Dear New York,
This past weekend I was on my way to the Bust Craftacular Market in Greenpoint, Brooklyn while on the subway and I couldn’t help but smile. I’m sure I look silly sitting there with a big grin on my face while every one of the train is avoiding eye contact. It’s just that every time I ride the subway I fall a little more in love with you. Just looking around the train watching all these different kinds of people getting on and off. It just makes me giddy. I want to know their stories! I guess that’s why I am so into Humans of New York. It’s this photographer who has this amazing ability to get people to tell them their stories. I’m sure you’ve heard of it before and if not, well get on it!
I’m sitting on the train thinking about Humans of New York and the fact that everyone has a different story and I just want to know it all. For example, there’s this women sitting across from me with deep red hair and the longest finger nails I’ve seen in person. I want to ask her so much. “How long does it take to get your nails done? What made you decide to grow them out? How long have you been growing them? What sort of techniques have you developed to make certain task easier for you?” Really I could just go on and on. Who is this person and what is her story. I think of these things often when ever I see an interesting person.
Then a man got on who caught my eye. He was probably in his late 40’s/early 50’s and was wearing a Bronx hat with a Budweiser Nascar racing jacket. He stuck out like a sore thumb riding a train through Brooklyn. Immediately I wondered who he was. You’d think he was a tourist but then he was wearing a Bronx hat, which isn’t such a tourist thing to do. I was intrigued. But just like most stories, I figured I’d never learn his true story. I’d just be stuck with the one I made up in my head.
I got off at 9th Street and 4th Ave to switch to the G train. It’s usually the fastest way to get to the hipster epicenter of Brooklyn. Head up the stairs and then I see a Manhattan bound sign, which threw me off because the G doesn’t go to Manhattan so I turn around and head down the stairs pass Budweiser dude. Check out some signs and realized I was going the right way so back up those stairs I go.
At this point the Budweiser racing dude ask me “Hey didn’t you just go down these stairs?”
“Yeahhhh. I’m just a little turned around.”
And then the most unbelievable thing happens. He tells me his story. We head up the stairs together towards the same platform. He’s waiting on the F train (which does go to Manhattan) and I, the G. His story bounces around a lot and the entire time I’m just nodding my head. Him asking me quick yes or no questions here and there before continuing on.
He’s down in Bay Ridge picking up his money from a painting job. He hates that part of the job because he use to work for a guy who was a millionaire who lived in Montauk. He loved that job because he always got his check on Friday. He could depend on it. But a lot of people didn’t like that job. Eventually his boss, the millionaire died and a part of him died too because he just really liked this guy and hid job. Recently he went back and visited and all the same people still work there and look the same but it’s not the same because it’s a new company now.
And then he’s asking me if I’ve ever been to the Art museum on 86th street in Manhattan. He goes into telling me about this beautiful painting with mountains and trees.
“You could just picture living in a tent there and being happy.”
He goes on to tell me that he brought his girlfriend there but she had a schedule for them. “She kept saying 2 seconds per painting, come on let’s go! And I kept telling her she has to enjoy the painting and take it all in not rush it. You got to appreciate it.” I try to get a word in edge wise but it’s just not happening. But that doesn’t bother me. I’m generally interested in hearing more.
He continues his story by telling me about he’s a great painter and the guy he works for really appreciates the work he does because it’s always perfect. “Everyone paints walls in a ‘W’ but you don’t do that,” he tells me while pretending to paint the walls the correct way. “You do small W’s, not big W’s and you go back over a few times if you have to because it’s better to take those few extra seconds to even things out then it is to have lines on the wall. I never have lines on the wall. You also don’t start at the end. You start near the end and then go to the corner and then go back.”
“Have you ever heard of Bob Ross? Guy on tv with a big Afro. I love Bob Ross. I’ve seen every episode. One day I was going to buy one of his kits for $40 that teaches you how to paint a picture. I think it’s worth it because then you could paint something as big as you wanted and then you’ve got yourself a big painting that you did and you can feel good about it. Ya know?” It’s then that the F train pulls up and I tell him he should totally get that kit as he gets on the train.
And then I stand there with my mind completely blown away. Here I was wanting to know someones story and not only do I find it out but also his story was fascinating. He was this guy whose done odd jobs all his life and all he really wanted to do was paint. Plus his fascination with art? Who would have guessed? I really hope that guy gets an art kit for Christmas this year. I think he deserves it.
Thanks New York for making me giddy again and for sharing one of your stories with me. Can’t wait to see what my next subway trip has in store.