The 'Greater New York Bridge Owners Convention'

Larry walked into the coffee shop this morning and noted that, over time,
I had migrated to the writers and philosophers corner, otherwise known
as the 'Liars Bench'.
He declared that an official name tag was in order now that I had attained membership in the gang.
This put me in mind of my most prized and coveted name tag...

A memory sprang to mind…one of my New York stories.
The one about my friend Alice, who was my great NYC walking buddy
for several years.
There weren’t many places in New York City we hadn’t tromped.
We walked everywhere in any weather and at any time of day and night.
In fact, that is how we met…

We were both recently arrived young women who were plucky enough
to move to New York City as single women.
Alice arrived as an art student from an upstate hamlet.
I had been living in a French fishing village in Nova Scotia when I
developed a yen for Brooklyn.

On arrival, well-meaning natives had cautioned each of us regarding
our safety in the big city.
“Don’t go here! Don’t go there! Don’t go anywhere after dark!”
Ominous warnings all!!
It wasn't long before Alice was living behind a door studded
with multiple locks and chains, barred windows and the like,
while in my neck of the jungle, I was becoming similarly imprisoned
and taking on more fear by the minute.

I soon observed that all my neighbors lived in these self-made prisons.
I was beginning to wonder what the point of living in New York City
was if all you were going to do was stay inside fearing for your life.
I reached a point where I was going to cave in to all that fear and squander
my big adventure. Either that or I would have to dismantle the whole oppressive mess and struggle to reassert my own good sense and regain
my freedom.

Both she and I had started to reclaim that freedom prior to meeting
one another.
It wasn't easy, but we each recaptured what was lost... block by city block,
until we were, once more, our former intrepid selves.

On several of my nightly forays, I began to notice another lone female exploring the offbeat alleyways. A kindred, perhaps?
After a few more sightings, we shyly introduced ourselves.
Soon after, we began to team up on our walks and share our fascination
with New York's gritty, chaotic underbelly.
We had a certain curiosity for the edgy places, well off the beaten path.
We were our brave selves again by this time, so together there were few places we wouldn’t go.

All those treks gave us a deep sense of place and a sense of command
over the city.
We had many favorite haunts, but, among them, we were especially fond
of the Brooklyn Bridge.
It always gave us a special thrill to walk its expanse. Many fine hours
were spent patrolling its ramparts and surveying its grandeur.
Our fondness eventually gave way to a kind of possessiveness.

One day, in a flight of fancy, we decided to enact a bloodless coup
and annex the Brooklyn Bridge, claiming it as our own.
We had to act quickly so as to escape detection.
We made our declaration and then set about making our claim official.
Alice’s task as resident artist was to create the badges that would announce our stealth acquisition.
Our acquisition of such a grand landmark had gone to our heads, however,
and we began to bicker over how our asset should be divvied up.
Such is the fate of the acquisitive…

We rarely argued, but this gave rise to some heated thoughts which might soon erupt into some verbal fisticuffs.
Iron sharpens iron, the good book says. We were well-endowed opponents.
Fortunately, however, we managed to forge an amicable agreement.
As co-owners of the bridge, in a move not unlike wise King Solomon's,
we divided things right down the middle.
It was the perfect arrangement-this time with no loss of blood or life.

Alice, who by nature is an east-going person, assumed ownership
of the eastbound lanes.
I am quite naturally oriented toward the west. so I became the proud owner
of the westward-bound lanes of the Brooklyn Bridge.

We had joined the ranks of the rich and powerful.
It was time to mingle…
No part of the Big Apple was off limits to us. Our curiosity ranged far and wide.
Though we could often be found in the more inglorious parts of the city,
we sometimes had a hankering for the good life.
How many times had we sauntered by the elegant hotels and peeked inside
to see the wealthy and fashionable attending cocktail parties and banquets...

