Thursday, September 8, 2016

Life Lessons From City Island: Part One

Since the end of summer was fast approaching, I jumped at the chance when E suggested a getaway to City Island. For fun, I divided the day into various philosophies I have on my life, both previously established and recently explored. Could these theories be guiding me straightly towards the painful brick wall of reality? Sure! I'm only 31 years old, for god's sake. But for now I'll travel a while with these beliefs, until I find ones better or more exact with which to fill my pockets. 

#1. All Those Fellow Passengers Who Told You "It's Not About the Destination, It's About the Journey!" Every Time You Caused a Scene Screaming in Frustration on the LIRR, Were Totally Right All Along With Their Trite Advice, Which Quite Simply Boils Down To: Stop Being Cheap and Take a Cab.

Walk to your destination if you have something to prove. Take a city bus if you've resigned yourself to misery. Take a train if you're on the verge of that, but have not made any firm decisions. Arrange for a taxi if isolated comfort appeals to you. Fly there if the weight of the world has not yet succeeded in holding you down. But if you have any real sense about you, you ought to already be where you are heading, to begin with.

I took a $50 cab ride (plus tip) to City Island. Ridiculous? Of course––I'm a poet after all, that's a decade's salary. But a 3+ hour commute sounded much more ridiculous.

Somehow I arrived at our meeting spot first (a rare occurrence in my friendship with E) and having been informed of her impending lateness, decided to spend the time leisurely perusing books about love in the local library. As I browsed the shelves I received a text from her, after her first public bus of the day broke down, about her overwhelming desire to set the replacement bus on fire if it, too, broke down. How could I deem it an "overwhelming desire?" Because her text had typos, which might be the first time that's happened with E. So clearly, if she were to do anything along the lines of her threats, I would proudly testify to it at least being a crime of passion.

Meanwhile, in the corner of the library, I saw that a children's puppet show was about to begin, and I, resourceful as ever, had a bottle of wine tucked away in my backpack, so I put E's potential legal issues aside for the time being. 

#2. Never Turn Down a Free Waffle

First of all, you should never say no to anything pleasant that is offered to you. That's just sending a bad message out to the world in general. People enjoy giving just as much as receiving––these two acts are equally pleasurable. So the next time you think you are being polite by refusing a generous offer someone has made to you, think again–accepting provides the giver with pleasure and is ultimately the more kindhearted thing to do. 

When E met up with with me at last and recanted her public bus torture, I felt terrible for her, especially considering the contrast to my lovely afternoon. But then she told me about this old man, limping along on a walker, who was crabbier than all hell during the bus expedition. When at last she had disembarked at the City Island stop, the crabby old man had gotten off as well. He made his way to the diner on the corner, and called out with a big smile on his face to her:

“Come on in, waffles are on me!”

Despite how long I had waited, I really wish she'd gone with the old man. Because, well, how many times in your life will someone offer to buy you waffles after you've threatened to set a city bus on fire?

And so I scolded her, and told her that when she'd received his invitation, she should've texted me while I was waiting for her at the library: “Keep reading. Going for waffles.” 

#3. Take Away That Which Someone Holds Most Dear

I've always believed in fashioning fear as my North Star. I imagine the path I want to go down in my life illuminated by terror's glow, and have subscribed to the philosophy: Go towards what horrifies you. But there is another side to the coin of “following your fear,” which is “escaping your safety net.” Put simply, this means that distancing yourself from whatever you can't bear to let go of is the only path to real freedom. 

After surviving the infinite gang of wayward seagulls on the pier of City Island's most reputable clam joint, and imbibing a gloriously cold "coconut-based drink," E and I stumbled upon an odd antique shop. It was a store filled with toy relics from the 80's, the decade in which we had both been born. As I browsed the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle figurines and My Little Pony coasters, E wandered off to excitedly snap photos of everything in sight––she'd clearly had a much different childhood than I.

I didn't think there was much of interest to me in the shop, until I caught sight of some tiny, generic glass bottles with cheap cork stoppers. These were the most utterly charming items in the whole shop as far as I was concerned. My mind whirled with possible uses for the bottles, until I realized they'd best be utilized as a vessel for handwritten wishes, which E and I could toss into the island's surrounding waters before the day was done.

After E and I had purchased our magical wish bottles, I could not help but inform the clerk of our intentions.

"Just so you know," I began. "We're using these as wish bottles, so we'll pretty much be tossing them into the river right after we leave here."

"I'm glad you value my merchandise so much," he joked, good-naturedly. He then held up his index finger, telling me to wait a minute. In his left hand he held a male doll, and was using tools to tear off both of the doll's muscular arms. When I asked him what he was doing, he said he was creating brand new creatures, then proceeded to hold up and showcase other dolls he'd removed appendages from and replaced with blatantly mismatched limbs. 

"A big tough guy with puny spaghetti arms!" he exclaimed with glee, gesturing towards the nearly finished doll. 

“So... this is how you're spending your day?” I asked. The Cabbage Patch clock in the corner showed it was almost 3 PM. 

“Yup!” he replied cheerfully. A little too cheerfully, in my opinion––I was somewhat suspicious that the faint aroma of weed wafting over the countertop contributed to his endless enjoyment of this doll surgery. But nonetheless, he did seem happy, and more incredibly, he seemed purposeful. That, I could not help but admire. 

After he went on more about why he was removing the muscular male doll's biceps, I asked him why. He said that it was important to take away what someone held most precious. That was precisely the thing to take away, he explained. This, admittedly, was a little too deep for a weekday afternoon conversation with a tourist shop clerk, but it beat the typical bland smalltalk. 

“It must be a real pain to be in a relationship with you!” I exclaimed. But he only shrugged in response.

"I guess so!" he said.

My rather rude assertion did not faze him one bit, he just kept snipping off the little bits of desperately clutched identity from his collection of dolls. He continued on with his tasks––filed down the curves of the beauty queen's body, sawed off the soldier's weaponry, and snipped the wildly colored hair of the underground troll––hoping that his efforts could show the world something more surprising and more beauteous than it had seen before.