High Heels On a Bike = Remarkable?

posted in: Fashion, New York City 4
I'm like her! Only I've got heels on and she's younger than me or uses excellent face cream. Photo: NY Transit Forums
The Citbikes of New York. I’m like this chick! Only I’ve got heels on and she’s younger than me or uses excellent face cream. Photo: NY Transit Forums

A large man with a proportionately large afro shouted to me today that I was the most amazing thing he had seen in New York City.

Let me explain.

Some time ago, I spoke of my love of the Chicago Divvy bikeshare program in its infancy; the NYC version works just the same and upon arrival I became a key-carrying member. The bikeshare system has changed the way I relate to this city and I am most grateful for it.

In years past, I was a subway-taker, like everyone else in Manhattan who doesn’t have a driver. (This is most people, though in Manhattan, Those Who Are Chauffeured must be counted.) I had to admit to myself awhile back that even though the people-watching and the idea of the subway is cool to me, the actual subway makes me claustrophobic and neurotic. At least once per ride, I think of a skyscraper sighing down into the ground the moment I’m barreling underneath it and !squish! bye-bye Mary and everyone else who just wanted to go see a movie or whatever.

The other trouble with the subway in a city so intricate as New York is that I would descend into a hole and pop up out of another hole and miss the geography of the place. It’s hard for me to get the lay of the land that way; I need to knit together the streets, the blocks, the neighborhoods. As my main mode of transport is now the Citibike, this is solved. I am understanding this place in a way I never have before. And yes, I wear a helmet. You just have to wear one.

So back to Afro Man.

I like to wear heels. I’m the shortest in my family, so I took to wearing heels years ago and now it’s just a rule. I also like to be girly and fancy. I ride my bike in heels, too. Not all of my shoes are appropriate for this, but my knockin’ around town heels are. They even have little nubbly things for traction.

As I hopped onto a Citibike to go to the store for farmer’s cheese, I swung my leg up over the saddle of my horse-slash-bike, and my be-heeled feets began to push the pedals. I went about a half a block and slowed for a car to pass when the aforementioned large man with the aforementioned large afro called out to me from the sidewalk.

“High heels on a bike!” he whistled. “That’s the most amazing thing I’ve seen in New York City so far!” He laughed and shook his head.

I laughed, too. “You haven’t seen much yet,” I called after him, and rode away.



True Story Update: New York So Far

posted in: New York City 3
Impossible, beautiful, dangerous to walk in -- just like New York! Keith Haring shoe, Nicholas Kirkwood, 2012.
Impossible, beautiful, dangerous to walk in — just like New York! Keith Haring shoe, Nicholas Kirkwood, 2012.

I had lunch with a born-and-raised, lifelong New Yorker yesterday. He asked me how I was getting along.

“You seem a little ambivalent in your blog,” he said. “I can’t tell if you’re warming to the city or not.”

We were eating sushi in a restaurant only a local would know about, one of the best sushi bars in Manhattan, as it turns out, tucked away deep in Soho. There might have been a sign on the heavy wooden door, but I didn’t see one when I pushed it open.

“Oh, I’m great! It’s great!” I chirped. “I love it here!” That’s the truth, too. In no way has my New York City life truly begun yet, but the hunk of molded clay has at least been dropped onto the wheel. It will begin to take shape, if you’ll tolerate me extending that lame clay metaphor.

But then my lunch date spooked me a little.

“But how are you doing really?” he asked, eyeing me as I put more edamame into my face. It wasn’t that he didn’t believe me when I said I was doing well, he just knew he was asking a serious question that deserved a thoughtful response.

“The pace of this place,” he said, “is not for everyone.”

Correct. I’ve known New York City to stomp, chomp, and otherwise flatten people. It does happen, absolutely, every day I’m sure, and even though there are plenty of folks who lament the glossification of New York, who say the city is a soulless shell of what it used to be, all Carrie Bradshaw and no Joe Strummer, those people probably didn’t grow up in rural Iowa like I did. Please. New York is still a killer whale. Have some imagination.

I chewed. I considered. Okay, how am I really doing? Because there are a thousand thoughts a day that pass through my brain and right now, directly related to moving here or not, all those thoughts are tagged “New York City.”

“There are moments when I feel overwhelmed,” I said, and a mini-monologue suddenly poured out, because one had been waiting, apparently.

“It’s like… So you’re on a street corner here, waiting for the light. And you look over and you see the most beautiful girl you have ever seen in your life. Right there, a supermodel, maybe the supermodel of the moment that you just saw on the cover of a magazine. And then the light changes and you’re crossing the street and you see the craziest person you have ever seen in your life. Like, in a wig, with a parakeet or something, screaming into a transistor radio. Then, an old Chinese man zips past on a bike and you smell his tobacco and it’s this wild smell, totally from another world. Then a black, mirrored car snakes through the street and you wonder, who’s in there? Jay-Z? A congressman? The Shah of Iran? Maybe all of them?

And in those moments, you realize the layers of existence here. It’s like shale. And all these people, they all have their own realities, they all have their own days, their own New York City. And the truth of that can feel like a comfort, because everyone is just like you, or you can lose your mind, because that’s too much input, too much to think about and still remember to blink.”

This answer seemed to satisfy my lunch date. That I could identify the complexity and consider it, that is maybe proof that I’m keeping my head above water. And maybe proof that I have a chance to thrive, too. We’ll see.

I rode a Citibike back home after lunch. They’re the Divvy bikes of New York!