Saturday, June 22, 2002

Saturday, Daytrip, on the road-

Green. Trees. Many green trees. Cars whooshing alongside green trees. The little known equation comes back to me, and I remember, with a little start of joy, Trees = heaven.

Poppies in the median, planted by some kind soul whose hand I would like to shake. Thank you, Poppy Planter.

Later, a deer stops right by the side of the road, miraculously without running into the road. We stop and pull over and roll the window down (an antiquarian misnomer for the automatic window bzzzz). "Hello beautiful," I say to the deer. Deer turns its head and looks right at me, smiling almost. Big brown eyes, delicate little wafer limbs. She stands for a minute, nibbles a leaf, then walks up into the woods, where we see a fawn behind her, scrambling over rocks, running half graceful, half gangly over boulder and branches. Now this is the life.

Green. Green. Green.

Lakes with water lilies, like tiny single snowflakes set on green saucers.

I think it would be much easier being green than being cement-colored. (Yes, Muppet-friends, I am speaking to Kermit the unsatisfied frog. Though he comes to terms with it in the end, perhaps he does not realize how dull the alternatives are.)

Anyway. Green, lovely, then traffic, and moon rising yellow over Queens.

Friday, June 21, 2002

Crashing headlong into massive concrete wall - translation: big deadline at work. No blog yesterday.

But here's what I saw then:

11:40am, Broadway at 37th, a red and white sign in a restaurant window: Fight back. Eat out.

6:21pm, 40 black youths dancing and careening into one another while music loud enough to shake the sidewalks blares out of a nearby doorway. Sign over doorway identifies building as a high school. Hard to believe music that loud is sanctioned by a high school.

9:35 pm, old man in light colored shirt (too dark to tell what color) is sitting in a corner of the small park on Chrystie St. Calls out something indeterminate ending in "Baby," to a younger, prettier woman passing by. She ignores him. He keeps calling, with increasing persistence, as if he's certain that he can convince her to run away to St. Tropez with him. He's a bum, actually, which makes this all rather funny to the observer. Or maybe it is the Merlot running in my veins that makes it funny.

Another block west, and it's suddenly Balthazar territory, chic little shops selling lampshades, just lampshades, and dresses displayed like jewelry each on its own silver hook. Then the subway, as crowded as if it were rush-hour. Perhaps there is a second rush-hour on Thursday nights (the official start of the college weekend, as I recall) — this one the rush-hour of barflies heading home, worried about incipient Friday hangovers.

Friday morning, Spring and Greene. Corner deli has basket of ripe bananas out front, individually separated for lunchtime customers. Inside, the hot food bar sends out a humid wave of frightening smells — hot wings, rice and raisins, some form of meat coated with brown sauce. The bagels and other friendly morning items are clustered meekly in a corner, as if cowering in the shadow of the Tower of Meat. Gatorade, ministering angel to the overly Merloted, costs $1.50 in Soho ("small" 20 oz. bottle).

Back to the deadlines.

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Lunchtime:

Large truck, with what looks like a feed trough filled with muddy water behind it, plus some sort of tall vertical scaffolding, parked across several spaces of an outdoor lot. The sign on the truck says "Drilling Specialists." What are they drilling for on Houston St.? Ratjuice?

Another truck, bright red, reads "Demolition Specialists." Walking by Lucky’s Juice Joint, which smells like a tropical paradise at all times, I wonder what kind of specialist I’d like to be. A purple truck, perhaps, with the sign hand-painted in white letters. Lurid Dream Specialist.

Walking on. A pretty (in a luxurious Southern Belle way rather than a toothpicky NY way) tourist in a fuschia linen shirt asks for directions to the subway. I give them—straight ahead on Houston to 6th Ave., turn right, about three blocks up to West 3rd. She promptly sets off walking, then I see her a minute later on Thompson St. I try to catch up to tell her she can still get to W. 3rd from Thompson by taking a left, but she crosses the street and I decide yelling at her might be frightening rather than helpful. Now she’s gonna think New Yorkers purposely give wrong directions to make nice Southern tourists get lost.

