This story has been told, but the truth about stories is they're never told the same way twice.
It's August, 2015 and Elizabeth is dancing with FAB at DANY Studios down on 38th, somewhere between 8th and 9th. She didn't expect to get in, but she doesn't ever expect to get in. It makes me wonder how a person can keep trying so damn hard in the face of the unrealistic expectation of failure. Maybe it keeps her heart safe.
I shot up to Central Park looking for shade. Manhattan is stinking hot in August, and asphalt is not your friend. I figure it's about 25 minutes from the corner of 8th and 38th to the Columbus Circle entrance; maybe a few more to find a tree. I guess all totaled I spent 30 minutes getting myself situated. If you don't want company in August, you'll need to find that one tree with enough crap on the ground to scare most people away. Nobody likes sitting on bare dirt, rocks, and twigs. Except me. I can hang out just about anywhere, assuming it's out of direct sunlight.
I didn't mean to fall asleep.
I woke up with 20 minutes to get from 59th to 38th, plus out of the park. This is not difficult; you just can't wait for the lights, and you can't worry so much about the tourists. Traversing Columbus Circle is probably the single biggest consumption of time. I left the park at a moderate jog and a grin. Crossing traffic at the circle wiped off the grin.
At 56th, I had a pretty good rhythm going. I blew by an open shop front with a couple people hanging just outside the door. A man was sitting with his back against the wall, arms around his knees, rocking back and forth. He was singing. At 55th, I looked both ways and stepped off the curb...
A penny a kiss, a penny a hug... and there was something else. I turned around, jogged back up the block, and stood in front of him. He kept singing, but he didn't look up. I did a time check. Fourteen minutes.
Hey. That song you're singing...
He stopped singing and looked up.
The guy looked like he'd been rolled. He looked like he'd been living under a bush in the park all summer and maybe the winter before. He wasn't young and he wasn't old; he was a man with half a cup of change on a hot summer sidewalk.
Hey. Is that for real? A penny for a hug?
Squints, shades eyes to get a better look at me.
Who pays the penny? I have a penny. Is it a penny for your hug?
Is it a penny for my love?
No. A hug.
You want a hug?
Yeah. Don't you?
You got a penny?
Not really, but I have a dollar. Will that work?
He leaned back and slid himself up the wall.
I don't think he expected the hug and I don't know what I expected, but it was like a bottle of sunlight poured over your head, or something like that. He had a great big grin on his face and my grin was back. I handed him a dollar and hit the sidewalk at a sprint.
I slowed at the light and stepped off the curb...
A penny a kiss, a penny for your love...
10 minutes. I made it in 10 minutes, and I'll be hearing the Andrews Sisters for the rest of my life.