May 05, 2023, 06:29AM

Paul and Meredith in Union Square

Rooster follows a couple of kids around Manhattan one night in January, 1996.

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“I missed my stop.”

Paul looked up—he missed his, too.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck what time is it?”


A well-dressed wolf was sitting across from Paul and Meredith on the subway that night; I was hanging out between cars, eavesdropping when I could. Eventually I snuck onto the same car as them, but with so few passengers, it was hard to hide around so many primary colors. I also don’t do well with lateral velocity (the pains of being avian). I could never sit across from Paul, Meredith, or any other member of the human race on the subway without being beaten up, killed, or taken home (Bubby’s) to be eaten. None of your clothes fit me and I’ve never been able to find a tailor that services birds. But this wolf was something else: white pinstripes on blue, a pink shirt, black tie, porkpie hat, monocle, and a neckerchief along with a vest and fancy pocket watch.

He introduced himself as “Peter,” but the kids mistook him for a vagrant and ran away as soon as the train reached Union Square. They bolted out and I made sure to follow them, but before I left, I introduced myself to the wolf and reassured them that they were good kids, just stressed. “No one wants to hear what I have to say anymore,” he said, “no one wants to talk to me. They always run away. I feel useless now…” Peter was breaking out the violins so I jetted myself, barging through the closing doors and up the steps into snow-plowed Union Square, where I spotted Paul and Meredith lingering outside of the Virgin Megastore. It was closed early “due to weather,” which still seems fishy in retrospect. In fact, a lot of business in the area were closed early that night, even Toys ‘R’ Us.

“Why would they have to close for weather? Virgin is inside. I can see the Mellon Collie display.” Meredith put up with the kvetching for a bit but then stopped Paul short: “Maybe everyone had to get home. I heard the subway might shut down for a few days.” Paul shook his head. “That’s never happened before. It’s why we have the subway!” Meredith insisted, arguing that her friend used to work in the video department and had to commute from New Jersey, “just like you,” every day. Paul had nothing to say.

They walked around the corner to the United Artists Union Square 14, still open, with an LED marquee listing showtimes for Heat, Casino, Nixon, and Grumpier Old Men. I’d already seen all four but was willing to sit through any of them again just to hear what Paul and Meredith thought. She perked up and turned to Paul. “Let’s see Grumpier Old Men.” He looked at her like a maniac, but said nothing, and followed her inside. I jumped into the hood of Paul’s parka and hid in there until we got into the theater. I jumped out of his hood once they started picking seats. The trailers were still playing, and no one else was in the theater. While they found seats in the front, I snuck into the front row… and found my wife Monica in the aisle seat. She was as shocked as me.

“What are you doing here?!”

“What are you doing here?!”



We’ve been married for a long, long time.

So we sat and watched this warmed-over yet glacially paced “comedy” starring real bag of bones Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, still alive, and the only reason we didn’t get up and leave was because of how much fun Paul and Meredith were having. They thought they had the theater to themselves, and so they were enjoying the rare pleasure of being able to misbehave in a movie theater. My wife and I still talk about this as if it was a date we went on. But we were there together, with Paul and Meredith, watching Grumpier Old Men in the UA Union Square 14 on a snowy night in Manhattan, January 1996.

—Follow Rooster Quibbits on Twitter: @RoosterQuibbits


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