I love living so high off of the ground like a raptor on his perch. When I was in my twenties, I lived on Eighty-third Street and First Avenue in Manhattan. Some nights I would look across the tenement rooftops below me all the way to Astoria and beyond. And now, here I am in my thirty-seventh year living on the eleventh floor on Queens Boulevard, loving the view, especially during and after a blizzard.
One day years ago, I was doing my usual high altitude viewing of the neighborhood when I spied an older gentleman in front of the Chase Bank below me. He wasn’t moving, just peering out into the traffic. All I wanted to do was hop on the subway and go to Central Park to paint, but there he was, looking ancient, and helpless, and frail.
So I went down and crossed over the twelve lane Boulevard and asked him if he needed some help. He was well barbered and close shaved and smelling of a Bay Rum. His shirt was starched and his shoes were shined, and he was holding his hands out a little in front of him for balance. No cane. Was he defiant or had he misplaced it? I asked him what could I do and he said that he was trying to cross the Boulevard and that every day it seemed to be getting wider. So I said, “Let’s go, I will help you.”
The first lane is a single, and then there are two three-lane pieces, and then finally another single. So we crossed the first lane. He doesn’t step, he merely shuffles, and with me running interference for him, we finally got to the first safety island. About 10 minutes of rest and then we tackled the west bound three lanes. I held up my hand to stop the traffic and we finally got to the middle. Some punk is blowing his horn. Now, after about 20 minutes of rest it’s off onto the eastbound three lanes. The end is now in sight and finally we reached the other curb.
Almost an hour was now gone and although breathing hard, he is looking pretty good. I offered to take him the rest of the way and he was embarrassed and politely said that he was now OK for the rest of his trip.
Before I left, he touched my sleeve and asked if he could offer me a motto for me to live by. I replied, “Sure, I can use all of the wisdom that I can get.”
So he held up a finger in the air as if he was lecturing a class and stated, “The golden years will come to pass, the golden years can kiss my ass.”