Every day that is above freezing or not raining, I walk from Penn Station up 8th Avenue to my office just north of Times Square. Doing so takes me through an area of Manhattan that still evokes urban grit (i.e., it hasn’t been purchased by Disney.) I stop at a Hell’s Kitchen McDonald’s to get my morning coffee. McDonald’s, by the way, has the best iced coffee going, at about half the price of Starbucks, Cosi, or Dunkin Doughnuts. (The cheapest comes from the guy with the push cart in front of my building, but I never know if his milk is on the safe side of the expiration date.)
I wish everyone could experience stopping into a McDonald’s in Hell’s Kitchen at breakfast time. This morning I stood in line behind a linebacker of a guy dressed head to toe in camo, save for his pink flip flops and Yankee hat. Closer inspection revealed that he’d also painted his toenails pink. A woman in line next to me had orange and yellow hair, about 30 visible piercings, and black lipstick. Her toenails? Black. While I was ordering, a guy who looked like Mr. Vargas walked in, wearing a black trench coat and army boots and carrying two large trash bags. I thought, this man will soon be responsible for my first and only appearance on the evening news. Then he reached into one of the bags and pulled out…several large balls of yarn.
About half a dozen other people in the restaurant displayed varying degrees of oddity, yet no one blinked an eye. The only reason I took notice today, as opposed to every other day, is because of Mr. Vargas. But the great thing is, I can’t imagine this scene playing out in Omaha, Bakersfield, or even the Upper West. Even greater, I know for a fact that had I walked in with a fishing rod, people would have stared at me.