I could fill a novel with the smells sounds and sights from these fourteen days. I scarcely put a dent in it on the plane. Too much to process. I missed my city fair but I have been very promiscuous with her eastern sibling.
I walked 1.5 miles to the Flyaway with my trusty little green suitcase and laptop bag. The howling Van Nuys wind tried its best to keep me in Los Angeles, but my bags and I would not to be hindered. From this windblown exhaustion to touchdown at John F. Kennedy, I was a madman. I occupied my time vehemently, never letting one task get too mundane. Several hours in an enormous metallic belly requires immense concentration and/or distraction.
Far below and to the east lay a city in wait. A city I had not seen the likes of in just under a decade.
Without its siren song, Los Angeles would be a pointless venture. One mistress at a time...even for me. With the static and repression smoothly showered out of my skin I boarded an allegedly virgin aircraft and was soon delighted to see that my row-mate had purchased the center seat because she "detested sitting next to anyone."
When we landed I made my way patiently off of the plane. Dr. Goldflam PhD was waiting for me at the base of the stairs. We embraced and walked outside. The Doctor asked if I would mind having a cigarette before setting off. "I never do, I'll even join you." It was warm and raining. Not Georgia warm and raining, but subtle.
"So where is this place?" asked the good Doctor.
Shit, I didn't know...
"Brooklyn. Near the Parade Grounds," I said the first bit in unhidden ignorance, and the second with the curl of a query on my tongue...
"You know we're driving through fucking Watts right?" The Dr. gracefully added.
Only a former Los Angelino would say so.
The parkway leading away from JFK led to a seething mass of urban sprawl. The Doctor pointed to the hospital of his birth, 15-20 young men and women paced the front steps and handicap ramp. We sped past enormous buildings housing hundreds of people in geometric patterns denoting government intervention and "planning". Not unlike the military facilities my family bounced around during my early life. Our destination lay parallel to the Parade Grounds (so I got that part right...), but parking was non-existent.
The Doctor received a phone call and after one last stretch of not-parking pulled to the side and kicked me out. Well, that's not exactly true, he did stop and hang out a moment, but he certainly was not planning to ascend for his prize of coffee and sweet roll four stories above. I understood completely...and knew that I would feel quite comfortable polishing off his portion...
I had Katherine on the phone and before long I saw her arm flailing in the darkness. It was that uniquely modern moment when you make eye contact and realize that the cellphone is not necessary...yet people hesitate to hang up until they are within comfortable conversation distance. You could even call the phenomenon "dated", dated in that it represents a moment of innocence. A new embarrassment to revive the cold ashen coals of Victorian morality. A flush of the cheek, a shame, a sin - our alleged unifying quality - that we all sin. Once everyone had done it, done it again and perhaps made a game of it, it became mundane, human sign-language, like holding your pinky and thumb up to your ear to say “call me.”
We both hung up, three dimensions are best in some company (there are vast exceptions to that statement), and a dark lane framed by a vast black void halting the relentless march of housing, gave way to a pristinely lit and degraded announcement, The Sovereign.
The ridiculous bomb proof elevator door was the icing on the cake, the end of the tour following an immense checked floor flanked by an antique marble staircase. We made it, and walked out onto the 4rd[sic] Floor. Someone (though I didn't notice for a long while, six days to be exact) was mourning "Leo"; apparently he did not make it. It didn't allude to why he didn't make it, but these things happen. Sleep happened, but after introductions and much adjustment to the idea that I was deep in the heart of Brooklyn waiting to live in New York for eleven days. To say I digress would be a severe understatement...
I'd been there once in 2000 and once in 2001. Both times I was awash in concentrated activity, it was a bit daunting. I tried to focus but my mind was reeling, my thoughts were coming a bit too fast for interesting conversation, I ended up just trying to take everything in.
In March 2000 I was only in town for less than forty-eight hours and an Italian restaurant near the Hotel 31, the Empire State Building, and 222 Bowery were all we could fit in. It was amazing and amazing further for a birthday. Sometimes you have to give yourself a birthday present. In September 2001 my journey was rife with variables, including walking about New Jersey in search of a train to the city at the time of the morning. It was the tail end of a road trip, a smooth road trip considering, complete with a pop-in to Athens, GA. My two block walk to my destination and the debaucherous, pleasure-laden week unfolded beneath my feet in slow-motion though my head sped from life's velocity.
