September 20, 2007

Late Last Night...

Very late last night I found myself in the City Hall subway stop with 8 other stragglers waiting for a non-existent R train. We were all spread out across the platform, all standing, but after half an hour everyone had migrated to the benches and we were all sitting in a row. Nobody had anything to read, cellphone service wasn't working, and most unusually, no one was attached to an ipod.

After a few minutes a very tall girl with long brown hair who I would later learn was a Parsons design student, broke social convention, turned to her fellow benchmates, and said, "My God, wasn't today beautiful." At first she just got a few quiet affirmations,"yeah, gorgeous", "best day yet" etc, but then a young woman in a business suit again broke social convention and revealed personal information: "It was so nice, when I woke up I decided I didn't want to feel miserable about anything, and broke up with my boyfriend. I ditched him at 7:30 in the morning. He didn't know what hit him." This revelation shattered the dam of silence and soon the entire group: a couple from Denmark, the Parsons student, the businesswoman, a somewhat scruffy writer named Mike, a lady carrying a violin, and a young tough-looking couple from Coney Island were all chatting. In short order we covered breakups, design books, Facebook, muggings (The Danish couple were surprised to learn none of us had been violently mugged...), and Thai food in Brooklyn. Another half hour passed. Finally Mike, said, "screw the train, let's walk, my car is on the other side and I can take some of you home." We immediately lost the Coney Island couple ("That's foolish man. Foolish.") but everyone else was on board. The violin woman slipped out of her heels into white tennis shoes and we headed out into the night.

Midnight walks across the Brooklyn Bridge are always beautiful, but last night, particularly so: a half moon hung low in the sky, the lower deck of the bridge was covered in little red flares which gave everything an otherworldly light, and the air was velvety cool. Perfect walking weather. Except for Mike who apparently walks the bridge regularly, and myself, for most of our group this was a new experience. "The only time I've ever walked across was going home on 9/11", said the businesswoman, "It was my first week on the job, my first week in New York."

The Parsons girl who had not known the bridge was walkable looked out over the water towards the city, "I was 13 on 9/11. Afterwards my weird reaction was that I wanted to move to New York. From then on, I knew I would end up here." Mike, who had been deep in conversation with the Parsons girl beforehand was startled. "You were 13? My God." He crossed himself.

At the second tower we lost the Danish tourists. They had been headed to the Fulton Ferry Landing and decided the view from down below couldn't be better than the view from the bridge itself. They said no goodbyes, and as we walked away they practically lunged for each other and began making out. "Name the kid Brooklyn," Mike called out after them. The conversation turned to PDAs. Mike felt they were unavoidable. The Parsons girl pled guilty. The businesswoman said, "I've never been with anyone that made me want to kiss them outside," and the violin lady just giggled.

On the other side of the bridge we all headed up Henry Street in silence into Brooklyn Heights where we found Mike's car am old Volvo. "I can walk," I said, I'm pretty close." "Me too," said the businesswoman. Mike insisted. "

It's more fun if everybody goes," said the violin woman who had hadn't said much since leaving Manhattan. We bundled into the car and rolled down the windows. "Such a pefect night," said the businesswoman sticking her hand outside. " A few minutes later we dropped her off. "Thanks," she said, "that was fun."
"You make me feel like we were on a date," Mike answered.
"Hey, I'm available now," she smiled, "and you know where I live."
We drove off leaving her waving on the curb. "I don't think she's over her boyfriend yet," noted the Parsons girl.
"No way," said Mike, she's much too happy. Can't be real."
"Nope," chimed in the violin woman.

I was the next to be dropped off. "We'll look you up on the web," everyone said. "Just google raul", I replied. We waved goodbye and I wondered what observations would be made about me when I was out of earshot. I smiled and watched the Volvo headed down Henry towards Cobble Hill marveling at how little takes to transform a group of tired grumpy New Yorkers into friends if only for the span of the Brooklyn Bridge.

posted at 01:35 PM by raul

Filed under: daily life

TAGS: brooklyn bridge (1) night (20) r train (2) subway stories (1)


09/20/07 02:24 PM

I am so happy to read your post today. It made me smile and reminded me of how we all crave human connection. I am glad you had such a great evening.

09/20/07 02:25 PM

how fun

09/20/07 02:33 PM

That was a very cool story Raul! I didn't think that kind of kindness existed anymore.

There is still hope!

09/20/07 02:36 PM

Raul, reading your blog is one of my favorite parts of the day, any day. This post is just one more example why.

09/20/07 04:04 PM

that´s awesome

and funny ...and so human.

(Liz said it too.)


09/20/07 10:11 PM

I love this story. I love it when this sort of thing happens.

I don't usually read your comments, but I was kind of hoping one of your new friends would have found your blog.

09/20/07 11:57 PM

Wonderful, absolutely wonderful.

09/21/07 02:45 AM

beautifully written. that is what i love about nyc.-- talking and connecting with strangers in a way that might feel more claustrophobic in a small town coincidentally...

09/21/07 06:34 AM

twas a memorable night, and you wrote it up so nicely!


