The Audacious Magpie
A Novel in Real-Time
Chapter 7: Catching Up
Friday July 4, 2014
Lenny! Happy 4th of July!
Gus's email was a welcome surprise on my favorite holiday. Though there were no fireworks in Sweden's countryside skies, Gran and I built a small fire in the backyard for the occasion and spent the evening looking skyward. The spray of stars was show enough.
We had spent the day taking a leisurely bike ride into town where we celebrated with slices of red and blue princess cake. Gramps had started the tradition long ago when we grandchildren were little. Not wanting us to miss out on our country's birthday during summer visits, he asked the local baker to use the US flag's colors in place of traditional green frosting.
I devoured two slices of the soft sponge cake and cream. Gran laughed and shook her head. "If the sweet tooth can be inherited, it must be a dominant trait in your gene pool. Gramps might have beat you with three, though." We both smiled, remembering his sweetness and his fondness for it.
Three months after his passing, life was steadying itself. No longer did we find ourselves tripping into the void Gramps had left. Instead, memories of him simply filled the edges of our consciousness like bleeding watercolors softening the harder lines of the real world. Stomach-hollowing sadness was slowly being replaced by soul-soothing reminiscence of all that was good.
The day was nearly done now on my side of the world, but Gus was gearing up for celebrations in New York.
We're all set for a brilliant fireworks show tonight. Mother Nature revved us up with a spectacular opening act on Wednesday! Oy, the lightning, Lenny! The shuddering fluorescence went on for hours.
There were a few runners nutty enough to do the Central Park loop in the downpour and yours truly was among them. Though we were few in number, there was a palpable camaraderie on the road. A few of us whooped and hollered to each other through the streaming rain. Mostly, though, we all just smiled at each other -- a giddy, knowing smile that we were bonded by shared insanity. We grinned at each other like patients in a water-park-turned-insane-asylum.
As the rain slowed, I stopped to stretch by a totally empty Sheep Meadow. Lightning continued in the East with its jagged white stitching across a gray flannel sky. In the West the clouds broke and the warm orange light of sunset poured over the Upper West and washed its buildings in muted gold. I sat among the soft drips and cool gusts as Central Park sighed in buzzed contentment. You would have loved it.
Oh! That reminds me! The latest Big Ample gift was in Central Park last Sunday.
As the $714 you discovered in the bottle has been spent, there has been plenty of change leftover. I just finished The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, (so good!) in which one of the characters is a magician. It inspired me to work a bit of magic with all that loose change. In short, I assembled ready-made tricks for the unsuspecting magicians of New York.
On one end of fishing line I stuck a penny. On the other end, I attached a quarter and the following note:
I then hid the note and quarter beneath the leaves of low-growing plants or in the cracks of statues so that only the penny was visible. By picking up the penny, the unsuspecting finder actually "produced" a quarter!
It was meant to represent the magic show played out in the city's streets every day. The simple penny-actions of millions combine to produce shiny-quarter-moments that make New York one of the greatest places on Earth. Don't you think?
It was great to be back doing The Big Ample again. With a mix of vacation, work travel and visitors, the recipe of obligations kept me from it throughout June. No mind though, right? The weather was so glorious that it seemed Mother Nature was managing The Big Ample project quite well in my absence!
One final note before I head off for a barbecue and bright bursts of gunpowder. One of my visitors said something during her stay that I thought you'd like. As we walked under a stretch of scaffolding she commented, "New York always seems to be building itself."
This phrase has replayed in my head throughout the past weeks. In the park runners build their calves and quads, in cozy restaurants diners build friendships, on Wall Street they're building markets, on Broadway they're building fame, at the UN it's peace, in Harlem it's a renaissance, at NYU and Columbia it's careers, in Williamsburg they're building hip and in Gowanus it's a new art scene. Along 2nd Avenue they're building a subway line that we may never ride and in Chelsea it's a park in the sky. Ah, New York -- city of magicians and builders.
Or perhaps they're one and the same, huh Magpie?
By the time I finished Gus's email, I was longing for Gotham. Her reminder that the $714 was nearly spent made me realize that The Big Ample project only had about a week left -- 714 gifts by July 14th.
I pulled up a new tab on my screen and did a quick search. I'd laid the foundation for Big Ample and Gus had done her work building it up. It seemed only fitting that we should finish it together. My search results came back -- a $714 round-trip ticket leaving on July 7th. If that wasn't a sign, what was?
It was time to return to New York, at least for one final magic trick.