“Whatcha waiting for?” asked the elderly tourist, understandably curious as to why a small group of people might be standing on the corner of 34th and 5th in the pouring rain, sometime after midnight.
“Elephants,” I told him. He looked skeptical.
“No, seriously. Elephants.”
He shrugged, and wandered off into the rain. Evidently he had better things to do than stand on 34th Street all night waiting for passing elephants.
He was right to be skeptical. It was a cold, rainy night and the elephants took their time showing up. It was a long time before a storm of red strobe lights revealed the presence of the NYPD outriders advancing down 34th. But there, close behind, was a small column of rain-soaked elephants, pacing through Midtown like large damp mice, holding each others’ tails companionably with their trunks.
Elephants move surprisingly fast. It looks like no more than a comfortable walking pace, but before you realize it they’ve swept past you and you have to turn and run to catch up. What the elephants made of the crowd of people galloping along on the fenced-off sidewalk is anyone’s guess. Veteran performers, they gave nothing away, but simply plodded on single-mindedly towards their goal. Many of them had probably done the walk before and — memorious beasts that they are — might even have remembered that somewhere at the end of this strange passage there would be a warm stall and a heaping bowl of elephant chow.
At 7th Avenue they turned hard left and disappeared into the capacious belly of Madison Square Garden, leaving the rain-soaked crowd and a few more very confused tourists behind them.