I leave for Colt's early in the afternoon. He's thirty blocks away but a day that looks and feels like this would be wasted on the subway - so I walk over to the water and head south.
It's our intention to meet up with Kaitlin at MoMA and see the Tim Burton exhibit. I've been seeing ads and flyers for it everywhere - black and white concepts covering a vast but always darkly humorous terrain of art. None of us hesitates, though, when the suggestion of heading to the park instead comes up. We've spent too long in the dark. We need the vitamin D. We need the fresh air. We need a new plan - meeting at Strawberry Fields - and we set off.
As we near the park, parallel thoughts merge; I haven't eaten today and we're two blocks from Shake Shack. A new plan is formed, a new meeting point texted to Kaitlin.
I soon realize we're headed the wrong direction and have to turn us around. And send a new text to Kaitlin.
Now we're well on our way - but lying across our path is the indomitable Patagonia.
As unlikely friends, Colt and I sync up in unlikely ways; I enjoy climbing, he worked at a rock gym. He wants to go kayaking, I own a kayak. I enjoy camping, he loves Patagonia. We stop at the store (new text to Kaitlin), and rush the tee shirt section - plain tees with the retro label blown up on the back. I want to be camping NOW. Waiting for summer is a pain only exploring this store can ease. Shirts. Pants. Coats. Socks. There is almost too much to take in. I'm overwhelmed. It's practically a relief when Kaitlin arrives and we head to Shake Shack.
I head downstairs to grab a table and leave my order on Kaitlin's iPhone. My fingers, unused to the iPhone keyboard, spell out an interesting order - a "Double ShakeNurger" and one "Vanilla Milkshake, Fried." I grab some mayonnaise from the condiments bar as I go down and yell at them to get lots of everything. We'll need it.
I don't know how they've carried everything down - seven little cups of ketchup, a pile of napkins, eating utensils...and it wont be until we're leaving that I'll notice a second condiment bar. It's right next to our table.
We focus all our energy on the buzzer that will tell us our food is ready. We all stare at it. We are that hungry. The people at the next table stare at us, staring at our buzzer. The people at the table after that all stare at their phones. They are not hungry. But they are not interesting either.
It buzzes. I jump and run. The tray is at the counter waiting, but it doesn't look right. Three milkshakes, yes, but only two fries and two burgers. But No, says the server, that's what it says on the receipt. And it does - so I take it downstairs. That's definitely not right, says Colt, and he heads back up to order more. Kaitlin and I inhale our burgers while Colt's still ordering and I text him to order another burger. Kaitlin texts him to order more fries. He comes back with the buzzer and I decide I need another milkshake. It's back upstairs for me, ordering two. The server betrays a laugh; even as I pick up our second round of food, we are ordering more. We leave the place so fat... but so happy.
We finally make our way to the park, leaving two wrong turns and an awkward moment involving the "Mvseum of Natvral History" and a mentally challenged kid behind us. Kaitlin snaps a photo of "Imagine" at Strawberry Fields and we meander inwards, toward the east side, settling on a small hill in the sun.
For a long time it is all we need just to lie there in the warm light. Then music is brought out and the situation is even better. Then Colt and I are climbing trees. Soon Kaitlin joins us and we find a natural cradle in a low-hanging branch. It scoops her up like a long-fingered hand and as she lies in it I rock it back and forth. It looks like heaven so I try it. It is. Colt tries it. Kaitlin tries it again. No one can get enough.
Kaitlin reads to us from Slaughterhouse-Five as the sun turns amber. She reads about the Tralfamadorians, aliens that can see in 4-D. Even if I can't see like them, I am so glad to be out here in this world - not in the monochrome 2-D of the museum. Winter is leaving New York. The cold and the gray and the white that make up Winter is sliding off the face of the city. Out here, the color is coming back. Out here is where life is. I like it here.