On Sullivan, heading south now, two black policeman are discussing which sort of ticket to give to a parked car. The one appears to be training the other, looking up a violation number in a big booklet. They seem cheery somehow; having a peaceful moment outdoors on a warm day. They both have beautiful Caribbean accents.

A passing grandmother instructs the young girl with her: "They can’t give you a ticket if you don’t have a car."

Crossing into Soho—the West side of it still retains some of the original charm of an old Italian neighborhood. Ben’s Pizzeria with the large plasticine figure of a chef holding out his hand to passersby. Flowers and mangoes rivaling one another for color at the corner shop. Lots of little restaurants with names like Boom (the slogan on the sign says Make food, not war.), Le petit café, Le Gamin.

At the corner of Sullivan and Spring, two young men appear, one pushing the other along (crouched-up and holding a film camera) on a short silver dolly. Further east there are other remnants of the film crew, a plumpish woman holding two walkie-talkies, a trailer with the door open showing the portable toilet stalls inside, and a taped-on paper sign: "Lucy." The yellow flyers on the lampposts where they’ve blocked parking (a big section of Soho, from Broadway to West Broadway, along Prince, up Greene, and who knows where else) say it’s all for a movie titled "How to Lose A Guy."

Shoes in the window of Barbara Bui look like tangles of spaghetti coiled on top of wooden planks. Shoes in Arché next door look as if they’re cut out of felt—Muppet shoes.

I stop and root through the hair sticks at the outdoor market on Wooster and Spring. Bamboo shoes on the street at a vendor on Prince retail for $6.



Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Morning-

Just noticing anew the change in geography (or, rather, economics) on the walk from Canal St. into Soho. At Canal, there is a dead rat to be avoided, a procession of bums waking up and shuffling off to their daytime lairs, a number of industriously moving Chinese immigrants on their way to work, a cart serving fish broth and noodles for breakfast (with a crowd of patrons), and a few early-birds in casual chic walking north to Internet-related jobs in lofts furnished in the latest iMac colors.

By Spring St., there are art-gallery attendants making their spindly-heeled way to work and a few local loft denizens walking their giant dogs and bustling unruly children off to private school.

Lunchtime-

Kicking myself for wasting a beautiful day full of California-clear sunshine on a trip to Old Navy. On the way, however, I spied one of those women whose legs are so thin they look like fingers—well, there were about a hundred such women, carrying various brightly colored glossy-coated paper bags with string handles. But this one was wearing a pair of black cigarette pants noticeable for the turquoise and black satin ribbons that tied around the knees; not an added embellishment, mind you. Part of the pants themselves, attached via grommets. Another woman sported a skirt that appeared to be made of the top part of a pair of bluejeans, cut into a "V", with a large handkerchief-style scarf attached below.

In line at Old Navy, an astonishing assortment of female specimens —really, they might have been torn from a textbook showing variations in the human species. Old and grey, young and tank-topped, slim, pear shaped, fashionable, dowdy, Caucasian, Hispanic, Black, Asian. The middle-aged but very well turned-out black woman was holding three tank tops with built-in bras in neutral colors. The short Japanese American in her fifties wearing a bright orange T-shirt with a scalloped bottom edge was carrying a red T-shirt I’d almost bought myself. The plump Hispanic women behind me clearly had different conceptions of personal space than I—the elder of the two kept trodding against my foot.

Or maybe she was just one of those odd ducks who lack awareness of the boundaries of their own bodies. I see them all the time, a strangely numerous breed in a city with such narrow sidewalks. They seem unable to discern where their own edges are, and are constantly wandering right into other people’s bodies, assuming perhaps that the laws of physics will prevent them from accidentally melding with strangers, or, for that matter, concrete, automobiles, scaffolding, and large toothy dogs.

