The Audacious Magpie
A Novel in Real-Time
Chapter 3: Living Out Loud
Sunday May 4, 2014
You were totally right about New York.
It's almost midnight as I read Gus's email. Her near-daily messages give me a constant connection to the Big Apple.
When we first met, you said you loved the city because you could see performers on street corners who you'd pay to see elsewhere.
This is true, but it's even more than that, I think. There are performers who ask for tips, yes, but all week I've witnessed loads of artists sharing their talents freely.
A photographer just transformed the tunnel to my subway into a gallery by pasting photos along the walls.
On Wednesday, while being helped at the post office, the woman at the counter alternated between monotonous questions directed at me and a gorgeous gospel anthem she sang to herself. I was both the hundredth customer of the day and a silent observer of her worship. I much preferred to be the latter and thanked her for her music as I left.
I smiled to myself. Gus had definitely been the right choice to take over Big Ample. She got it -- the magic of the city, the living out loud that reminds you what it is to be human and share this human life with the rest of this crazy world.
Yesterday, after my run in Central Park, the most debonair woman passed me. She was decked out in a lovely spring dress and a striped straw hat tilted perfectly on her head. She strolled by as though the pathway around Sheep Meadow had been transformed into a catwalk.
Finally, last night I listened while a beautiful young Latina belted out a love song on the nearly-empty train to woo her girlfriend. She was soulful and sincere. Her chalky, brooding voice hit the notes just right.
Sometimes New York just feels like a big talent showcase. We don't need concert halls or tickets to enjoy it. The show is just there in the subway seat next to you.
This all brings me to this week's gift.
Earlier this week I passed a young guy on the subway platform holding The Luminaries. It is a tome of a novel that I just finished and thoroughly loved. I complimented the boy on his choice, he thanked me and we both smiled. As I sat down in the train, I took out my current book, Eat the City and start reading.
To my left was a young girl with round red glasses reading a beat-up, orange-covered copy of Song of Solomon. Her seatmate was an older brunette engrossed in a less-familiar book -- The Seer.
I smiled to myself. There we sat as a tripod of bookworms. It felt so cozy, like we were the grown-up remnants of a Reading Marathon from elementary school. Do you remember those magical days when we wore our pajamas, brought our pillows and scattered throughout the library with our snacks to find a reading nook?
Anyhow, this is when the gift idea struck me. Perhaps I could share some of my poetry through an informal open mike. Rather than get up on stage in a coffee shop, I'd make copies of some of my poems and put them in library books soon to be picked up on the hold shelf. I figure, if we're all making the city our stage, why not join and contribute to the scene?
In the true Big Ample spirit, I'm also going to leave a blank sheet with instructions recommending that the reader also share something, perhaps a favorite recipe or a poem of their own. In this way, the show goes on! I'm putting these in the books tomorrow. I'll let you know how it goes.
Ah! One last thing for you, a poem inspired by the silent book club.
Last week, after you sent your advice about how to produce creative work, I set out to write more. Last week's poem was on writing. This week's is on reading.
I hope you enjoy it.
All the best, Magpie,
My friend proffers the book to me like a set up.
"I think you'll really like it," she says hopefully.
I regard the cover with hesitation. It is different from the books I usually read.
"Ok," I acquiesce and put the book in my bag.
We hug goodbye after dinner and she gives the book a final recommendation. "Just give it a chance," she urges.
I sit on the train and read the first chapter. I'm immediately taken by the wit and charm. She was right.
There is just enough of a mirror here that I'm completely at ease, but enough of a stranger that I'm also intrigued.
The chemistry is instant. My guard falls away and the rest of the world disappears. I almost miss my stop because I'm having such a good time.
Finally, I exit the train and reluctantly close the cover. Must I say goodbye so soon?
I can't wait for the next chapter.
I text my friend and thank her. "You're a glorious matchmaker."
I close the computer and smile. Gus is really getting the hang of Big Ample and giving it her own touch.
I fall asleep and dream of a gospel choir waving their arms and clapping their hands behind the windows at the post office.