This scene is a reminder to always expect the unexpected in New York City. It started as a typical traffic-packed cruise up the Bowery one evening as we looked for a good dinner spot. But we got so much more – a free fashion show, and a reminder to always have your camera ready in the city that never sleeps.
I always thought that was a fun expression... “the city that never sleeps”. It sounds so exciting in a Sinatra song – No sleep! All fun, all the time! Woo! The reality, though, is that if you live here for any length of time, you'll be wishing someone would at least put the town down for a good nap once in a while. That way you could get a little break. It might also keep the city from getting too tired and cranky. But no, the city truly never sleeps.
I can't always prove that true, because I try to get some sleep here myself every night. So I don't always stay awake to see what the city is up to. But most mornings, if you look for it, you can usually find some evidence that somebody was up all night, you know, doing it Sinatra-style. Here's a case in point... One Sunday morning we were driving through Manhattan before most people were up and about. There were a few one-offs walking around as usual at that time, looking like they were still in their Saturday night clubin' clothes. Now I have heard about the “walk of shame” - I had a friend explain it to me once. But what I saw that morning took it not only to the next level, but a level no one should ever let happen to them.
Walking up sixth avenue was a nice young fellow in a ski jacket that sat just below waist-high. It was early winter, so the ski jacket seemed a smart enough choice. Along with that he had a sturdy pair of hiking boots, you know, in case we got snow. The nearer we got, though, the more we realized something was wrong. We couldn't figure out where his pants were. I think he was having a similar problem. We gave him the benefit of the doubt and told each other that he probably had on some really short shorts under that jacket. It was probably one of those new fashion movements we hadn't yet read about in The Times. But as we drove by, all doubt was removed, much like his pants. The funniest part for me, though, was that he didn't seem to be the least bit concerned. His confident stride was telling the world, “Yeah, I meant to do that! Ask me where my pants are. You won't believe it!”
Sadly, I doubt I could ever share such bravado. If I found myself sans pants on the streets of Manhattan on a crisp Sunday morning, I imagine myself doing all in my power to cover up around the equator. Even with my very limited fashion skills, I could have done something more creative with that ski jacket to somehow convert it to a lovely cover-all. Let's hope I never have to put that theory to the test.
Looking back, I shouldn't have been so surprised really. Random acts of fashion happen all the time in New York. It's an expected thing, almost required. With so many New Yorkers constantly blazing new fashion trails, you can't help but see it everywhere you go. Take a walk in any direction and you'll bump into a fashion photo shoot like the one we saw here on the Bowery median strip. With all the photo shoots I've stumbled upon, I'd like to think I picked up a few fashion tips along the way.
For example, always stage your photo shoot in an unusual place, like the middle of the street, an abandoned warehouse, or a pile of construction debris. I think the trick is to try to make yourself the best-looking thing around. If you present yourself tuxedo-clad standing in front of a burned-out building or in a crowded fish market, your rugged good looks are bound to stand out.
Another lesson is to look hungry. Real fashion models look like they're about to pass out from poor nutrition. Sometimes I worry about them. I've even considered starting a charity mission and naming it something like “New York Food for Fashion”. I could drive around New York, and when I find some models at a photo shoot, I could offer them a sandwich, or a handful of nuts and an energy drink. Nothing too fancy of course, but just something to get them through the rigors of the shoot.
Finally, I think the greatest fashion lesson I learned from what I've seen is something any of us could do when we're feeling a little plain and drab. Here's what you do... Put on a tuxedo or your sharpest suit and tell your girl to get on her flashiest red dress. Go out and buy her one if she's running low – I'll almost guarantee she's running low on pretty red dresses. Go ahead, ask her. Then tell her you're going out some place special. Hail a cab and head up the Bowery or any other local street in your area with a good quality median strip. If the curb is busted up or the grass is overgrown, all the better. Remember that your goal is to out-shine your surroundings. Have your photographer friend meet you there with his camera and tell him to bring the big over-sized lens to make the whole thing look legit to those driving by.
Now hop out onto the median and strike your best pose. Really ham it up and get some good shots. After all, it's your fashion photo shoot! Dance, jump, twirl around, the whole nine yards. Give it the serious look, the playful look, and the “I'm too beautiful to look into the camera” look. And when you're done, simply get back in the cab and go straight home for some flax crackers and a mineral water. When your girl asks about the restaurant, just remind her that real fashion models don't eat dinner. For extra credit, stay up the rest of the night. Then take an early morning stroll, with photographer, in your fabulous evening wear. Rest assured, you'll never forget the feeling you created with your random act of fashion.