IMG_6493When we chose the location for this weekend’s get-together — the far west end of 55th Street, where a tree-shaded, grassy lawn slopes down to the edge of the Hudson River — we had no idea that we would be next door to the world’s largest convention of sneaker enthusiasts, “Sneaker Con.” But when we arrived, laden with books and towels and tasty things to eat, we found a line of people carrying cardboard shoeboxes and wearing the most striking footwear. What was at first a short queue soon snaked around the entire perimeter of the lawn, encircling us to the tune of at least two hundred eager souls — most of whom, for lack of anything better to do while waiting to be let in, seemed to be watching us and speculating on the question of who we were and why we had no shirts on.


But — and this is why we love New York so — the speculation was good natured and polite, and aside from a very few nervous visits from inquisitive teenage boys, nominally asking us this or that but actually just angling for a close-up view, we were left to read in peace. (One of our number did comment at one point, “I think we’ve jump-started puberty for several people on line.” She wasn’t necessarily referring to the chronologically young, either.)


Our attendees this time included two representatives of the Feminist Press, who came bearing gifts, samples of their line of female-authored pulp fiction, and a French journalist working on a magazine article about America’s top-freedom movement; all three cast inhibition aside and joined us in bare-breasted relaxation. Other attendees hailed from as far away as Australia, Israel, and Barcelona and as near as the Upper West Side. One of us had to leave halfway through for a dog-walking gig; one arrived late after a long evening bartending. We also had not one but two physicists and a brief discussion of molecular dynamics. Alongside our customary stash of pulp fiction (including, hot off the presses, a new paperback edition of Lawrence Block’s amazing A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES, basis for the forthcoming Liam Neeson movie), we read Sartre and BULLFINCH’S MYTHOLOGY. We ate chili-laced popcorn and coconut chips, fresh lychees and blueberries, petits fours from Maison Kayser, and some utterly delectable homemade tollhouse cookies. (One of our members brought her boyfriend, and her boyfriend brought the cookies. Good boyfriend.)


At one point, one of us, demonstrating considerable dexterity and upper-body strength, clambered up the nearest tree and deposited herself in the crook of two branches and proceeded to read Truman Capote from her perch.


At another point, we found ourselves discussing nipple piercings (one of us had just gotten hers done the day before).


At yet another, we communed with the gaggle of geese that frequent the lawn.


Was the afternoon perfect? Almost. It did drizzle at one point, and more substantial rain threatened. But we defied the threat and, improbably, the skies cleared. Neither we nor the geese were forced to fly, and our feathers remained blissfully unruffled.