If we had only been properly attired….we imagined we might have joined
their fair ranks.
But we were woefully unprepared...not to mention...uncredentialed.
By that time, we had made our way into lots of other venues with a bit
of moxey…
Why not the hallowed banquet halls of the Waldorf Astoria?
Surely the gods would smile on our little escapade…

We prepared as one might for a Broadway performance.
Polish! Attitude! Entitlement! Snootiness! Chutzpah!
Alice had the patrician silhouette and blue-blood skin.
I possessed a certain European class.
If we could keep from breaking out in giggles, we might pull it off.
For months we studied the wealthy and endowed as we sauntered by their posh venues, stealing glances at their parties, emulating their styles,
imbibing the atmosphere, waiting for our chance.

Do we dare? Almost! Not quite! Timing is everything!
But, as co-owners of the prestigious Brooklyn Bridge, we began to evolve
into our newly ‘acquired’ (accent courtesy of William F. Buckley) roles.
It wouldn't be long now...

We cobbled together the appropriate formal wear from thrift shops.
Posh, but not too ostentatious.
We invented our personas, role-played endlessly, rehearsed our entrance, practiced cocktail party gossip, exit strategies and the like.
Our debut into formal New York City society was now imminent.
We made a couple of trial runs...

If we could walk the mean streets of New York with barely a tremor of fear beneath our street-wise bravado, how hard could it be to stroll into
a society bash?
Our badges were carefully prepared...not quite passport perfect,
but we had a certain effect in mind...
"The Greater New York Bridge Owner's Convention".

We carefully pinned our badges to our bodices and took a few deep breaths
as we crossed the threshold from the world outside into the rarefied atmosphere that awaited.
Holding our heads high, we mounted the carpeted stairway to the ballroom.
Without a second glance, as though quite accustomed to such things,
we entered the glittering room.
Looking down our noses slightly, we accepted the proffered champagne flutes and surveyed the crowd.
Powerful men surrounded by beautiful women, ostentation ruling the day.
We would have to up our game a bit more than anticipated.
We were thankfully overlooked for the most part.
We sampled fancy hors d'oeuvres as we chatted each other up.
A few socialites glanced at our badges with approving nods.
Alice and I strove to maintain our weighty demeanors as we strolled
about the room. We felt a rush of exhilaration at our accomplishment.
Very likely the champagne was going to our heads, as well...

Just about the time we counted ourselves a glorious success, however,
a burly security guard stepped up to us and took a cold, hard look
at our credentials.
The atmosphere around us became as leaden as an Alcatraz prison gate.
We tried to feign ignorance.
Perhaps we had mistakenly joined the wrong gathering.
"Where might we find the gala for 'The Greater New York Bridge Owners Convention?'" we coyly inquired.
We had been found out.
The guard gave us an icy look and escorted us to the nearest exit.
There we stood on the cold windy streets once more, ignominiously cast out.
All dressed up with nowhere to go, but back to the grubby stairwell
to the F train.
Our society careers cut short in such cruel manner.

On an unlikely note, a year later, I was woken out of a deep sleep by a madman pounding on my door at 4 am. It turned out to be my dodgy neighbor who ran the comic book shop next to my bookstore.
"Debbie!! Get dressed! Get out here now! There's NO time to waste!"
I tumbled out of bed, hastily dressed and followed him to the F train headed uptown, still half-asleep, wondering what the excitement was all about.
He was beside himself with urgency!
Finally we arrived at our secret destination...
Lo and behold! The famed Waldorf Astoria was remodeling, he exclaimed!
Rolls of resplendent jewel-toned antique wool carpet were being jettisoned.
My neighbor insisted it would be perfect for my shop!!
I was not so sure, but who was I to argue in the heat of the moment?
We hauled it all the way back to Brooklyn...on the subway! What a sight!
But what a coup in the end! It was fabulous!
For the next several years I trod the same carpet as the high and mighty.
In life's curious fashion, everything had come full circle...

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Debra Robinson