A Nice Fountain, OR a Stinking Cesspool of Disease

I’m no stranger anymore to the fact that New York is full of surprises. I’ve referred to it before (see The Surprise Violinist, OR Always Keep Your Camera Close):  the tendency of the city — in all its high-density, no-fucks-given kind of way — to give you glimpses of weird or beautiful or bewildering or mutely affecting things with absolutely zero prior warning.

Yesterday was a bunch of these things.

My roommate and I ventured up to Washington Square Park in the evening to meet up with a friend from school who’s currently living in the NYU area, and while that dear boy was taking forever and a day to show up (in steamy, uncomfortable humidity, I might add), the two of us sat at the edge of the fountain and people-watched for a time. When he finally turned up (and helpfully declared that the nice fountain was, in fact, a disgusting “cesspool of disease”), I thought we could immediately scamper off to find food on University Place (I say find — I really mean sit down and request off a restaurant menu). Except then we ran into this guy and his intriguing display:

It turns out he runs strangersproject.com, and he travels to cities all over the country to ask people to write down a random story they’d like to anonymously share. I flipped through his binder and was greeted with all sorts of content, all sorts of personalities. There was a page from a woman expecting a child, a girl recalling an old boyfriend from when she was 15 years old, a lesbian who wished she were straight, a teenager living alone and loving the freedom, someone who once contemplated suicide and changed his or her mind, someone with the unshakable compulsion to lie.

This is a gorgeous idea. Think of all the people who pass us by in one day in the average American suburban town. Everyone in cars and on sidewalks and traipsing along at the mall. Now take that number and multiply it until it’s a number large enough that you’d practically be bumping shoulders with all of them. Multiply it again by the number of times you’d like to walk out of your door in a day, because in New York, you never seem to pass the same person twice (and if you did, you probably wouldn’t notice).  That’s a lot of people. That’s a lot of stories we never get to hear. And the Strangers Project fights the way we tend to just brush past strangers without giving a moment’s thought to whatever internal monologue is going on in their heads, or whatever memories they’re replaying at that precise moment, or whatever kept them from falling asleep the night before.

It was a lovely, big-city type of thing for our little party to run into that evening.

I won’t say what I left in that guy’s folder before my roommate, her friend, and I went to dinner in Greenwich Village. But it’s now floating out there somewhere, and it makes me smile to know this — in a strange, sad, muted way.

– – – – –


Revisited Cafetasia on E8th and University Place last night. It has some of the best pad see ew I’ve ever had. Stopped by Woorijip on W32nd near Broadway on Wednesday. It’s excellent — most small food items (bowls of noodles, boxes of dumplings, Korean-style sushi, etc.) are under $5 each and are surprisingly filling. You can buy pre-boxed items in the back of the restaurant and grab a drink to go (Snapple for me, always Snapple, though there are also Korean options, of course), or you can join a cafeteria-style line and put together a custom tray. And they take credit card, which is a) rare for small Asian restaurants, and b) highly convenient, as I’m often too lazy to go to ATMs with any regularity.

Finally got to check out Dean and Deluca (super late into my New York adventures, I know), specifically the one in Soho on Broadway near Prince St. That place is like a goddamn fun park. Overpriced and full of things you don’t actually need, but you can’t help wanting all of it anyway. They sell French-style macarons, which is brilliant, but they’re smaller than average and cost about the same, which is decidedly less brilliant. Clearly.

– – – – –

In other news: this is mainly for my own later reference, but Evolution, near the intersection of Spring St. and Greene St. in SoHo, has the most amazing collection of strangely beautiful odds and ends. Most of it is absolute crap at outrageous prices, including a “genuine alien skull” (I can’t believe anyone would buy that bullshit), but there was also petrified wood, open geodes, anatomical models, shells, and taxidermy. All gorgeously arranged behind glass. It felt like how Tim Burton might imagine a museum to be. It’s highly gimmicky, over-the-top, and self-conscious, but it has its macabre aesthetic quite solidly together.

On heavy rotation: “History’s Door” by Husky. “Before” by Washed Out.


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