09/21/07 08:44 AM

Wow...what a beautiful story. Isn't it sort of sad in some ways that this sort of thing is the exception and demands to be written about?

In protest, I've added you as my friend on facebook ;-)

09/21/07 01:36 PM

Hah. Loved reading this, Raul. Isn't life just an interesting thing.

09/21/07 05:11 PM

That's why I love this city!

09/21/07 05:54 PM

Wow, your post made me so happy I decided to break up with my boyfriend.

09/21/07 08:12 PM

09/21/07 10:26 PM

I'm not sure what washed me up at this site this evening, but I'm grateful.

Thank you for a story that brings back other evenings... other cities.

09/21/07 11:09 PM

I was gently led here from Mike Daisey's blog. You capture perfectly the experience of inter-social perfection that remain like jewels in my memory. Great story telling!

09/22/07 01:52 AM

Raul, this post just made me miss NYC a whole lot. You have such an amazing way of capturing a moment in life, with words and pictures. Thanks for making my evening :)

09/22/07 06:52 AM

Beautiful and touching to think that people in big cities can be more than passers-by. I'm moving to London next week, having never lived in a big city, and this gives me hope.


09/22/07 11:00 AM


My friend sent me to this story saying I must read it. I almost didn't.

He may have known that I would long to publish it.

I write the Good News Network, which bundles all the good news stories from around the world.

I love to feature stories like this. Whaddya say? Please let me reprint and send people to your homepage?

I heart ny...


09/22/07 11:43 AM

made me cry a little! so glad to haev found your blog.

09/22/07 12:47 PM

This is a great story. It makes me miss living in a city with a real public transit system. Thanks for sharing!

09/22/07 03:35 PM

Surfed in via Kottke...and got completely sucked in. I just spent my whole Saturday morning starting to make my way through the archives and can't wait to read more later. Your writing is so appealing: funny, honest, and occassionally heartbreaking.

Thanks so much. I'll be back!


09/22/07 11:10 PM

Discovered your blog while digging up sites discussing iPhone apps. Your post made a day a bit brighter and reminded me that incredible stories like this happen when someone makes a bold decision.
Very well-written!

09/23/07 08:39 AM

one of the most beautiful things i've read so far :) must've been extraordinary.

love from portugal


09/24/07 05:59 AM

I so look forward to these posts.

09/24/07 09:05 PM

The snippet that Google shows on a search for "Raul" now says: "Raul Gutierrez on life and photography. ... "Just google raul", I replied. We waved goodbye and I wondered what observations would be ..."

09/27/07 02:12 PM

Just a wonderful story. I like that woman's resolution to get out of a miserable situation. Makes me realize it's worthwhile to do the same. Life's too precious to be a miserable disciple.

09/27/07 04:37 PM

Great story.
Thanks Raul.

Before moving to NY recently, I lived in a big apartment complex in DC, and had trouble meeting people in my building, as they were always busy leaving for and returning from work. But one day there was a blackout, and people started congregating in the lobby where the only working lights were. Somehow, minor emergencies like this bring out the social side of people, and I got to meet a bunch of my neighbors for the first time. It was great social expereience.

The occasional poor train service, blackouts, etc. can be great change of pace. Just as long as it's occasional, and not chronical!

10/02/07 07:18 AM

I used to live in Cobble Hill myself, and took occaisional walks over the bridge at midnight.
Reading your story made me remember.
It's that time of the season again.

Now I'm in Tokyo.
Somehow, it's harder for people to break conventions here.
But reading your story gave me hope.
Mustn't give up.

10/03/07 05:14 PM

i've read your story and i liked it very much.
your story makes me wanna go back there.
greetings from old amsterdam

10/03/07 06:44 PM

living in new york is the best. and the people here are the best. thanks for your story it reminded me of that!

10/03/07 09:55 PM

Thanks for sharing the story, Raul. Well told.

10/03/07 11:35 PM

Thanks you for sharing the story, Raul. It is really beautiful. I wish sometimes I could live randomly like this, getting to know people without knowing their names first. Somehow, in Malaysia, when you talk to strangers in the trains, buses etc. you get strange looks. As if, you are trying to do something bad to the person you talk to.

Thank you again for the inspiration.

10/04/07 09:53 PM

wow raul...i've been cruising your site for a couple of months now, and i've been cruising in and out of new york for 15 years...and this is exactly why i always come back to you...and to new york....


10/29/07 02:09 AM

Sounds wonderful :)

11/19/07 03:07 PM

You're the 5th result when I google "raul"! I'm duly impressed. Thanks for the story.

12/07/07 08:59 AM

opt '&; hillariouss ;]

12/08/08 10:47 PM

i was watching a youtube video of skater marc johnson and i typed in the first words of the song that was playing, "late last night." this blog entry popped up and i realized you're the raul from david's wedding, father of the adorable gabriel. thank you for this read - it was just what i needed at the moment!

12/09/08 04:28 AM

I like being called The Raul, and I'm sure Gabriel likes being called adorable.

The world is small.

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