This time...this time I had eleven days. Eleven fucking days...I can get into an immense amount of trouble in eleven days. To while these fine days away, I had the pleasure and privilege of the best tour guide a man could possibly ask for, complete with a home-base two blocks from the subway station.
Waking up early was a distant memory almost immediately; catching the sunset crossing over the Manhattan Bridge is a fair compromise, however, and worth rushing to the train to breathe in.
Wake. Breakfast. Smoke. Nap. Wake at 10PM, two horror movies, exhaustion.
The next morning eating and showering took place and we rushed off...sunset rapidly approaching. We rode the Q toward Coney Island. I'd never been, have you? It's a real damned boardwalk. Fishermen lined the pier and even posed as Katherine took long shots toward the shore. I brought a fragile pocket of warmth in my green suitcase. The evening I arrived and that evening on the edge of the boardwalk---and back, smoking copiously---were a balmy sixty degrees (Fahrenheit). In hindsight I am very glad we did the shore on one of the warm days...
This is precisely what a Monday should feel like. Although I'm fairly certain that coffee and cigarettes happened at some point earlier in the day, we again were incapable of leaving bed until the sun had almost dipped permanently into the West. This evening however we were on a crash course with Manhattan. I was crawling out of my skin to see the night sky obscured by glass steel stone and brick.
This would not be my first sunset while crossing the Manhattan Bridge, but the brilliance of FDR snaking electrically under the speeding train would suffice for tonight. We emerged in the City and after seven years it still took the old breath away. We walked, with eyes skyward, only periodically watching where we were going with nary a collision. Katherine feels the same awe I do in this city. In spite of her familiarity, no contempt has formed. Fifth Avenue came too soon and by committee we decided I should stay outside while she participated in xmas commerce. A murder of silken haired children huddled in mittens and oversized jackets waited in line to enter the store. It was a perverse American scene and I did my best to smoke as far away form the teeming brood as humanly possible. The young men sitting on three and four wheeled pay-conveyances filled my ears with shouts of BIKE TAXI - CARRIAGE - BIKE TAXIIIII. The bored yet passionate drivers rescued one mother and her two daughters from a bitter walk. In the streets people spilled like blood into the gutters and splashed off one another in distorted unison. Complimentary particles that resist bonding in the melee. I chain smoked a shameful six cigarettes while I participate with all five senses in this orgiastic dance. I stood completely still of course, participation can also be observation, just ask Henry Landsberger.
Katherine was very brave and was out sooner than either of us had expected. We were off again in a flash. We waked past Rockefeller Center and I saw the unimpressive display. I wanted to see it, it just wasn't worth hesitating too long. Coffee called and we answered. We pulled up ad took over a sliver of cement in front of Cosi. A NYPD Officer was parked on the curb and his partner was standing in the middle of the sidewalk. It looked like he was watching the traffic going into one of the stores, but he was carrying on a casual conversation with his partner in the car and even gave direction to a few passers-by, "Hey, which way is west?" - to his partner - "That way," - his reply - "Okay ladies, the shopping is that way." How's that for serving and protecting? I worried for a moment about crushing my cigarette out in front of two cops and as if by the power vested in me, the two hopped casually in the car and were gone in a puff of condensed exhaust.
We took our cups of coffee to the side terrace of the New York Central Library. Children and adults alike pulled themselves to the top of those immediately recognizable twin lions and snapped hundreds of photographs as we finished our coffee and smoked four more cigarettes. The icy air began to push beneath my long wool overcoat and the hobo fingers on my year-old gloves reminded me that the cold and I do not get along well at all.
We struck out again into the masses after the brief interlude and Katherine surprised me with a stopover at a pub. Connelly's to be exact, and we settled in and I ordered a pint. It had been a few days since I'd had one and the dark stout was desperately intoxicating. The intoxication subsided immediately, but I knew how to remedy that...
At some point I do believe there is photographic evidence of my tongue and a good portion of my face rammed down a pint glass and submerged in Guinness. Yes, these things happen sometimes. Airbag came on at one point and it seemed a perfect nostalgic cap in a new experience. Three pints is all I could sign up for that evening, the walk and the train ride back to Brooklyn lay ahead.
