The Other Small Town

Candy shops, football games, tumbleweeds rolling through an empty road, quaint homes with the porches swinging, and Main street U.S.A. This is the quintessential image of small town America. It’s a sleepy place, where everyone knows your name and entire family lineage.

Manhattan’s compact size gives it the feeling of a big small town. Unlike most small towns, New York’s most famous and revered borough is as homey as a fancy streak tar tar. New Yorkers adore fashion and dressing up is never just reserved for a special occasion.

Given the borough’s small size, you never know whom you’re going to run into at the corner of 6th and First Avenue. That’s one of the things I love about Manhattan, running into friends unexpectedly. Whether I am strolling along Gramercy Park, grabbing coffee in Hell’s Kitchen or taking the subway to Harlem, I would run into a friend. It was always lovely, hugging, catching up and enjoying one of the joys of living in the city.

There’s always guaranteed celebrity sightings in Manhattan. However, they are as exciting as watching molasses growing slowly. I saw famous people hanging out on the Lower East Side, frequenting my favorite West Village coffee shop and walking their dogs. However, I didn’t care.

One beautiful autumn morning, I took a walk through Central Park. The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir has an urbane soothing feel to it. I commenced my Central Park adventure there. In the middle of the nature trail, which is complimented by the high-rise apartment buildings of Fifth Avenue, my phone rang. Natalia, my dear friend wanted to grab lunch. Luckily, I was uptown.

I bolted through the park and took Madison Avenue up to the east 80’s. Madison Avenue from the east 60’s to 96th street screams money. The most affordable treat on the glittery sidewalk is a raisin pastry and coffee from Le Pain Quotidien. Somewhere between expensive and more expensive, I saw a very familiar blonde from a distance. She was petit and had muscular arms. As I walked closer, an epiphany hit me. That’s Madonna.

The queen of pop is my favorite gay icon. I loved watching her concert tours on TV from blonde ambition to the girly show. My first music video ever seen was like a prayer. It shocked me as a five year old to see all the burning crosses, but it beat watching Alvin and the Chipmunks after school. I especially love her music, ray of light, the immaculate collection and true blue.

As she approached closer, I grew excited. My jadedness seeing celebrities went out the window. I walked past her. We made eye contact and she smiled at me. It completely made my day. She can spot a gay fan from as far as Paris. I saw Madonna and it was quite riveting.

I called my friend Rebecca in California. She’s also a fan. I told her about my celebrity encounter with Madge. She asked “are you sure it was Madonna or some buffed out blonde?” I suddenly realized, oh it might have been a false alarm. Whether it was Madonna or not, the lady probably thought to herself ” gee, these gay guys are just so friendly.”

In Manhattan, you are more likely to see a hipster rolling around Union Square than tumbleweed. The town gossip is page six, porches are replaced by stoops and the city gathers in excitement over fashion week as opposed to the high school football play offs.

This is why I love New York, the unexpected encounters with people and feeling a part of a community. I don’t like feeling disconnected, which is the vibe I get from a car centric culture. I need people and noise to keep me inspired.

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