Most people have heard this story, but I’ve got a little bit of writers’ block and haven’t blogged this one yet, so…here goes.
This is my favorite NYC moment in my 3+ years here.
So I do these walks – or did until I joined a gym. Long walks. Every Sunday. 10 miles a walk. (Closer to 8 or 9, but 10 sounds more impressive, and I’ve broken 10 about once every 6 weeks in three years of walks…so we’ll say 10 miles a walk.)
My walk was less than a block from being done. I lived on 12th Street at 3rd Avenue, and I was walking south on 4th Avenue between 12th and 13th Streets when I was stopped.
“Excuse me!” a baritone voice said.
Now usually when people talked to me on my walks, I kept going. I justified this to myself as ‘I have headphones in; I may not be able to hear him anyway; I’m a rude New Yorker; I’m just fitting in; I’m in a bad mood and I’m doing him a FAVOR by not talking to him.’ But for some reason, this was not one of those times. I stopped dead in my tracks, pulled my earphones out of my ears, and turned around.
I looked up to see a greater-than-6-foot black man with dreadlocks looking down at me. I looked up, hoping he would ask a question I could answer so he wouldn’t be disappointed and I could do good in the name of all things scrawny and Jewish.
“Yes?” My voice went up in tone, slightly unsure and slightly in anticipation of the impending favor I was hoping to grant.
“Would you like to have a karate duel to the death?”
He said that totally straight faced, as if this was as normal of a question as ‘do you have the time?’ or ‘where’s the nearest subway?’ I paused for a minute. Not to think over my answer, because we all knew I’d say ‘no’, for fear that he actually would duel me to the death and my karate is rusty at best, (seeing as I’ve never practiced karate or even dressed as a ninja for Halloween, my only karate experience is countless Jackie Chan movies) but rather just to replay the question a few times and make sure I heard him right.
“Okay,” he answered in what can best be described as the all-knowing movie-voiceover guy voice.
And just like that, he turned around and kept walking north on 4th Ave as I kept walking south.
I constantly wonder if he ever asked anyone else to duel him, or if I was the only one. For some reason, this question stays with me more than the obvious ‘why?’ question.
I also wonder what would have happened had I said ‘yes’, but I think some questions are better left unanswered.