When we returned to the 4rd floor I rushed to download and process the day's photographs and force them on my loved ones. It became a staple activity every evening, a fine partial collection derived from 800 pictures taken during my visit. My camera failed early on and Katherine, with the tenacity of a Viking on shore leave in Anglo-land she snapped and snipped tiny pieces of reality that paint a picture of that late December and early January while I discovered and realized my addiction.
The next day had Katherine and me up and out of the house just barely on time. We emerged from the underground around Madison Square Garden and were suddenly awash in a sea of cadets in dress-blue uniforms. My nightmare...hordes of cops in every direction for a mile. I made my snarky comments and tried to hold my tongue as the parents and well-wishers kissed, hugged and waxed proud of their young proto-fascist offspring. Truly a dark day, truly a harbinger of doom. We made the rounds to a few small mom and pop shops and finally found an "electronics" store selling postcards at 5/1$. I had sixty names on the postcard list so this price break made the decision for me. We laughed our heads off as we meticulously chose a perfect card for every name. When we walked the cards inside we were patently ignored by the staff. Honestly it would have been quite simple to walk right back out and away with fists full of postcards, but larceny would have made us late for the train to New Jersey so we waited patiently. Once inside the immense innards of Penn Station we sipped hot coffee and waited for our Southern conveyance. We were dive bombed by a pigeon trapped in the station, hit up rudely for spare change and over-observed by families waiting to leave the city for calmer climes.
Katherine's mother picked us up in New Jersey and we sped from suburb into wild. We twisted and turned through the Lovecraft-ian landscape mirroring the banks of the Delaware River as Katherine’s mom gave me a brief historical primer on the area. Once in Lambertville we dropped our bags and promptly took a walk. Lambertville is a tiny slice of Victorian Age America. Every house is a tribute to Victoria's namesake architecture and every sidewalk feels like old Europe. Tiny shops and bookstores dot the quiet, narrow streets and the simple act of walking and observing was similar to slowly lowering your body into a warm, fragrant bath. We crossed the Delaware on a beautiful iron bridge and washed ashore in New Hope Connecticut. New Hope is a similarly tiny and archaic town, though New Hope more closely resembles mountain enclaves in California and Georgia than the Chuthulian neighborhood behind us. New Hope also boasts the most robust and openly homosexual community in the area, which was a welcome sight for yours truly. The more conservativism and bigotry clog the beautiful landscapes of backwoods bergs the more I pray to see a crack in the facade - a glimmer of something real and unashamed pressing its fingers through the heavy curtains of the status quo. New Hope was similarly peppered with tiny unique shops with a heavier influence on Wiccan capitalism, tattoo parlors, Biker clothing shops and flapping rainbow flags. We ended our tour smoking a few cigarettes on a park bench and watching the violent Delaware carry goose and flotsam alike rapidly south. We popped into an antique store on the way home and Katherine’s mother was wrapping up a feast. We ate, talked for a few hours and promptly lost consciousness...
New Year's Eve Day - We were on a secret mission to Philly by mid-day. It was a bitterly cold yet glaringly bright sunny day. I had never spent any time in Philadelphia so I was eager to have a damn good look around. We entered the city and found suitable parking right away. After a quick stop at Dunkin' Donuts we were walking the streets and I looked up in awe as Philadelphia unfolded before us. Our first PA mission was a tour of the Grand Masonic Temple one block from Philly's capital building. My grandfather on my mother's side was a military, then union, then secret society man. He joined the Masons, as many men in his time did, as a result of his union membership, and lived out his life as a member of that secret boy's club. I've always had a side-fascination with the group; though I never experienced a desire to join (I'm not very good with clubs...too many rules...too many assholes you have to be brothers with). Even so, even someone as traditionally-challenged and conformity-allergic as me could feel the tension once inside the building. There is something admittedly awesome about traditions spanning a century or two that interject themselves, no matter how awkwardly, into modern society. The Masons have a claw-hold in America unlike any other country on the planet and they make no bones about it. We were herded into a museum of sorts filled with glass cases containing documents from pre-revolutionary America and from ancient European manifestations of the boy's club mentality. Not unlike their predecessors, the monks, the Masons are expert archivists. In spite of their noxious tendencies I do applaud them (the Masons and the Monks) for being one of the only long-term protectors of ancient documents. Finally we were invited into the main hall where the tour began. Our guide, though he eventually fleshed himself out as a sexist bigot, was a pleasant and very informative host. He made a point of bringing up The DaVinci Code in an effort to push some of the "mystery" away from the organization. However, much like a child who over explains and thus rats himself out, our host created more controversy with his apologist dissertation. The individual "halls" of the temple were ornately decorated to represent factions, both political and historical, of Masonry. I was impressed to see Ancient Egypt and Arabic culture proudly represented. Since 2001 it's been an unspoken rule that these cultures were necessarily inferior to Western culture. This is a gigantic mistake in ignorance (especially since the institutions bigots claim show our superiority have their origins in ancient NON-WESTERN cultures. History is the antithesis to bigotry.). By the end of the tour, I was numb; each room was finer and more ornately decorated than the last. The vast marble floors of the common-area vaults, revealed a decadence most common to religious institutions, and for me, this is sufficient enough evidence of an organization's true intentions and culture.
