I was pressed into service this afternoon at Nick’s Bench, a.k.a., The Bryant Park Bench That Says “Nick Ashford Slept Here.” Apparently, it was my turn to protect it from vandals.
I was meeting with Sandrine Lee, a wonderful commercial/art photographer, a.k.a., Will Lee’s wife. She knew the bench well.
The first attack came without warning: Suddenly I saw whitish liquid splatter on my khaki cargo shorts, a fraction of a second after I felt a massive wad drop on my forearm. Stunned, Sandrine reached for a handkerchief to help me wipe off the bird shit.
Nick was such a spiritual being. I’m the exact opposite, so I gave no thought that maybe he was upset at me for that joke I played on him years ago, when CBS Sunday Morning was shooting a segment of a great Ashford & Simpson feature at the bench. When Nick and Val and the camera crew arrived, they found it was occupied by a homeless man, fast asleep as Nick had once been there when he first came to New York, homeless and alone. Upon closer inspection, that bum on the bench turned out to be…me.
But had I been spiritual, I might have had second thoughts half an hour or so later, when I felt a second massive wad land hard a couple inches left of my right earlobe on what little hair I have left. This one, Sandrine said as she dabbed me with her handkerchief, was a different color.
They had it in for me, the birds. I know. The bench was clean. Sandrine was clean.
The only explanation I can come up with is that they regard me as unworthy, either of sitting on Nick’s Bench next to Sandrine, or sitting on Nick’s Bench, period—or both. Sandrine, I can’t argue. But Nick? Nick found everyone worthy of sitting at his table in the Cat Lounge at the Sugar Bar, and surely wouldn’t bar me or anyone else from sitting on his bench in Bryant Park.
So I’ll be back on the bench tomorrow morning, birds. But with a box of Kleenex and a hat.