted to scream at her that I didn’t think I could handle driving in this insane situation by myself, I had been gone too long yet she expected me to brave Manhattan traffic at 5:30pm on a Tuesday. So I hopped in and hopes for the best and within 20 minutes I was back to giving cabbies the finger, gunning her red Toyota Tacoma at innocent bystanders who thought about entering MY crosswalk and cursing everyone under my breath – it felt damned good to be rolling up 10th avenue at 3 miles per hour trying to beat out the cabbies and TLC guys and not be left in the box.
Like any native New Yorker I turned the radio to the traffic report, I wasn’t really headed anywhere – just to pick up a friend and get some pizza (I had been thinking about pizza for 2 months) but I love the New York City traffic reports only 880 or 1010 will do. I enjoyed the fact that the traffic report was so entertaining, I love hearing about all the slowdowns – such joy at knowing I would never have to deal with this mayhem again, except for a visit every half a year or so.
I went to shul this morning and saw frummies for the first time in ages and I looked at them with a tourists eyes. It was kind of abstract to actually see the people I write so much about, yet have nothing to do with and I just started feeling bad for them. I was having breakfast when it hit me on the head, it’s not that frummies like living in New York so much, it’s that they really don’t think about such things – ignorance is bliss or at least allows you to be content without knowing what lay beyond.
Everything on Central Ave in Cedarhurst was strange and I had this huge smile on my face, like oh now I can really make fun of this, now that I’m coming in as a visitor. For instance, I couldn’t constrain my laughter when I was in the seforim store and found Gey Shlufin Tea – I’m kidding folks – it was the yiddisher sleepy time.
Oh and I’ve been here less than 24 hours and I’m already sick of it and can’t wait to get back to California. I thought I could do 2 weeks, but already I’m thinking of leaving early…