Brunch at the Met

A photo of the front steps of the Met Museum. (Photo by Jack Szwergold; Taken May 23, 2021)

Danny was a high school friend of a friend from Midwood. He lived on East 15th Street near Avenue J. He lived in Midwood and went to Midwood High School. I lived in Brighton Beach and went to Abraham Lincoln High School. We got along because we were weirdos and had a mutual friend; a connector if you will.

Anyway, Danny was a friend and one day we headed up to the Met Museum. I think we somehow both had school projects that involved the museum. I barely recall what mine was, but I know we wandered and took notes.

“Pretty cool, huh?” he said as we passed by some sculptures. “Yeah, I guess,” I said. To be honest, I tolerated the trip to the museum more than I enjoyed it. The emotional scarring of being dragged to the Met as a kid less than 10 years prior was still burned in my head. “All this stuff is boring,” was my defense mechanism at the time.

“Boring?” Danny said. “What is boring about this?” He said effortlessly waving his hand around.

“I dunno,” I said as I skulked around.

After a short while we left. As I walked out the doors and stepped down onto the stairs of the museum, I felt the afternoon sun, air and sky and — most of all — I felt free.

“Let’s get out of here,” I said.

“Why? Let’s hang out,” he responded.

As I looked around at the throngs of tourists, hot dog carts and general tourist hell I said, “Why? Let’s just go to the Village if you want to hang out.”

“Fine,” he responded. And with that we both walked down towards the Lexington Avenue subway.

As we headed down whatever street in the 80s on the Upper East Side we were on, we passed some small bakery. The window was filled with tarts of some kind. They all seemed pretty expensive for a high school kid with little to no disposable income.

“I want them!” Danny said. “Whose going to pay for them?” I asked. “Let me see how much they cost,” he said as he headed inside. I stood outside and waited.

After a while he came out and said, “They’re like $4 to $5 a piece.” He said as we continued walking. “That’s more than a slice of pizza and a soda,” I said. I mean it was the 1980s and the cost to ride a subway was $1 and a soda was around ¢45 to ¢50 at the time.

“Come on! Let’s do it one day!” he said. “Do what?” I asked. “Get some tarts and just sit on the steps in front of the Met Museum. “And then what?” I asked. “Let’s just be cool and do that,” he said.

With that we got on the subway.

“So we would just sit there? There’s nobody our age or anything there. You just want to sit on the steps and be cool?” I said. “Yes! Exactly!” he said.

I just simply shrugged and say back in my seat and let that pass.

We decided to skip heading over to the Village and headed back home on the D train. Danny got off at Avenue J and I stayed on to head back to Ocean Parkway.

A few weeks pass and I get a call from Danny on a Saturday afternoon.

“What’s up?” I ask. “Let’s do it!” he says. “Do what?” I ask. “Let’s go hang out at the Met!”

I rolled my eyes, set a time and got the subway and met up with Danny at the Avenue J station.

“This all seems like bullshit,” I said to which Danny replied, “Oh come on, how much money did you bring along?” he asked. I said I had about $12 or $13. “That’s all?” he said and I responded, “How many tarts are we going to eat exactly?” He nodded and we rode the subway, transferred at Atlantic Avenue and headed to the Upper East Side.

We got off the train and walked over to the small bakery and each bought a tart. I remember mine being something like cherry and lemon. Whatever, Danny and I had our blessed tarts and we were headed to the steps of the Met Museum.

And after a few blocks, we finally reached our destination! The Met Museum steps itself.

The sun was setting and the trees in Central Park were silhouetted as we approached. The place was either closing up or about to close up, but it meant nothing to us: We were just going to be “cool” and sit down on the steps in front of the Met Museum.

So we did that.

I sat down and so did Danny. And within moments we were eating those stupid tarts.

“What else happens?” I asked as I took a bite and turned to Danny.

“This is it!” he said.

And so we sat there and before you knew it was dark enough to see stars if you faced away from the sun.

As we sat and ate our expensive fruit pies, a cleaning crew came out to clean up the front of the Met… Including the stairs.

“Should we leave?” I said as I crumbled up the paper bag in my hand.

“No… Why?” Danny asked.

“Look…” I said waving my hand towards the cleaning crew.

“So what?” he said so we sat there.

Then some security guard came by and told us to move.

“Why?” Danny retorted.

“Because they have to clean up,“ the guard said. “Come on… Move along…”

Danny got a bit tense… And then got dramatic… “Well okay then!” he blurted out at the guard.

Me and the guard both were taken aback a bit but I stood up — and so did Danny — and we walked away.

I tried to be as cordial to the guard as possible to try to keep things calm, but Danny looked like he was about to burst out of his own skin. Which was weird because I’m usually the tense one.

As we both reached the bottom of the stairs, I waved back to the guard to make sure he knew we were cool. He waved back and nodded.

When we reached the corner, I threw my crumbled up paper back in the trash. Danny followed suit but was a bit more aggressive in his trash dunking.

“You okay, Danny?” I asked him.

“I’m fine,” he skulked as we walked back to the train and made the trip back home.

The ride home was quiet but tense. Danny barely said a word.

By the time we got to Avenue J, he stood up… I said, “Goodnight!”

He grumbled a meet “Goodnight…” in response and headed out the door and down the stairs.

I headed back out to Ocean Parkway. The sun was mostly set, but the sky still glowed a bit.

An acute perception does not make you crazy. However, sometimes it drives you crazy.

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Jack Szwergold

Jack Szwergold

An acute perception does not make you crazy. However, sometimes it drives you crazy.

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