Once upon a time, I met someone, and we traveled downtown on the A train from Washington Heights at around 4, 5am. I can still remember sitting opposite him in an empty carriage, chatting, as the train breezed through the local stops; as almost no one was on board, the train conductor clipped each stop to its bare minimum of what seemed like a couple of seconds: doors open, doors closed, gone. At 14th Street, we switched to the L train, and went all the way out to Jefferson Street, which I remember because I made a mental note that Brooklyn confusingly has a Jefferson Street and a Jefferson Avenue. At dawn, an easy stroll through empty streets to where this guy lived -- he was a newcomer to the city. He was certainly odd, but in a pleasantly eccentric way.
His apartment turned out to be slightly larger than a broom closet. And that pleasant eccentricity? His space was crammed full of dozens of Ernie dolls, of Bert & Ernie fame, all sizes, including a life-size Ernie...
Years later, one evening in Washington Heights, he passed me on the street again, with two friends of his, and I remember my mind weighing for a split second, whether to say "Hey Jefferson Street man!" or "Hey, Ernie doll man!" as I couldn't remember his name. I think I went with "Jefferson Street!" And we had a brief chat.
As we talked, there were mobs of teenage Dominican girls passing by, in various states of teenage hysteria: it was the annual Dominican version of the "sweet sixteen" coming-of-age event. That was the moment when I remembered why I didn't really like my Ernie doll friend. Gesturing to the young women, he pointed out that as a stupid, privileged white person, I would be completely unaware that Dominicans celebrate a "sweet fifteen" coming-of-age event, and not sweet sixteen.
"Ah, yes, the quinceañera," I said to him, and gave him a hard look. He took himself off with some annoying minor crack about white privilege.
I do not have the rapier instinct. I guess I could have made fun of his stupid Ernie doll fixation (and I think he also sucked his thumb), but I didn't.
All this memory was triggered by that Sesame Street doll in the photo, which isn't even a Bert or Ernie doll...!