Accone discovers why free is always better. It tastes better, looks better and even connects better…

Okay, okay.. how blissful is this? Chilling out after a hectic day at work (think: no time for lunch and didn’t notice it until 4:35pm — but then assuaging my hunger with the *free* samples of Stonyfield organic Moo-la-la yogurt — yes, I love the product name far too much for my own good :0) — that I was handed on my way to work last week), anticipating a screening of my all-time favourite movie (and no, it’s not one listed on my Friendster profile) and using the free public wireless access provided in Bryant Park?

Does it get any better? This has to be one image of urban nirvana.

Bryant park holds a summer film festival showing movies every Monday evening. It’s one of my favourite things about New York in the summer — along with all the other free and fabulous events in “the park” and other parks and places around town.

I discovered this form of evening bliss last summer, and it was perfect. I didn’t have to have a group of friends to co-ordinate with, yet I felt welcome and could always find a place to squeeze in. (That’s one benefit of being single I guess!)

There are regulars each summer, identified by their way of staking out their space and marking the territory out to others who arrive later. For example: the ‘fabulous gang’ as I dubbed them in my head, a group of to-die-for male model types with a portable flagpole flying the gay pride colours. (That would be one for the downside of being single in New York!)

Others include balloon fliers (a Monday evening boom time for the local Hallmark shop), unless of course you end up with a bunch in the same colours as another group. National flags have graced the lawn as well: the predictable Aussies, New Zealanders and Canadians. (No South African one spotted…yet.)

The prize for best marker item was one I saw last year and belonged to a throng of couples with young babies: a (clean) nappy on a stick.

But tonight we’re all crowded around the perimeter because of the buckets of precipitation dumped on the city over the weekend. The picture perfect lawn is people free, but I have staked out a spot on the outskirts, right along the grass edge, complete with table and chairs.

And while chilled (that would be me, my free, free, free wireless access and my decaf white chocolate mocha), there is some light aggression. When you have a few thousand people used to being able to swarm the lawn and can’t, then space becomes a premium. That’s when it may become nerve-ana.

But with sufficient ‘stuff’ spread across my colonized corner, I should be good. And make no mistake, I’m not giving one inch away of seeing the movie that drive my family crazy: the original Planet of the Apes.

Remember when video machines weighed 80 kilogrammes and came in those huge suitcases you lugged home from the only video shop in town — ‘Dial-a-Movie’?

I remember those days fondly, especially because I got to choose a movie every once in a while. The unfortunate thing for my family was that for some reason, I once chose Planet of the Apes, and then proceeded to choose it over and over again.

The sad end result of the Apes saga was that the sole tape at the store wore out — I can bear witness to the worn out state as scenes dissolved into scratchy grey stripes, while in others, the sound warbled and stretched. (I can’t tell you if this was in any way facilitated by members of my family!)

What was so appealing to me was the idea that the known hierarchy of the world could be rearranged completely, that who was in charge, evolutionary supremacy, anything, could be flipped completely.

Growing up under apartheid, I like to think that some of my fascination was sparked in particular because the idea that the unfair world could be changed and could be different was such a wonderful one.

But it’s just as likely that I loved this because I was a toddling animal activist and it was also probably the first science fiction piece I’d seen. As for the latter, I’ve been a junkie ever since.

In reality, it’s likely a combination of all of the above and more, and I can guarantee that I’m going to love this evening. What could be better? Watching my favourite movie on a beautifully cool summer evening, all the while recalling going to the video store with my late dad and him indulging me (and simultaneously sentencing my mom and brother) to yet another viewing of Planet of the Apes.



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