Friday, November 05, 2010

My life would make a boring memoir

by Rachel

This morning, as I was locking up my bike by the subway out of Brooklyn and into the city, a man and his son approached me asking about a phone number for a local cab company. Thinking nothing of it and glad that I was actually able to help, I happily gave it and turned to take the steps down into the train. It was only at that moment that I noticed the dozens of people milling about, frantically calling co-workers, friends and car services. Another large group anxiously waited for an oncoming bus. Of course this would happen at 8:30 on a weekday morning- there was an emergency in the subway and all trains into Manhattan were stopped.

After a moment of panic, genius that I am, I remembered that I did in fact have a bicycle and could pedal over the bridge just as fast, if not faster than any subway making stops or car in traffic. Though it wasn’t my ideal mode of transport on a workday, and I was totally out of bridge-biking shape as it's been at least a month since I've done so, it would have to do. As I bent down to unlock my bike, a girl pulled up next to me and I ruefully informed her of the situation. She wasn’t too put out and we both went off together over the bridge and into the city, chatting all the way as if we’d known each other for years instead of minutes.

Oddly, this sort of thing happens to me all of the time. With relative frequency, I am approached by an incredible variety of people who say they see me all over the place and feel obliged to make an introduction. In my head, I affectionately refer to these people as my “neighborhood friends.” I don’t know why I come across as particularly approachable, but it’s certainly led me to all sorts of people I would never have known otherwise. Some are interested in the book I’m reading, many inquire on the progress I’ve made on that day’s crossword (invariably, I can be found every morning in the same coffee shop, using their New York Times solely for that one page in the Arts section) and others still find another instrument of acquaintance.

However it happens, I’ve grown to know some of these people beyond a casual chat on the street. There’s the amazing painter who also writes science questions for standardized tests, the girl who works in a wine shop while designing album covers and logos and the unicyclist who works in trend forecasting- among many, many others. I find these people fascinating and enjoy the friendly waves and hellos that come my way when we pass. But more than that, each is so fantastically unique and none are personae that I could myself have crafted.

There has been a lot of talk about memoirs on this blog recently, and while using personal experiences in writing is a wonderful thing, not everyone has lead a life interesting enough to make other people want to read about it. Inspiration has to come from outside as well as from within. Personally, if I were to ever sit down and attempt to pen something that might be somewhere inside me (who knows), it would be from all of these unique people- those that were never friends that I initially sought out, that I would draw my character details, motivations and intricacies from.

Who inspires you?

(And I did make it to work on time…just a little windblown and breathless.)


  1. What amazes me is that being approached by or chatting with strangers -- much less getting to know them -- is such a foreign concept in NYC. I was raised in the South, did my undergrad in upstate NY, and now live in Seattle (with a few other places in between), and it's never struck me as odd or inappropriate to be friendly to strangers. And yes, when I see them frequently, they stop being strangers and become friendly acquaintences or even friends. How much I would have missed if I closed out everyone around me.

    I'm glad you take that chance!

  2. You have made a wonderful point in regards to the nature of an "interesting to others, memoir." And on the day you rode your bicycle, your memoir went from a MEmoir to a memoir of those you now appreciate, the characters of your neighborhood, the people that notices you and bring you about from your inner world into theirs. My inspiration comes from the intricacies of the human spirit, the unrelenting type that puts forth a smile against all odds. Stay inspired my friends, live life ;-)

  3. It is always fun chatting with strangers; I am always inspired by people.

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