As if I needed any more of a reason to fall in love with this city.
So there’s this massive city-wide art project called Key to the City, right?
And you know how Keys to the City are usually given in a schmancy ceremony involving a Mayor and a dignitary/undeserving-celebrity and trumpets and stuff, right?
What artist Paul Ramírez Jonas is trying to accomplish, among many things, is bringing the excitement, prestige and bougiosity of Key to the City-giving to the common folk. Thousands and thousands of common folk.
For the past few weeks, a Key to the City kiosk has been holding Key-Giving ceremonies in the middle of Times Square. And by ceremony, I mean red carpet, iron fence, fake grass, proctor — teh works. You can’t just get a key; it must be bestowed upon you. Your key, should you choose to accept it, opens 24 different rooms, boxes, padlocks, fences across the five boroughs of New York.
It opens secret doors in museums.
It opens switch boxes to lamps in parks.
It opens heavily locked gates to abandoned churches.
It opens your boundaries, basically.
Today, I wandered into the line after work and, because we all didn’t know about the need-a-partner-to-bestow part, participated in a ceremony with two complete strangers: A Major League Baseball intern who shares my love for Claddaugh rings, and a Harvard Law student who didn’t mind taking a video of the whole wonderfully bizarre thing.
Stranger Danger Changer Moment #1:
20 minutes earlier, we didn’t know each other from any other faceless yuppy shoving past you in Times Square. But when our ceremony officially ended, we lingered for a second.
“…You guys wanna take a picture?”
We took a damn picture. Then we stepped off the platform, stared down at our keys and lingered again.
“…So… Are we never going to see each other again?”
We laughed, high-fived, promised to Facebook each other and stay updated on each others’ Key adventures, said goodbye and head towards our respective boroughs.
Then I detoured.
I work about 4 feet away from the closest Key spot, which I knew turned on a lamp in Bryant Park.
Sidenote: “Why the hell not” is a wonderful life motto.
Stranger Danger Changer Moment, #2:
I followed the map they gave us & opened a small metal switch box. What caught my attention was not the coolness of access to a switch in a public park; it was what surrounded the switch.
Little messages of excitement scribbled on Whole Foods receipts.
Stickers. Business cards.
Even a little tub of bubbles.
I sat and read through all of them with – you guessed it – even more cool Key-bearing strangers. I felt compelled to take some of the trinkets with me, but wouldn’t that be ruining the purpose? Cutting off all kinds of possible webs of influence?
I DON’T WANT TO BE THAT GUY.
There was a note that simply said, “We shared something, though we don’t know each other. Thanks for sharing.”
We all left something behind. One guy left a Sharpied-on nickel; one girl left a tampon with a message on it (yeah. You read it. It was still in its package, but you still read it). I left a bandaid and on it, I wrote “Heal“; someone’s gonna need it, I think. We all wished each other a great summer, slash great life? and went on our way… leaving behind another group of curious and charmed strangers.
Someone you know is, at the least, an acquaintance.
Someone you don’t know is a stranger.
Someone, thousands of someones, whom you only know through a shared appreciation of adventure and wonder and cool shit, and thousands more little shared moments, past, present and future, of “…Wow. Sick.” …