Friday, July 12, 2002

Series of carefully stencilled spray-painted slogans on the sidewalks: in yellow, Cavr Oche. In white, Fin. And some vertical logo that I cannot reproduce with mere text.

And then there are those rather nice-looking whirly daisies on several street corners done in ropy Pollockesque paint, white, with occasional red accents.

A slogan chalked on the board outside of Vintage New York (a great wine shop on Broome and Wooster): "In water, you see your own face, in wine you see the heart of another." —French Proverb. Those French clearly know a thing or two about living the good life. In that spirit I bought some fancy raw milk cheese for lunch.

Thursday, July 11, 2002

A mid-July day masquerading as a mid-April day. Crisp, sunny, with a small hamster-shaped white cloud poised over 6th Ave. Ever notice how firetrucks are the most pristine of all vehicles? Always bright clean red, always shiny chrome, with their number and neighborhood painted in elegant lettering. Three firetrucks dashed to and fro during my half-hour walk. The third slowed down at the entrance to MacDougal below Houston, while residents of the block pulled the police barricade aside to let the No. 5 from Greenwich Village pass. The elbow of one firefighter was visible through the glassless window—crisp new-looking chartreuse neon stripes across the black heat-proof suit.

Approximately one hundred bottles of imported beer, each a different brand, are crowded into a deli window, meticulously set in four dense rows. A very impressive array for a small deli.

A short-shorted woman rides by on a Harley, blond hair streaming from under a minimalist blue helmet.

Lovely group of six year old girls on the steps of a local school, all eating brightly colored popsicles with their caretakers, who are also eating popsicles. One of the children is trying to get the attention of an adult, sticking out her small arm for inspection: "See? I’m bleeding."

Lots of people are sitting in the pigeon-filled square at Bleecker and 6th. One is a young woman who has fallen asleep with her head thrown forward onto her own lap. An elderly gent is trying to catch the attention of some women his age across the street, by yelling "Yo!"

At the fruit place on Bleecker between Carmine and Cornelia I obtain three Southern Peaches, two of which turn out to be mealy and inedible. Haven’t tried the third yet. Some things really are better gotten at the grocery store, though it lacks a certain element of romance. The fruit shop has a green tray of fresh figs for 59¢ each, and glossy-leaved bunches of basil for 99¢.

A succession of tourists wandering loosely with the dazed smiles of their kind. I slip down Minetta Lane, which always feels furtive somehow, and end up on MacDougal again. A parade of outdoor diners, at blue and yellow-clothed tables, or wrought iron, or marble topped, or chic black. Eating pasta with pink sauce, two slices of honeydew melon, a fat omelette, red wine, iced tea, Perrier. I walk back to the office for a cheese-and-Branston-pickle sandwich (it’s a Brit thing, the pickle is kind of like a dark chutney. Looks gross, but the sandwich is strangely compelling). And those damned flabby peaches.

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Lunch with a visiting relation, so no big blog today. All I saw was the interior of a restaurant, woman nursing a cup of coffee and a pack of Camel Regulars at the next table (ugh!), and waitresses flitting around doing everything possible except bringing me my damn café au lait.

Macramé shoes, hurtling white vans trying to blast through the intersection of W. Broadway and Houston without yielding to peds. Clear blue sky, then back to the grind.

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Superb eyeball fodder today.

A fierce-browed black man walking a happy-go-lucky golden retriever. So marked was the difference in their respective demeanors that I found myself wondering if it could even be his dog. Then again, perhaps the man’s face simply reflected discomfort in the humidity, or a fight with a girlfriend, or an unexpectedly large Visa bill.

In the same 1-block stretch of Houston St. between Thompson and Sullivan, doppelgangers for both Jerry Garcia (smoking on the steps of an upscale shop) and Ram Dass (striding toward Jerry in a white caftan and long khaki pants). Perhaps they were planning to meet at Jane’s restaurant.

Despite it being one of the few days on which my attire approximates Soho standards, I headed for the peace of the labyrinthine West Village. Here’s why Bedford St. is one of my favorites: shops with names like Poodle Cut (a dog groomer’s) and The Lively Set (Antiques and Decoratives).

