Va Va Va Voom

You know those “Wish you were here” postcards? If you want to send more than you receive, then this site is definitely worth your time.

I’m working on adding travel-related content to this site, but in the meantime…

Yesterday I was crossing the street, in a hurry as usual, when I noticed a woman in the middle of the street. She was bent over and frantically picking up pieces of something and putting them in a plastic bag. Although I was in a rush, since it is Lent, my inner-Samaritan is present far more than usual, and I stopped to help.

This woman, mid-fifties and Eastern European, was so upset that she did not seem to notice when I began to pick up fragments of what I thought used to be a porcelain bowl or vase. There was a grayish powdery substance also on the street, but I thought nothing of it. After we had picked up all the sharp, reddish color shards that could have done damage to a car tire or a dog, I finally spoke.

“What was it?” I asked. She replied, “It was my mother.” I’d like to think she said “it was my mother’s”, but I honestly don’t think I heard an “s.”

Just another Friday night in NYC…

Thursday night was just as strange.

March in Manhattan and it’s 70 degrees outside. So after working inside all day at a desk, I decided to give my Metro card a rest and walk the seven miles home- from Manhattan, across the Williamsburg Bridge into Brooklyn, across the Polaski bridge into Queens. I had my headphones in of course, and I’m walking alone. In the dark. I’d like to think I had my pepper spray with me, but it’s hard enough for me to get out of the apartment with my keys or my phone.

As I was halfway across the bridge, I saw a man in sunglasses approaching me. He was running in a t-shirt and shorts and also listening to his ipod. Because he had his sunglasses on, I wasn’t entirely sure, but I thought I recognized him. As my freshman advisor at St. John’s. From five years ago. He ran by me. I turned to look over my shoulder. He turned to look over his shoulder. Awkward. So I looked away. He looked away. After a few seconds passed, I turned again to get another glimpse of him. I guess he was thinking the same thing because at the same moment he turned again to get another glimpse of me. Our eyes locked, and that is when awkward looks beget awkward conversation. He walked back towards me and took off his sunglasses. Sure enough, it was Mr. Bruno.

We exchanged pleasantries- the typical banter- and when he asked me where I was headed, I told him I had another five miles to walk (again, alone & in the dark) until I was home in Queens. There is a back story here.

Five years ago, when I was a freshman–transitioning from the farm life to life in the big city, Mr. Bruno took extra care as my advisor to make me more “street smart.” Somehow he found out that I usually traveled alone, rode my bike in high-traffic areas-including one time on the Van Wyk expressway, and naively trusted strangers who I thought wanted me to walk their dogs. He even went so far as to report me to campus Public Safety. I’ll never forget the day I was called into the office of the VP of Campus Safety.

I had been enjoying myself (skipping class of course) at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show at Madison Square Garden when my cell phone rang. It was St. John’s saying that it was urgent that I report to the Public Safety headquarters on campus. That is not good. Public Safety is just a nicer-sounding word for “police.” Most students I know at St. John’s do not have decent things to say about these officers.

So despite having paid to see the dogs and show, I booked it back to Queens. I was terrified. I was so afraid that I was going to get in trouble for skipping class, an Honors class of course, (or taking food from the cafeteria or toilet paper from the library) and at stake was my full-ride scholarship. I imagined losing my scholarship and having to go home without so much as a semester under my belt.

Crying, I called my parents to warn them that I was about to be kicked out of college. Then I went to Public Safety HQ & turned myself in. I was taken to the office of the vice president, a former NYPD detective. Yes, I had many questions, but I didn’t ask.

It was nerve-wracking, until I realized that instead of punishing me, he was there for another purpose. Evidently, “his sources”/a.k.a. Mr. Bruno had told him that I was out and about, exploring the city, alone and often at night. He was also informed that I was the victim of a “drive by.” Fortunately, it was just a paintball, however the experience was so traumatizing that I still flinch every time a car drives by and slows down at an intersection. God forbid someone rolls down the window. 

Mr. Bruno had somehow heard about my affairs (and there were many) and he was worried enough to contact the head of Public Safety who found the situation dire enough that he needed to call me in to discuss my reckless behavior and go on to show me how I can be more street smart and less naive-Montanaesque. For example, how to safely use an ATM, and how to jab someone with my keys if I was accosted. I told him I had no keys and that I got into all the buildings with my St. John’s storm card or a punch code. He said “oh well then fugg-ed about it.” I said, “Where are you from on Long Island?” He goes, “Jersey.”

Hard to believe he talked to me (and he had another officer present) for a whole hour when there are 20+ thousand students on campus & a whole lot of thugs who know this surrounding the perimeter. I don’t even drink or smoke. I just like to walk.

The point is that, out of all the millions of people living in NYC, who do I happen to stumble upon five years later while walking alone, in the dark, but Mr. Bruno-the one man who I worked so hard to convince that I was making smarter choices.

I heard it was supposed to be in the 60’s next week so I look forward to walking home again and enjoying the warmer weather. In this city, you never know who you may run into…Or I wonder if they think I ran into them…


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