new york musings

I found a link to a great site, if you like The Onion kinda humor, from someone I kinda knew back in the punk rock scene in Memphis, http://www.spazoutny.com.

That person happens to live in New York, but we weren't really friends, so shit, we didn't meet on my trip there the other day. I had the most incredible experiences (yesterday) on this trip. I shall relate all the interesting points here, which are almost innumerable, so this is going to be a substantially long document. What are printers for, to print?

At 7am I found myself stranded in a hotel lobby near the JFK airport in Queens/Jamaica NYC. I had driven to NYC once before but only with explicit directions to meet a friend at a convenient location where he guided me the rest of the unremarkable way to his street where I had parked my car for the remainder of this past visit. My knowledge of the streets and layout of the city as a whole was pretty much limited to the FDR and the expressway leading back to the interstate back to Rhode Island.

Luckily, I possess an awesome road atlas, which is so awesome that it has details of some major US cities, including the NYC. So, I had a small tool to get me close to my friend that I hoped to meet. I had driven into NYC with some folks the previous afternoon because they were flying out that morning at 9am. I had decided that it would be impossible to find my friend in NYC the night before, so I was going to plan to find him the next day. Of course he works late into the night and even communicating with him before the sojourn was difficult (since I work during the day). It is obvious to me now that I had made a grave mistake in leaving the connecting path, between me being at the hotel near JFK and me transporting myself and my car in proximity to my friend in Brooklyn, undefined.

Instead I was on my own without even an address to set my sights on, and so I had to take a stab at it as best as I could. I took my map and constructed a rough trajectory towards Brooklyn, where I believed some familiar sounding street names might serendipitously lead me to the dude's street and address. Between all the myriads of names and similarly identifiable visual locations, I somehow confused myself into believing my buddy lived in the southernmost neighborhoods of Brooklyn. But actually, I convinced myself that it was arbitrary whether I parked near his place, since I had to travel the subway anyway to get where I had decided my new destination would be.

You see, it was just now about 8:30(am), and my friend would not be awake for at least a couple more hours, so I had to kill some time. Driving was out of the question; I just knew I had to jettison my car, but not at the airport hotel, which everyone had discouraged me from doing at the outset already. Well, I took this southern loop expressway, the Sunbelt loop or something that went along the coast. From here I could burrow a bit northwards into Brooklyn at a safe distance from the bustling central areas of adjacent Manhattan, the deathtraps for automobiles.

I landed eventually, and I figured I was in an ok neighborhood, so I went for it. In retrospect, though, I was not in a very ideal area. From the nearest subway station, I rode the entire length out of Brooklyn and into Manhattan, where I hoped to catch a double-decker tour bus.

This would have been the perfect time killer, and it is something I've wanted to do for a long time now. There is a hilarious and charming film called "The Cruise" which is based on one of these tour bus drivers. If you can find it, watch it, but keep an open mind (especially if you are male). Also I met this guy before who worked for ESPN and he told me that the tour bus is a genuinely great thing to do if you've never been to NYC; so I figured it was time.

Earlier, while I was in the hotel lobby, ruminating on the possibilities ahead of me, I had slurped down several coffees and even some OJ. So, by the time I had driven my ass to Brooklyn, located a subway terminal, and rode the miles into Manhattan; I had to piss like a Power Ranger! Luckily I arrived at this park, something like city hall park, I can't believe I forgot the name already. Well I tripped out there for a good while, munching this bagel I had to buy at Starbucks in order to use their stalls for the pissing. After all this I began my intensive walking tour of Manhattan, which lasted far longer than I had intended.

I made it around the corner to some weird freedom monument fountain for veterans. Here I was snapping some photos at the edge of the shadow of one of the sky scrapers, when bird shit fell inches from my foot, splattering on the bagel bag I had set on the ground to take the photos. I looked above and saw only some birds at the very top of the building, a couple hundred feet above me. This meant the shit must have been wavering side-to-side in the turbelence of the air before it finally landed from its terrible fall. It very well could have been on a collision path with my uncovered head instead of the open sidewalk. Anyways, I got a couple good pictures of this bum sitting in the fountain with his shoes off. There was also an Asian guy near here too, who had his pants pulled up and was sunning his legs which were covered in horrible patches of some painfully-looking red skin disorder. However, it looked very soothing there for the man to be soaking the sun up there in the carefree open morning; no one else was around except for the bum and I. Obviously the 3 of us were of no consequence to each other, but I wussed out and took no picture of the Asian man. The birdshit episode, however, would turn out to be a augur for the upsetting and distraught set of fiascoes to come.

I wandered through the streets that morning into the World Trade Center grounds, Battery Park, and the Esplanade. All of these scenes were appropriate for "Memorial Day" weekend, and it was pretty nifty to get these sights in before the crowds had really picked up. Actually, to be completely accurate, I had drifted into China Town, Canal Street, and Wall Street that morning before making it to the Battery Park. Once I reached the Battery Park, time started to flow faster, the crowds were increasing, and my black fleece jacket was becoming obsoleted by the high noon star.

