Bulldog Backpack

Walking down East 3rd Street toward Second Avenue in the East Village, smoking a cigarette in rhythm with my steps, when I pass a bar and a man outside shouts, “Yo, buddy! You got a light?”

I stop to offer my lighter. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper an act of charity than a whole cigarette, anyway.

“Thanks. Where you coming from?”

Heading home, been out celebrating a friend’s farewell. It’s a Sunday night, so we just took it easy at a coffee shop.

“Oh a goodbye party, huh? Where they headed? I’m a travel writer.”

Turns out this middle-aged goateed man writes freelance travel articles for a variety of big-name publications (or at least he says he does), and his next assignment is onboard an ice breaker ship. I’m impressed that he can make enough writing freelance magazine articles to make it work.

“Make it work? No, I don’t make it work. That’s why I’m outside this bar on a Sunday night,” he says with a laugh.

But he’s alway working, he says, and always taking notes. He shows me a scrap of paper with two phrases scribbled on it: “Bike” (because a friend keeps bugging him to get a bike, to ease his commute from the Lower East Side to the Hudson River every workday) and “Bulldog backpack.”

Bulldog backpack?

“Okay, funny story. So I’m walking down the street today, and I see a guy walking his dog. He’s got one of these French bulldogs, you know, the ones with the pointy ears? The dog’s just hangin’ out, not on a leash or anything. But he’s not going anywhere, either. So I ask him, ‘How do you keep that dog so well-behaved?’

” ‘Eh, he’s no trouble,’ the guy tells me. ‘Besides, if he ever acts up, I just pick him up’ ” — at which point my new travel-writing friend pretends to lift an invisible small dog by its harness and toss it over his shoulder — ” ‘and keep walking.’ ” 

He cracks up laughing. “Can you believe that?  He just picked up that dog like a bag, held it over his shoulder, and that little bulldog was just sitting there with his legs straight out in front of him, looking up at the sky. You could tell he was just thinking, ‘What the hell is this? Where’d the ground go?’ Bulldog backpack!”

As the travel writer keeps laughing to himself, I tell him that I have to keep walking home, but good luck with his next story.

“You too, man. Keep typing.”

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