The Surprise Violinist, OR Always Keep Your Camera Close

Consider this a mid-year’s resolution: I resolve to absolutely, absolutely keep a camera on my person at (almost) all times.

A camera phone doesn’t count. This is because A) I don’t have the necessary computer cords or internet service to transfer photos on my phone to my laptop, and — more importantly — B) camera phones don’t count anyway. They just don’t.

Camera phones make me think of high school sophomores duckfacing at bathroom windows. Instagrammed images of bubble tea and signposts. Teenage girls having a night out at a downtown sushi place documenting their freshly-made spider rolls. Guys who are really proud of their customized cars. And — unavoidably — sexting.

No, if you’re going to properly capture your surroundings or neatly freeze an unexpected moment in a handy, revisit-able format — go with a camera. An actual, free-standing, decent camera. Film or digital, doesn’t matter. Just please, please, God, don’t let it be a camera phone. (Note: if more than 25% of your photographic memories are on your phone, I ask you to close this page right now and watch the circus afro zebra clip from Madagascar 3 on endless loop for at least ten minutes.)

I’m not usually so inclined towards making these kinds of sweeping, self-righteous, purist judgments and recommendations for others’ behavior.**

(**This is a bald-faced lie.)

But this afternoon I had a revelation in Little Italy as my roommate and I, passing by a church on the way back from lunch, saw an impromptu outdoor violin concert in action. There was nothing particularly stunning about this concert — not about the violinist’s technique or her choice of piece or the size of the collecting crowd — but almost immediately after we paused to watch and listen for a minute, I really, really wanted a photo of the moment, of the gathered people, and of the violinist standing on the front steps of the church, swaying as she played, backed by a handsome grand piano. It was very New York. Very spontaneous.

And it made me realize: things happen all the time. They just fucking happen, and often quite without warning. Odd scenes pass before us, interesting people fly past us, gorgeous cityscapes change almost by the second. No matter how quickly you’re able whip out a camera, you’re almost invariably too late — but I’d still like to try.

I missed a lot this afternoon. My roommate and I passed through part of Chinatown — by a basketball court with teenagers at play, by a stunning row of trees with sunlight streaming through the spaces between their leaves, by a series of vibrant open-air supermarkets. We casually and randomly ambled into Little Italy just in time to see that an entire street had been blocked off to allow for increased pedestrian traffic on Father’s Day afternoon and saw apartment buildings that must have been mostly unchanged since the 1940s. We sat outdoors and ate a ridiculously late lunch of ziti and alfredo. And we passed a series of adorable, themed restaurants and bakeries at the edge of the bowery. And the light was perfect today, absolutely perfect.

I’ve learned my lesson and made my resolution.

– – – – –

It’s a Sunday night, but I’ve noticed that the traffic outside my window always looks the same. It doesn’t let up to any noticeable degree, even just before the beginning of a work week. Thursday night’s traffic looks like Friday’s…looks like Saturday’s…looks like Sunday’s. It’s quite hypnotizing and dizzying.

– – – – –

In other news:

Lately I’ve been reading Colm Toibin’s novel Brooklyn. I saw it on my roommate’s shelf, thought ‘hey, looks short enough,‘ and figured that since the author used to teach at Princeton, it might be a good idea to give it a go. Best decision of the month so far. Brooklyn is about an Irish girl who crosses the pond to postwar America and begins to work at a department store, selling nylon stockings and other underwear to women, leaving behind a mother and sister and braving several lonely, stressed months abroad in the city without real friends. My roommate helpfully pointed out to me the parallels between the plot of this narrative and the current plot of my life: the protagonist and I are probably close to the same age, both handling clothing, both in town from a long way away, both very much alone while we work and live in a place we were taught to think of as some kind of mythical, magical place.

Next on the reading list: Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses and David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.

– – – – –

Foraging:

The owner of Stanton Pizza on the Lower East Side is a delight. Always asks after customers. Calls us ‘sweethearts.’ Dances to Gotye.

Awkward 10 minutes at La Mela in Little Italy this weekend. Was going to split an order of pasta with my roommate, except — as it turns out — not only is the pasta a whopping $14, it costs $6 to add meat and $5 to split the dish between two people. Told the waiter this was stupid. We are, after all, broke college kids. Promptly left.

DessertTruck on the Lower East Side — now called Cathcart & Reddy — used to actually be a truck. It was parked somewhere around Astor Place but was shut down for using open flames (probably for their creme brulee, which is divine). Now housed in an actual building with four walls, it’s adorable and cozy and makes the most consistently-sized macarons (not macaroons — those are different) that I’ve ever seen…with the exception of Laduree. Of course.

Pinto in West Village has a fabulous $8-ish lunch special that gets you salad, an appetizer, and a sizable entree. They get bonus points for their very chic table setting.

Went to The Meatball Shop in West Village last Wednesday evening with a fabulous college friend. Their menu format is almost better than their food: you get a laminated single sheet of paper and a dry erase marker and checkmark your choices.

Iced coffee and a fruit cup in Central Park on a Friday afternoon = beautiful.

– – – – –

Work tomorrow. Once I figure out what I can and can’t say about life at the office, I’ll perhaps start writing about it, too.

– – – – –

On heavy rotation: “Six Weeks” by Of Monsters and Men. “Starships” by Nicki Minaj.

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