Monday, September 13, 2004

NYC log

Got 30 concentrated hours of mostly solitary NYC auto-tourism this past weekend. My Sept. 11-12 travelogue follows. Obvious warning: if you're not one of my friends and have somehow wandered onto this blog for some other reason, the following will, no doubt, be incredibly boring; actually, even if you are one of my friends, the following might still be incredibly boring.

The day begins with a noonish bus into the Port Authority terminal; I descend to the 7 train crosstown to the 5, uptown to 86th. I walk to Tal Bagels on 86 St. between 1st and 2nd. Poppy seed w/ lox spread + Lemon Snapple = my poisons of choice; eaten on steps of the Met while watching street musician, passers-by, and obnoxious pigeons. The Metropolitan's current exhibitions look snoringly dull, so I follow my prior plan to visit the Whitney: a great Ed Ruscha show, a mixed Ana Mendieta show, some semi-interesting Pop Art selections from the permanent collection.

Next I meander indirectly back to a 6 station and ride downtown to City Hall, to visit Ground Zero, which, for various ill-defined emotional reasons, I have been mostly avoiding the past three years. I pass St. Paul's, where a number of uniformed men accompanied by families are entering the memorial service. I heard that the PATH terminal was up and running, but it's still a shock to see the shiny new steps, sprouting directly out of the site, and leading down to the fully functional train station. The site's been cleaned up, and now bears the signs of incipient construction, but nevertheless still feels like a field of ruins. Green brush has started growing out of the mound of earth and gravel by the slurry wall. The viewing fence has been decorated by the city agencies with: tasteful and informative historical poster boards, plus small, iconic, utilitarian placards: "Please do not write on the fence," "Please understand that all items left must be cleaned up." The fence has been decorated by private citizens with: pictures, posters with lists of names, and numerous flowers, the last of these affixed by their stems, poked or sometimes woven between the narrowly spaced fence struts. I nearly bump (literally, physically bump) into Pataki as he walks out of Essex World Cafe by the corner of Liberty St. & Trinity Pl.; I back off in order to avoid alarming his security detail, although this security detail doesn't actually seem too worried about the surrounding crowd. I watch him glad-handle his way through the crowd for a while before I move on, past Ladder Co. 10 FDNY station (like most NYC stations today, a wreath hangs inside the door). I take the steps to the elevated pedestrian walkway, gawk for a while at the procession of uniformed men and accompanying families circulating through the pit, and move on.

Organized or disorganized groups at the site include: Falun Gong protesters, who, for unclear reasons, are out in force all over the city today; nut case with array of cardboard signs explaining that he and the CIA knew about 9/11 in the 1970s (I speculate that this is roughly when he started dropping lots of acid); a large crowd gathered about a solemn trio (one Asian woman, a middle-aged white woman, a taller white man with a thick graying beard) who read aloud sequentially from a book containing capsule biographies of each victim; a platoon of people (leftists? right-wingers? can't tell, though they're mostly young) wearing STOP TERRORISM t-shirts; a mysterious, vaguely funerary procession of women, who wear black gypsyish dresses and are led by a man beating a small drum; a small group of Japanese who have spread out long cloths painted with a manga-ish cartoon Buddha and some writing about Hiroshima, which they seem to be invoking in a spirit of genuine sympathy for tragedy, rather than to embarrass Americans by stirring up guilty associations.

I wander down Fulton St. to South St. Seaport. On the way, I encounter more Falun Gong protesters camped in front of NYU's Water St. residence. I sit on the pier and watch the East River and the Brooklyn Bridge for a little while. Then I get restless once again and wander up to the Chambers St. A/C station; I ride the train to Canal St. Along the way, I fire up my Karma and listen to the Velvets singing about heroin as I walk up through Chinatown, SoHo/NoLiTa, past Haring's Pop Shop, and into the East Village, wondering if Lou Reed ever imagined that these neighborhoods would look the way they do today. I get a double medium latte at Oren's (which, incidentally, still serves better coffee than I've had anywhere in Espresso City) and sit in Washington Square Park reading American Ground for a couple of hours. The relentlessly sobering content is leavened somewhat by the inevitable presence of musicians and NYU students around me.

Dinner: burger and fries at Cozy Soup & Burger (In-N-Out can kiss our collective New York ass). Around this point, I've just about had my fill of solitary wandering; you can cover a lot of ground when you're by yourself, but New York gets to be a lonely city when you don't know anyone. Fortunately, I do. I get a chocolate shake to go, then L-train into Williamsburg for PM and JW's opening party. Nice show. It goes about as well for me as parties ever go: I'm hardly a party person, but I manage to reconnect with old friends, and meet some new people. Most unexpected compliment of the night: S: "You're everything we're looking for." Me: "'We'?" S: "Women." If I were prone to blushing . . . of course, it's a polite lie, but flattery will get you everywhere (to an extent that you wouldn't even believe: see Fogg and Nass, IJHCS 46(5)). Bless you, S., wherever you are.

Party winds down around 4am. I crash on the couch with PM & JW's affectionate/needy champagne half-Burmese curled around my shoulder, his head tucked in the crook of my neck, and awaken sometime in the early afternoon, my (black) shirt covered in (beige) cat hair. My gracious hosts serve me a sesame bagel crammed with a shmear of cream cheese and a fistful of lox. We brunch; I feed bits of leftover lox to the half-Burmese and, eventually, the other cat as well; this offering buys me further love from the half-Burmese, and perhaps an infinitesimal reduction in contempt from The Other One. I help my hosts clean up, walk around Williamsburg a bit, then L-train back to 14th St. & 8th Ave. I walk up through Chelsea and into Hell's Kitchen, enjoying the gorgeous day, and enter the Port Authority. And thus ends my day of semi-homecoming.

We now return to your regularly scheduled programming.

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