Kurt Vonnegut Lived in the Same Neighborhood
I wanted to talk to my favorite author but never got past a friendly nod.
We all have favorite authors and mine, as a teen and college student, was Kurt Vonnegut. My mother had most of his early books on her massive book shelf, but I think Breakfast of Champions was one of the first books I ever purchased as a young adult.
I just loved his writing. And as someone who wanted to be a writer, I saw him as an early role model.
I started working in Manhattan when I was 26 and a couple of years later I moved to an apartment that was just up the block from the United Nations.
One day, I was coming out of the supermarket on Second Avenue, not too far from Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, and I saw him. Kurt Vonnegut, my teen and college writing idol, was just walking on the street.
What was he doing there? I wanted to follow him. I wanted to ask him to have a cup of coffee. But I didn’t.
This would turn out to be one of many “sightings” in the Turtle Bay neighbor we both resided in. He would be out walking his dog, or strolling down the street, or maybe just walking around to clear his head so he could finish a book.
Every time I saw him in the street I wanted to hug him. Or beg him to have coffee with me and impart his writing magic and wisdom.
I would read about him in local gossip pages. And then I would see him walking on Second Avenue.
I never spoke to him, but eventually, there would be a little nod, if his eyes happened to look up at the same time as mine. And to me, it felt like a blessing.
Once he ended up sitting right next to me in the movie theater on Second Avenue and 30th Street, and my heart was palpitating.
The movie was “Masters of The Universe.”
I couldn’t figure out how he selected that movie, since I was dragged there by a date who liked macho action films.
Kurt sat an watched the screen. I, of course, watched him. My writing hero, right next to me, in a movie theater.
When he moved his arm onto what had been my left arm rest, I froze. Then I slowly took mine away to give him space. But I left my elbow, ever so slightly, on the edge.
One thing in the actual movie, that stuck out, was a phrase that the actors/heroes kept repeating:
“Live the Journey…Each destination it but a doorway to the next.”
The movie was kind of silly but that phrase, heard with Kurt Vonnegut’s right arm resting on the connecting arm rest, changed my perception of life.
I think the year was in 1987.
I did see him in and outside of the supermarket, in the years that followed. It was always a treat to be in his presence for a moment here and there over time.