I watched some street performers doing some flipping routines. These are marginal performances compared to the Brazilian troupes I'd seen in Europe, or the musically integrated routines seen in Memphis by random groups of kids or even by the Beale Street Flippers.

I sat on a bench for almost an hour here, and smoked a cigarette. The truth was that my nerves were actually beginning to work themselves up into some anxieties about meeting my friend. I had an added constraint to escape NYC by around 2 or 3pm in order to reach Newport again by the late afternoon to make it to a party there. At this point, in Battery park, on the bench, time was passing slowly and my second call to my buddy's cellphone went unanswered.

It turns out the double-deck bus tours cost $37, which is obviously uneconomical for someone who's planning to escape the city in just a couple hours. I had to keep cruising on foot by myself.

The city had actually decided to make a small gift to me by pointing my shoes in the path to the Esplanade. I had never really been aware of it before, and it was a pleasant surprise to say the least. All of a sudden I had a couple miles of open sky, open Hudson River, and open park-path foliage paradises. Wherever a major street terminates perpendicular to the Esplanade some kind of mini-temple shrine thing stands as an entranceway to the Esplanade. Well, at least I saw a couple of these things, and when I accidentally stumbled onto it, it was by passing through one of them cool entrances. There is actually an official website I found here about this area. I really enjoyed them intersecting areas between the "big city" and the waterfront. Towards the north end there were more green spaces for suntanners and such, some basketball courts and playgrounds, and even an empty volleyball court. One thing I noticed, nearly every jogger, roller-blader, aggressive walker, sun bather, parent-taking-their-childrens-to-play-in-sun, loiterers with sketchpads, and picnic troopers were females. For a second I thought about this, then stopped, because I realised it doesn't matter. (my thought was that most women in NYC perhaps live healthier lifestyles than most men)

I could go on about the Esplanade for much longer, but instead I'll push forward. At about 1pm I had walked the length of the Esplanade twice, and had reached the beginning. I unsuccessfully called my friend for a 3rd time. At this point I was disgusted with him and had decided I would begin my escape act. Since I had bought the unlimited subway card, and since I only had $3 cash, I decided to first jump to somewhere cool in another area of Manhattan where I could grab some ATM money for lunch and for the tolls on the way home.

This proved to be my undoing. I ended up exiting the subway close to Canal street. I quickly left Canal and made a fruitless route around the block, which took me back onto Canal street just a few blocks east of where I had deserted it. I cannot believe how I managed to go so long without spotting an ATM. When I was nearing Soho, I think, I kind of gave up on the idea. Now my goal was just to leave NYC and stop at some gas station maybe around JFK area on my way back. But it was at this point when the sun began to really glare most maliciously down onto my black fleece jacket. I was overdue to come off the streets, and my fluids were gone.

However, my new position on Canal was terribly out of kilter. If you don't realize, Canal cuts through China Town. And I mentioned earlier that I came through here in the morning, which was a bit fun and interesting. The afternoon had transformed this area into a madness I was wholly unprepared for. The throngs of tourists were in full effect. The street merchants and herds of bargain seekers brought the sidewalk traffic to a standstill in most places. My pockets were full of junk so I had to beware of theft in this close confines. This meant keeping my hands close to my side and in reach of my digital camera, cell phone, wallet, etc - therefore, more heat trapped inside my coat. My stress levels were rising fast.

Once I got close to the exact subway I had last exited, I made an important discovery. My cell phone, which I had been holding in the crowds, had a missed call and voicemail! Some insane twist of fate had sent me a message from my friend in Brooklyn, without causing my phone to actually ring. I called him without checking the message and made arrnagements to meet at a station in Brooklyn. All I had to do was find this blue "C" station here on Canal Street. I started by going back in the shitty direction I had come from on Canal, back east again. After a while I realized I had gone too far, so I turned and walked through the fringe once again. Soon I was fully distraught and called my friend again. This kind of episode repeats rather endlessly in my memory now; I simply remember walking back and forth across Canal more than 5 or 6 times. I remember walking it while on the phone with my friend, I remember walking it and running into a scene of a gang of Africans being subdued by some large undercover policemen and waiting for the crowd to wait for an arriving police van to crash into the sidewalk and haul the group of thieves away. I remember the merchants scrambling to conceal their illegal wares. I remember the black man relating to his friend next to me how foolish it is to walk down the street talking on a cell phone, of course whilst trying to find the phantom subway entrance while my friend on the other side of the phone was trying to scour up some landmarks on the map to help me get the hell out of this maelstrom of capital collision.

I also remember some teenage girls at the end of Canal street, where I was giving up on the possibility of finding the subway, cackling to each other about how exciting and perfect the day was going to be upon their arrival to this China Town district. Needless to say, I felt like a sick animal juxtaposed with these happy-go-lucky specimens. I wasn't much different from them that morning though, I can't believe what happened to me! I remember one of the skinny African men flying past me at a sprint, right down the outer lane of the street off the sidewalk, carrying a brief case of someone's goods (maybe he was just protecting his own from the police or maybe he was one of the thieves, who knows). Oh, how I wanted to flee the place at that same emergency clip! But tourists aren't allowed to panic; stay calm, buy some shit, talk to the merchant, and let them give you gibberish directions while the hooligans pick your pockets.

