Downtime

In the busy day of a full time art model, the break between jobs is a precious gift. Now there’s the half-hour break which I consider pretty much useless, as the bulk of it gets eaten up with transportation. No personal time there. But the hour break is good, and the two-hour break is excellent! Today, my morning class at FIT ended at 11:00. My next job was at 1:00 at the National Academy. That’s two good hours all to myself. Wooohooo!

When I exited FIT’s D Building on 7th Avenue, I had to make the decision whether to occupy myself around there, or up near the National Academy. Hmmm . . . . noisy, unattractive Chelsea, or scenic Central Park and 5th Avenue? The choice was easy. I headed uptown.

Once there, I plopped myself down on a concrete ledge overlooking the Reservoir. I ate my mini-bagel with cream cheese in no time, and started drinking what was my third cup of coffee for the day. I lit a cigarette and sat there watching the migrating birds flying overhead. It was quiet around the reservoir. The muddy path from the morning’s rain no doubt deterred joggers. I sat and thought. I practiced blowing smoke rings. I tossed a small remaining piece of bagel to a hopping sparrow which attacked it immediately. I checked my voicemail. Then I contemplated my life: regrets, mistakes, unanswered questions, uncertain future. Ok, now it was getting too serious and emotionally weighty. This is my relaxing break, dammit. Snap out if it!

I slid off the ledge and noticed that no one was around, which provided the perfect opportunity to do karate kicks. I did a couple that felt ridiculous. I can only imagine how clumsy I looked- and with a lit cigarette in hand no less! What a freak. I abandoned the kicks for yoga moves, and did a nice balance for cosmic dancer. Then tree pose among the real trees of Central Park. Then a little warrior. I was done. Getting bored again.

Then it was, of all people, tourists to the rescue! They made their way up the steps to the Reservoir – a group, possibly a family. Carefully, they sidestepped the puddles. Then they surveyed the rippling water and the West Side apartment buildings standing tall across the park. They turned and politely approached me with digital camera in hand. “Could you take a picture, please?” they asked, in a foreign accent I couldn’t identify. I jumped at the chance. “Sure!” I answered, thrilled that I now had something to do besides amuse myself with childish cavorting. An assignment! They huddled together against the railing and with a little amateur direction from me, a first-rate digital vacation photo was taken. Yay!

The tourists thanked me for the picture and began perusing their Central Park map. I felt bad for them that they didn’t have a nicer, sunnier, less-damp day to explore the park. They seemed to be choosing their next stop. Belvedere Castle, perhaps? Or maybe the Bethesda Fountain? Bored again, and meddling like a busybody, I offered some unsolicited advice. “Go to the West Side to Strawberry Fields!” They looked at me a little confused. “Strawberry Fields!”, I repeated with a disproportionate level of enthusiasm, the kind only a fanatic would display. “Go to the Imagine circle and pay respects to John Lennon!”. Um, ok. They sort of smiled at me, but their expressions really seemed to say “This girl was nice enough to take our picture but now she’s turning into a New York weirdo. We’d better get out of here!”. And then, they were gone.

Alone again. But not for long. I checked my watch for the time. Shit, it was 12:48! My luxurious two hour break had evaporated! I grabbed my modeling bag, hustled down the steps and scooted around the corner of 89th Street to the National Academy. Soon, I was lying down in Studio 2 posing for MaryBeth McKenzie’s painting class, wearing a flimsy white slip with one strap strategically falling off my shoulder, in a sultry reclining pose; one of those “ravished woman” poses that are timelessly artistically appealing. Just minutes ago I was alone in the park wearing jeans and sneakers, cavorting, playing, and dreaming. Now I was back at work. No more cavorting and playing. But still dreaming . . .

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