A Gift from My Daughter
The Mariott on Broadway - New York -
New York - 1997
I never wanted New York, not in a million years. My daughter gave it to me. She took it in her hands and threw it toward my chest and screamed, "Here, take it, Mom! There’s nothing else like it. You’ll love it.” Not wanting to insult her, I reluctantly held on to the weighty chunk. I nervously unwrapped it and slowly pulled out all the pieces. It has become one of my most cherished gifts.
I’m grateful I can’t afford a hotel room when I visit my daughter. I feel sorry for the Donald Trumps who are forced to experience this chunk of sociology, psychology, and humanity from a tower above and apart or from a table at Tavern on the Green that would feel uncomfortable to a homeless person. I feel sorry for the tourists who stay at the beautiful Marriott on Broadway and can afford tickets to view the pathos and ethos of life merely from a stage.
Everyone should be privileged enough to experience New York from my daughter’s 14th Street apartment above the palm reader’s shop. They should do it in August without an air conditioner, their windows open to an orchestra of more vehicles than they could name and a chorus of more languages than they knew existed. There’s where the real drama is being played out. There’s where the real pathos and ethos is taking place. There’s where the fittest are surviving and, in so doing, tempering genes and mind-sets that will be passed on to their children.
Everyone should have the opportunity to walk into a crumbling hallway of an apartment building owned by a risk-taker from the other side of the globe. They should be priviledged to listen as he explains he’s sending half of his money back to his country each month so the rest of his family can live in an apartment as “nice” as this one. They should have the experience of washing clothes in the Laundromat down the street where an Asian man struggles to keep his floors swept and machines clean as the dirt of the city is washed out in his visual presence on a daily basis. They should be poor enough, or at least not rich enough, to blend in as they ride the subway at one in the morning. It’s at that hour that they could look into the eyes of a man whose face is scarred and twisted and tattooed and ask the questions "how" and "why".
Everyone should have the honor of sitting at a table in Greenwich Village with the twenty-year-olds, the new generation, who have come to New York from Maine and Minnesota and aspire to be the playwrights, the actors, the artists of the next era. They should be privileged enough to listen to them talk of Vaclav Havel and Jane Goodall, to hear their references’ to Gibran’s The Prophet. They should hear them plan for a performance they’ll present that summer to kids on the streets in Harlem and know that the world is being left in good hands.
Someday I’ll be able to take a trip to New York and stay at the glittering Marriott on Broadway. Perhaps I’ll walk over to the St.JamesTheater and sit in the fourth row, center section. Perhaps I’ll be listening to my daughter sing an impassioned rendition of the millworker’s song from Working: “Millwork ain’t easy. Millwork ain’t hard. Millwork most always is a gosh darn awful boring job...” And perhaps I’ll recall the sense memories of the real play I experienced in New York the summer of ‘97. Then I’ll walk over to Lindy’s and order my very own piece of cheesecake without worrying about how much I’m spending. I’ll saunter into one of those fancy shops on 5th Avenue and buy my daughter that garnet and diamond ring she pointed out to me years before. On the flight home, however, I’ll probably have to take out a pen and write an essay on the oppressiveness of wealth; for although I will then have experienced New York with gilded trappings, I will always cherish how my daughter first wrapped the city in a crumpled old newspaper with a tattered bow and threw it into my arms.