Letters From the Editor

New York Diary: Surreal Notes

1. A man stood next to me on the subway platform carrying a dozen pink roses. He looked past me down the platform and back up again. We were the only people on either side of the tracks, and there were no trains at the moment. Moving quickly, he lowered himself down into the tracks, tip-toed across the rails, rested his bouquet on the opposite platform and pulled himself up. He walked slowly down the other platform and sat on a bench. The westbound train came a minute later and carried him away.

I thought, pity this guy’s poor east-side girl, who at the last possible second lost her flowers to a woman on the west side for whom he risked death.

2. A film crew had taken over a southern corner on Union Square Park. I was trying to pass on my way to the gym, feeling very offended another Hollywood movie set had slowed my walk from A to B. Maybe I was also craning my neck like an idiot trying to see what stars were involved in the shooting, but maybe not.

Passing by the buffet table, I caught sight of the lead actress turned away from me, consulting with the director. She had long hair and very sharp shoes. Technicians fluttered around: two men with cameras on their shoulders and a guy, seeming very tired with this world, carrying a boom mike. The actress, in clothes I didn’t recognize, turned slightly and I realized she was a good friend of mine, the woman in fact who introduced me to my wife.

Not wanting to disrupt her focus, I waved like a lunatic.

A week earlier, returning home late one night from my sister’s apartment, I walked through a big outdoor set in South Williamsburg while they blew up a car. It was beautiful, a huge explosion. I thought about running away to wherever key grips come from.

3. I was lucky enough to catch Janet Cardiff’s “Her Long Black Hair” in its last weekend in Central Park. Cardiff is known for her audio walks, where participants carry Discmans loaded with CDs she’s made that instruct you where to go, what to look at, as a part of an elaborate story. The piece was sublime and a truly wondrous experience—I ran home and urged all my friends to book appointments.

At some point in the walk, though, I lost my pocket notebook. It seemed a tad appropriate, since Cardiff’s walk had been about photos she’d found in the park by accident, but still… Two days later I received a call from a man who’d found my notebook and wanted to confirm the address (that I’d inscribed inside the cover) before he mailed it.

He said, “I found it on the bench. This bench I go to every day, I was sitting there and I saw it and I said to this guy next to me, I said ‘Is this yours?’ When he said no, we started looking through it, you know, for some name or something? Man, you have really tiny handwriting. Which is like me, I write really small. But anyway, we find your name. Man, this is a weird name. Is it pronounced, Rosencrantz?”

This part was not surreal at all. My name is not pronounced Rosencrantz, and I certainly hadn’t written such inside the cover. But that’s the way it goes. Everyone in this world knows Shakespeare so well it blinds them. Woe to the child who’s born Hamet or Opelia.



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Rosecrans Baldwin co-founded TMN with publisher Andrew Womack in 1999. He is the author of three books, including his latest novel The Last Kid Left (NPR’s Best Books of the Year). His nonfiction appears in a variety of magazines, mostly GQ. More information can be found at rosecransbaldwin.com. More by Rosecrans Baldwin

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