A period of discomfort can provide the basis for a period of happiness and joy.
I’ve rarely taken a moment, in the blur of the past five years, to step back and appreciate – or at least rue-minate on – all the things I’ve done and the people I’ve met. What spurred this thought, on my exploratory run into the flowery margins of Koriyama this morning, was a certain song, “Proud Mary” and it’s connection to an until-now forgotten memory some two years ago during my turbulent time in New York City.
After another monotonous day sitting in a cubicle with three incredibly introverted coworkers intent on avoiding any conversation whatsoever, I got cozy at my favorite Barnes & Noble café to study Japanese; at the time, I had little inkling I’d be using it quite practically in two years’ time. I left the café as the sullen voice announced closing time as usual, boarded the late Q train as usual, and put on some loud music to drown out whatever crazy happened to also board the same train as usual.
Moments later, one short and one astoundingly tall drag queen walked into my car. I’ll admit: I was no fan of drag queens at the time. Perhaps it derived from my prejudice toward clowns – thanks to Tim Curry – but drag was far from my scene. One of the glittery gals worked the small boom box she carried in, while the other announced a clearly very rehearsed and repeated introduction.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are not drunks, and we are not prostitutes…”
Yes, the usual musical metro panhandling freak show, I thought.
It was amazing, both in performance and voice. The song was “Proud Mary”. They managed to fit in the act perfectly thanks to the longer track between Manhattan and Queens beneath the East River. They got off at the next stop. So did I.
Now, Lee Lee, as she introduced herself, had massive eyelashes and an extraordinarily convincing chest thanks to some muscle and a pushup bra, while Frosty sported tall pumps with legs to suit them. Despite the smooth performance, the duo had only been plying their performance art for a month at that time, tirelessly traveling car to car on the Brooklyn-bound Q and lengthy Manhattan 1, while avoiding the Orange line altogether.
Gladly, and after feebly explaining a solely journalistic interest, they agreed to have me along on their shift that night and subsequently invited me to a drag show, at which they were hopefuls for a grand prize of $175. Both Lee Lee and Frosty were happy to open up about their personal and professional lives – both had day jobs as waiters – and I met so many more interesting and fun characters that night, even a delightful queen that was something of a cross between Ursula and Dolly Parton.
Since then, I’ve encountered equally interesting people, fleeting but each an impression on my life. There was violinist, another soul from the underground, who I met at the 42nd street junction and who agreed, after much coercion, to give me fiddle lessons for over a year. Alongside a bandmember strumming a washboard with gunshell-capped fingers, Rique Prince handled his pale, straight-grained violin like it was the Lord Jesus himself.
Then, there was the copy editor. In every way, a happy romantic in a desperate search for his soul mate and a settle-down life in a city sleepless and full of men who habited that very bar looking for anything but. During that time, I became infatuated with my roommate, a desert flower who was far too subsurface for the likes of me.
The girl from Novia Scotia came next, a throwback from my heady college year spent abroad in Marburg, Germany, and who I would later find myself bunking with in Budapest, Hungary. Before, in between, and after, indelible impressions were left from a life-loving Finn, a beautiful-eyed Danish traveler, and a gorgeous American couchsurfer from Spain who, after three days at my Budapest apartment and one missed train, was gone too soon.
A Spanish supermodel. A caring, potential husband of a boyfriend of two years. A fierce Hungarian gypsy lover. A helpful Norwegian pastor with a surprising dark past. A high-school beauty I never realized until we spontaneously shared stories over games of pool.
Flings failed, old friends renewed, new friends made, brief encounters had – I think it’s time to slow down and consider another direction.
I asked what Lee Lee and Frosty where they’d ultimately like to be in life, and both said they would like to be performing on Broadway. Getting there would be hard, they said, and for that time, they had chosen to start at the bottom, gigging their way through the underground until they were raised to the stage.
No matter who I’ve met, I’ve always asked what they’d really like to accomplish with their life, and I really do hope they achieve their dreams, and I’d like to think Lee Lee and Frosty are both making their rounds in the circuit now, donning their Rihanna costumes only for some weekend fun. Though I’ve struggled with the idea of ending my own weekend trysts, as it were, I’ve felt less flighty as of late, and maybe it’s time to make like a plant and stay put.