Monday, June 17, 2002

Lunchtime-

This column should perhaps be titled What I Smelled, as NY is in full-on stinky summer mode already. So first, some strange combo of dogshit, garbage, homeless person, piss, and who knows what else, is wafting along Houston St., to be revisited later in Washington Sq., where, oddly, it accompanies a bank of flowers someone has gamely planted alongside the dog run.

But hey, it’s not all bad. There’s also a six year old boy kicking his shoe off in the process of trying to punt a soccer ball.

A line of young ballerinas sitting in a row on a stone stoop along the edge of a playground. You can tell they’re ballerinas by their tightly slicked back updos and long legs folded up around their elbows like birds’ wings.

In a similar vein, a 15-16 yr. old fawn of a girl, all natural blond hair and angular cheekbones, wandering down 6th Ave. just waiting to be "discovered." This time next year, she will be swiveling her hips around the runway in a miniskirt constructed entirely of cormorant feathers.

An orange-red traffic cone perched jauntily on the hood of a 1970s Bonneville in exactly the same color.

A sign for a missing cat, who is described as dark, noisy, and fast.

On the way back, the same bunch of ballerinas in a completely different location, followed by another pair, slightly older, with cut-up baseball shirts over their peeking-out leotards. Same hairstyles, even longer legs. They look like a flock of yellow flamingos.

I have exchanged a book which I mistakenly bought twice, once at Amazon, once at the local book nook. The book nook took it back, no problem, just pick another one of the same price. A rare and joyous cashless (and cardless) transaction. Felt like some sort of mysterious bartering arrangement.

Oh, almost forgot:

A line of luxury cars, all beginning with the letter "A." Avalon, Acura, Altima, Acura again. The latent librarian in me really wanted to arrange them in alphabetical order, and to toss out the lone Camry interloper.
Monday, 8:35am

Interesting variation on being asked for directions:

In the subway stop, buying a new Metrocard after getting off the train (much better than standing in line getting jumpy trying to get one before train arrives). Impeccably dressed tall German businessman asks whether a single ride ticket can be bought from machine. Small Chinese local is trying to convince him he should buy an unlimited card for $4. Businessman clearly just needs to get from his Soho hotel to Wall St., and will later have a driver or share cab with fellow impeccably dressed businessmen. I promise to hang out for a minute and walk him through it, feeling very virtuous and helpful. Sort of a nice way to start the day, really.

Sunday, June 16, 2002

Welcome,

I had expected that starting this diary of impressions on a weekend might make the first installment less bizarre (not that a lack of bizarreness is necessarily a desired feature). How could I forget? NYC never lets me down—well, not when I'm out looking for weirdness.

Saturday, in front of (though not shopping in) Barnes & Noble on 16th & Union Sq. Park-

A 60ish woman with peach-colored hair waving clipboards and ranting, "Sign our petition to keep right-wingers out of the courts!"

"No I don't want that," I said.

Jaw drops. 10-second pause. "You're gonna be sorry."

"No, I believe everyone deserves a place in the courts."

Walking on.

A tall girl wearing tights that look like tattoos: black and flesh-colored whorls. She is my lunch date. We head over to the farmer's market in Union Square. Nothing looks good today—there's no fruit and the crowds at the piles of sugar-snap peas are getting pushy.

We end up in a French cafe eating crepes and drinking coffee out of bowls big enough for breakfast cereal.

But not before being nearly run over by a young woman driving a Lexus the exact shade of her blue-tinted sunglasses. Perhaps they are opaque.

Sunday-

Weirdness takes the day off on Sunday—or at least I hide out from it until laundry-time. Last time the laundry-day altercation (there's always one) was with a 12-year-old boy on roller skates, skating from one side of the laundromat to the other, bashing into as many laundry carts as possible on the way.

"Take those skates outside."

"I'm friends with the boss."

They never did call this the city of brotherly love, did they?