On the Subway Today

Yesterday, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2010, with my camera in its bag and hanging on my shoulder, I left my two-room apartment in a building called “St. Vincent’s Manor” which is a subsidized apartment house for seniors in Port Richmond, Staten Island, New York, intending to spend my day in the city taking photos,  hoping to get at least a couple of shots that I would like enough to add to my Flickr site.

Staten Island Ferry from the St. George, Staten Island Terminal
Sail Boat in New York Harbor

After taking the local bus to St. George, Staten Island, I caught the ferry that takes me into lower Manhattan from where I get the #5 subway going to 86th Street.  From 86th Street, it’s either a short walk to the Guggenheim, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art or to Central Park.  When I got to 86th Street, I would decide which one I wanted to go to.  I ended up in Central Park, entering just south of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Boathouse Restaurant

On this cold, windy day, I walk, look and stop ever so often to take a photo during the entire trip.   When I entered the Boathouse restaurant,  I  had lucked-out, because there was an empty seat at the bar, which is hard to find.  There is nothing more pleasant than stopping for an Irish Coffee after walking around Central Park on a cold day.  You should try it.  However, whenever I do this I feel terribly guilty for wasting my money.  An Irish Coffee at the Boathouse Bar costs $10.00, and my only income is my social security check.  It’s really stupid of me to spend what little I have on a drink; however, it’s so much fun.  What can I do.   I’m only human.

After my drink, pleasant, but not strong enough for a slight buzz, I walked around the lake heading for the Bethesda Terrace, where, after taking a few shots of Canadian geese, I made a small video of the street musician is always there (see below.  I included it in a larger video).  I gave him a dollar, which I felt obligated to do after taking so many photos of him.

East Drive in Central Park
Saxophone Player at the Bethesda Fountain

Even though it was cold, it was sunny, and many families and friends already enjoying the park.  However, I felt so angry at myself for spending the $10.00 on a drink that was gone in about two minutes.  I could have just sat down in the cafe with a cup of coffee for less than $2.00, and that would have done me just as well.  I left out one thing at the beginning of this story, I awoke that morning with a slight headache.  I was struggling all morning to get over it, which is one reason I had the Irish Coffee.   I thought it might cure me, but it didn’t.  I didn’t feel all that bad, just not quite 100%, and the cold wind hitting me in the face didn’t help matters.

Leisurely, I walked to the zoo, but I didn’t go in.  I thought I would wait until later because they are having something called Winterfest on Fridays and Saturdays from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.  During this time they are offering a 10% discount on zoo membership cards, which is something I’ve wanted for a long time.  By  2:00 pm, I knew I would be too tired for the zoo, so I decided to come back  next Friday when Winterfest would happen again.

After all that walking through Central Park, from 86th Street to 59th Street, I was beginning to get a little tired–after all I am 68–Get real.  Therefore, I decided to take the “R” Train down to 14th Street where after doing a little shopping at the Whole Foods Market, I planned to catch the Express Bus back home to Port Richmond.

On the “R” subway heading for 14th Street, I sat facing the front.  I have trouble reading on the buses and subways, because of the movement.  Besides the trip is usually so short, I just start reading when I have to get off, so, I look at people.  Across the isle, was a young man, thirtyish, whose well-groom-ness stood out.  He wore dark glasses, a knitted cap, and a well-tailored pea coat.  He was a different type than the average American male.  I made the  mental note that he might be gay, or a European on vacation.

Two Canadian Tourists Breakfasting in Central Park

Another well-groomed man, sitting next to me, asked me if our train stopped at City Hall.  I wondered if he were a tourist or just a man who didn’t ride the subway very often, but I didn’t ask.  He was pleasant, and very respectable looking and acting.  On the subway, respectability stands out.  I told him that he should get off at Fulton Street, from there he could walk to City Hall.  We continued with small talk that was so small, I can’t remember it.

The subway stopped at its next scheduled stop.  The aforementioned young man, got up, stuffed a paper money bill into my hand, then ran out the door before it shut.  I opened my hand and looked at the green bill.  As soon as I saw the 100 in the corner and the picture of Benjamin Franklin looking up at me, I closed my hand up again.  My face  flushed.  This nice-looking man, with whom I was small-talking, smiled and asked me how much it was, but I said that I would rather not say, and that didn’t phase him.  The most discomfort that has come towards me in my life has been out of jealousy from others, which has affected me by making me less forthcoming.  Besides, one of the most basic of New York survival rules is that you don’t count your money on the subway or tell others how much you’ve got, and I couldn’t put this rule aside even in this instance.

“Does this happen to you often?”  The kind stranger sitting next to me asked.

“It’s never happened to me before in my whole life.”  I answered.  I analyzed how receiving this money felt.  I was feeling, and, as I told this man, that although this was a thrilling experience, it’s still a better feeling to give than to receive.  Receiving is fun, but the fun feeling is not as deep as the fun feeling when one gives.  Suddenly, I noticed that the subway had stopped at my stop, 14th Street.  I got up and ran out the door, just making it before it closed, and unfortunately without saying  a goodby to the nice man.  I said a little silent prayer, asking God that maybe some day he could make it possible for me to do the same thing to other people.

After grocery shopping at Whole Foods, I walked over to GNC and stocked up on the vitamins that I was getting low on. Already, more than half of my $100 was gone, but if I hadn’t been given that money, I would be nearly broke now with a whole month to get through before my next social security check.  On my way home on the Express bus, I did a lot of meditating.

I had so resented spending $10 on that Irish Coffee, but if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have ended up on that exact subway car that I was on, and I wouldn’t have gotten the $100.  That makes me think that we shouldn’t regret anything.  Maybe everything that happens is part of a larger plan?

Sometimes, I think people get discouraged from giving to other people who never seem to give anything back.  However, it seems to me, that everything evens out.  If you give to other people, they may not reciprocate, but it will come back to you eventually,  but in an unexpected way.  However, that is if you give out of love for giving, and genuine concern for the other person, not because you expect something back.  Everything evens out.  It always seemed to me that if I lost something, I would later find something that would compensate for the loss, and vice versa.  The order that exists in the universe astounds me.  That order is what is God.  I think that if one can recognize that order, it will help them to have faith.  Kierkegaard said that faith is the most important thing and is what distinguished one person from another.  I think this is correct.  Order on the metaphysical level brings order on the physical level.  We have to have order in our minds before we can have order in our outer lives, and faith establishes true order.  By “true order” I mean order that is not interrupted by some light mishap.  Some people who seem to have little faith, lived orderly lives from all appearances, but their lives are ordered out of fear, and not out of faith.  When that happens, any little thing that happens can upset that order, and their life falls like a house of cards.  I think virtue and faith are the same thing.

Aristotle on Happiness

Aristotle said that happiness is a combination of action and virtue–virtuous action.  My subway incident was the combined action of giving and receiving.  He gave and I took.  However, his action of giving was more virtuous than my action of accepting; therefore, his level of happiness from this incident was deeper than mine.  God bless him.  Granted, I’m still very happy about it.  It was a great Christmas present.  I love this city.

Once home,  I made the following video with some of my photos I took during the day.  I think I got a few nice shots, but nothing earth shattering.  I only put two on Flickr, the subway shot and one of my shots of Canadian Geese that you will see if you watch the video.

You might also enjoy reading my other post  “Manhattan Adventure Story.”