Slice of Life Tuesday: Live theater on a park bench


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Afternoon plans to visit a friend having gone awry, I found myself at Riverside Park with a wonderful bag of books:

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a lovely park bench:

and three hours to read and think and perhaps walk until my Elizabeth was free for dinner.  I plunged right away into Jacqueline Woodson’s amazing Brown Girl Dreaming, losing myself entirely in its beauty for the next two hours.  Then, full of thoughts, I  slowly put away the book and contemplated a long walk to let the power of the book sink in and rattle around in my imagination.  Before I could move, however, I was drawn into a quintessentially New York City experience – the park bench across from me came alive with tableau after tableau of living city theater: 

First, a young man wheeled over an elderly gentleman.  They sat on the sunniest side of the bench, and the young man gently fed the older man some yogurt.  As he did, he launched into a tirade against his landlord.  “He thinks I’m nothing but a cockroach!” he said, “nothing but a New York City cockroach! Imagine that!!”  Even though his voice rose and some his language was pretty rough, he was gentle as gentle could be with the man in his care – attentively tucking the blanket around the old man’s knees, adjusting his cap against the wind, softly dabbing at his mouth after every spoonful.

Soon after they had left, two middle school aged kids scootered over to the bench, flung down their backpacks and traded their after school snack – apples for potato chips, juice for a soda.  As they munched they plotted about how to get to the next level of their video game, and texted friends for some higher level advice.  I loved the ebb and flow of their conversation – two friends, talking easily about video games, the merits of salty potato chips, the best route to scooter back home.

Just as I was ready to gather my books and head over to the restaurant for dinner, a young mother strolled over with two toddlers and a chocolate brown lab in tow.  She sank down onto the bench with a deep sigh, the kind that wells up in moms everywhere as dinner time, bath and bed time stories near.  “Mommy just needs a minute, okay? Play with Geoffrey for a bit!”  Geoffrey, it turned out,  was their chocolate lab, and he was just as beat from the day’s activities as Mom.  He stretch out by the side of the bench, heaved a sigh of utter exhaustion, and promptly fell asleep. For the next fifteen minutes,  Geoffrey’s human siblings tried everything they could to get him to play. The examined his ears, checked out his teeth, poured a bit of their water bottles down his velvety back. No response.  They offered him bits of apple and bits of animal crackers. Still no response. They sat on him. Geoffrey shifted his weight, rolling them off without  lifting a sleepy eyelid.  Finally, Mom had had enough. “Alright guys, let’s go!” she said.  And then, finally,  Geoffrey  slowly rose, stretched, and was ready, too, to be off.

And so was I.


22 thoughts on “Slice of Life Tuesday: Live theater on a park bench

  1. Amazing what happens in such a short span of time, when one stops and can take the time to notice. I loved the way you described your time with the book and the theater that followed.

  2. Oh Tara, I love how this piece makes the park bench come alive. Your writing is so clear and the details were so vivid to me – I felt like I was there in the park with you. Wonderful writing…perhaps because you were writing about what you know 🙂

  3. What a wonderful tableau that you witnessed and captured. I love the way you led us in, and kept us anticipating that walk, maybe now, maybe now, but then there was another story to share. Glad you like Brown Girl Dreaming, and hope dinner was superb! Sounds like a lovely afternoon!

  4. When I saw your title, I wondered, when does Tara have time to sit on a park bench? So glad that you were able to lose yourself in Brown Girl Dreaming – such an incredible book! And then the living city theater. I loved each tableau. Poor Geoffrey!

  5. I loved reading this. I often wish I could figure out a way to capture the moments… slices… that I notice during the day. Even out at recess I often feel like I’m the audience to 50 small plays going on at the same time. I hear a word here, a sentence there… and I wish I could write it all down. I’m so glad you were able to – because this is a beautiful slice!

  6. Tara,
    This is such a slice. Juicy and full. Brown Girl Dreaming in Riverside Park.You had me there. I absolutely loved that story. In fact everything Jackie Woodson writes, I love. The park experience you had makes me want to find a bench somewhere, and just watch and feed on life.
    And on another note, so looking forward to seeing you at NCTE!

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