Or hire a taxi.

Eventually I settled on the original subway station I had taken into this hell district, and made the amazingly simple transfers necessary to meet my friend in Brooklyn. My reasoning faculties were shot at this point, so I didn't even feel bad about not having the clairvoyance to make this decision earlier, before being consumed by the overstressing repetition of those unsavory throngs. Hell, I might have easily left out some things there. A simple narrative regurgitation of the events does not do it justice; it was a non-linear distortion of reality, in which I really felt like I was in a part of some dream. This is especially true since I remember the bits and pieces just like the fragments of a dream. I think only just now upon writing this that I might have actually stumbled upon the NYC as it really must be, in this abstract fashion that defies tour books and magazine write-ups, for surely as the inaccessible Statue of Liberty stands like a broken memory of some America that has indeed passed. <rant>(no one is allowed inside the Statue anymore, which, in my opinion, signifies a terrible malady with the state of this country we're living in – obviously there is a disease that those in power are at the moment unable to understand or confront realistically, so therefore her majesty is off-limits… oh, and there's scores of helicopters patrolling the waters there like it's some kind of derelict prison state now)</rant>

At any rate, I finally met my buddy and we got some lunch. It was a tremendous relief to finally give up the responsibility of finding my way around for this bit of time, and to gather a little sympathy and awe from my friend for the events which had befallen me up to this point. It really had all begun on my first call to my friend at 8am, when my call had caused his phone to vibrate off his nightstand onto the ground, which duly dislodged the battery. This is why I was unable to contact to him until so late in the afternoon (relatively late for someone who had been wandering aimlessly for six hours).

By the time we had eaten lunch it was time for him to go to work. Our short meeting was pleasant, but I definitely still had a bitter enough taste in mouth to know that I had to escape NYC by whatever means possible. At the current rate of calamities and strange mishaps, I knew that any supplemental diversions could prove disasterous. I had memorized the location of my car relative to the subway station, so I was able to get back to this place (intersection of Brooklyn Ave. & Farragut Ave.). However, my memory had confused the orientation of this spot relative to North/South coordinates of the Sunbelt expressway I needed in order to return home.

When I reached the intersection I had an image in mind of the house I left my car in front of. There happened to be a very similar looking house at the nearest corner, which is where I believed my car would be. For a short minute I began to panic, thinking that it was either towed away or stolen. Even though I found my car around the corner, I was now thoroughly confused once again. But I had my road atlas, and my last wit's end, so I was still hopeful.

To sum things up a bit quickly, I started going back north towards Manhattan, where all the pile-ups of traffic start taking over! I ended up going further southwest than planned, but I at least avoided the stress-inducing traffic congestion, and made it to the Sunbelt. This took me back towards the Interstate and JFK expressway, which was the eventual pathway to I-95 back to Connecticut and Rhode Island. NYC would not let me go from its claws so easily though. I ended up going past the JFK expressway because there was no exit leading north. Everything just said basically "this way to the airport", which was south. I turned around and tried to go ever so carefully so as not to make any more mistakes. The fates of this damned city were plotting against me, obviously, as they now led me into magnetic fields of JFK – verily, I was sucked south into the terminal entrances. At this point I began to lose control of my anger, as before I had internalized it all and kept it bottled away in public, and now I was safely in the private confines of my car. Hence, I was able to vent some frustrations and start yelling and screaming and pounding my fist on the steering wheel. Of course, there is no quick exit from this airport, I had to drive the entire length into the front steps before reaching an exit path. Certainly this was the most frustrating episode of the driving components of my long venture.

I can't say anything more about my journey, the narrative ends here basically. I made it out alive and without bodily or material incident. It was really all just psychological damage and stress levels that plagued me. But I don't want to analyze anything further with this story. It is just how I would like to leave it, as a series of uninformed decisions about navigating NYC that kind of happened at my control, but mostly out of control, at random.

To add the last detail, I raced back to Newport and made it minutes before they closed the liquor stores (10pm, damn Puritan Yanks!). And after a 3-minute shower and 2 very quick beers, I was off to this party I had planned to make it to by 8pm, praying some stragglers would be left and that not everyone had deserted it for the nearby watering holes… and my prayers were successively answered one by one… it was in all categories, a classic night to party in Newport, admittedly! Such a perfect beer-commercial ending to a night of hanging with new and interesting people was only partly true, however.

On my way home a car of black men ended up next to me on the road. One of them asks me amicably, "having a good night?" I says, "yeahhh man!" And in response, just before peeling off at the light he replies, "you're fucking gay!!!"

It just so happens that a few minutes earlier I was talking to people about my origins with Atlanta and Memphis, some of the existing racial problems that I was so happy to have abandoned up here in Rhode Island, and my overall malaise and specific anxiety with the subject.

But you know what, I guess I'm the racist to think that they were racist for calling me gay for no reason. So, the grand moral of this story is the following:

  1. roll with the punches
  2. take the peaks with the valleys
  3. chew the meat and spit out the bones

0 Commentaries:

Post a Comment

<< Home