A tree on an unknown side street has some sort of disease that has caused its flesh (I mean, trunk) to scrunch up, so that it looks for all the world as if it’s constructed of chewed wads of grey bubble gum. A hand-colored sign exhorts passersby to "Be Kind," which apparently translates to not allowing dogs to poop beneath the tree to which the sign is attached. An unpainted, handmade-looking door reads 7 1/2, while the door for 7 is fresh forest green and taller.

Later, on MacDougal, I see my favorite door in the whole city, a perky lemon-yellow (#86, check it out sometime—it is exquisite). Once I was walking down the street admiring it aloud and pointing it out to my friend, when the owner happened to be walking by, apparently returning from a trip, overheard, and said "Why, thank you."

But back to the anonymous side street off Bedford. I execute a neat right hand turn and find myself miraculously deposited on Bleecker at the corner of Cornelia, my other favorite street. Lovely little Cornelia, one block long, like a placid jewel tucked between the madness of 6th Ave and the delivery truck parade of Bleecker.

The chalked sign at the Cuban restaurant on Cornelia says "Authentic! Really!" under the description of a chorizo dish.

And finally, a Boston Terrier flipping his tongue around like one of those ball-and-cup games of old, and a 70ish woman in a pink hat so bright it acts as a beacon in the misty, almost wet air. I am training myself to feel a semblance of comfort in high heat and humidity, in anticipation of a late retirement in New Orleans, where I plan to lie on a chaise longue all the day long with an unending stream of jazz piping into my head like a glucose drip.

Monday, July 08, 2002

Red. That is what I saw all morning, as a morass of cross purposes, foul-ups, and general crap threatened to engulf and potentially derail a very important Life Event. So—RED.

Then I saw the inside of a Radio Shack store, an upselling but reasonably efficient Radio Shack salesguy on the phone with the Great Radio Shack in the Sky, arranging for the repair of my suddenly inaudible cellular phone. Samsung, by the way. It’s cute, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It has had persistent battery problems through its amazingly brief existence and is now rendered unusable by a failing filament in the earpiece. And another Samsung owner in my limited circle of acquaintance has had the very same problem with hers.

Luckily (or not, considering the potentially three-week wait for repair), I had the foresight to purchase an extended 3-year warranty. I’ve already gotten three replacement batteries out of these folks, so really, the warranty was worth the extra cash up front.

Anyway. Then I saw a strange two-part harmony composed of a tall bright red emergency post-thingy and a piece of twisted car part (section of muffler?). They were laid with such artistry on the sidewalk along the north side of Houston that I wondered if an artist had actually placed them there as a street-art project. But no, I imagine it’s just coincidence.

On a meteorological note, it’s amazing how downright pleasant a mere 92 degrees can seem after a week of near-hundreds.

Sunday, July 07, 2002

Oh, yes, and I almost forgot. Beautiful shimmering reflections of fireworks on the black faceted Trump Tower and shorter, squatter UN bldg. The fireworks were extraordinary this year, but also quiet. No big booms, presumably to avoid making us all feel nervous. We missed having a big smashing finale. But also, for the first time in a long time, I know what it's like to feel unabashedly patriotic on the fourth. A country where something so beautiful is held purely for public delight, so everyone can look up and feel as if stars are raining gently on their heads, is a wonderful thing. I think the East Indian fellows sharing a rooftop perch with us agreed. Living in Queens makes it more fun, if anything, to feel patriotic, because you get to share that feeling with recent immigrants. It's like being around someone new to the city or young babies new to the planet - you see familiar things through the eyes of a newcomer and appreciate them all over again.
A violinist playing Beethoven at 11:30pm on the steps of St. Mark's church. At least a hundred people crowded into the narrow entryway of Veniero's Pasticceria around the same time. Four perfect cannolis nestled in a string-tied box.

A self-consciously handsome man sitting on a bench in Soho on a sunny day. He looks at each passerby with a strange intent expression on his face as if he's upset that no one is staring at him, noticing how handsome he is. It is apparently against nature for the handsome to have to sit alone on a sunny day.

Personally, I rather like sitting alone on a sunny day, but then I am not a handsome man.