We stepped back into Philadelphia's downtown circle and a light snow began to fall. As Katherine snapped copious photos of Ben Franklin at his press, the snow began to intensify. In less than five minutes we were both engulfed in a serious snow squall. All around us was white, blistering winds swept through and smoking (even for me) became nearly impossible. We covered several blocks and finally gave up on the futile attempt to find a restaurant to hide in and nourish our bodies. On the way back to the vehicle the snow subsided. In less than 30 minutes Philadelphia had been covered in a soft blanket of fresh snow. Leaving Philly proved to be a logistical challenge, but we eventually made it, and were soon back in New Jersey lying down for a well-deserved nap.
I slept really hard and waking up, in spite of the festivities ahead, proved almost impossible. Once we finally got up and motivated, Sherri showed up and we began the preparation to return to Philly. Poor Katherine had developed and upset stomach and we could tell she was feeling very poorly. Sherri and I both offered to stay and skip the concert but Katherine would not hear it. She is a Life-Soldier, rank of General! We struck out into the inky night and Katherine bravely remained in painful silence. Before we reached the first major freeway, Katherine requested that Sherri stop the car. Sherri pulled into a parking lot along a fancy dining establishment built on a slight hill. Katherine evacuated rapidly and thankfully was able to rid herself of whatever was ailing her. I found it ironic that the person who hasn't had a drink in years would be the first to vomit on New Year's Eve. I was sure that I would follow next...
We got back into the car and carried on. The venue was quite large; it was an industrial building at one time and was nestled snugly in the industrial region northeast of downtown. The wind was blowing violently and the temperature had dropped still further. Gogol Bordello fans stood in punk-rock t-shirts holding their arms trying desperately to finish a last cigarette before entering the venue. We three elected to remain in the car until the last moment. Once outside we were smacked full in the face by the wisdom of our choice. Once inside we found an excellent perch on the balcony near the bar. The Gogol DJ spun a nauseating set but was soon taken over by the East Philadelphia Orchestra. This band blew me away, they played a rousing traditional set of Eastern European folk music. The members were solid musicians and indeed technically savvy (the string section played from sheets of music on stands) and the tuba player was a bouncing, spastic joy to watch! During their set Katherine began feeling ill again and nearly lost consciousness. I walked with her to the car and insisted she rest until she felt comfortable again. It did not take long, she's hardcore. Once back inside we stayed on the floor and watched the absolute chaos that is Gogol Bordello! The show was amazing and they did not disappoint!
After the dust settled, we made out way back to Jersey and hit the sack for a well-deserved and overdue sleep...
The first day of 2009. 2008 was a nightmare year, rife with personal problems, relationship disasters, and parents falling unexpectedly ill and periodically unemployed. 2008 made me consider the mortality of my family and myself more than I have in the past 34 years. I did not enjoy the experience and I looked optimistically to 2009 to make it all better. To just be a year. A good-old-fashioned, normal year. If it was boring, so be it, just please nothing like 2008. We woke lazily mid-day and walked to a nearby bookstore. Both Katherine and I found some real treasures (I found Albert Camus' collected writings from his time in the French Underground circa WWII - Resistance, Rebellion, and Death - 1960 - 1st edition, hardcover). We gathered up the Mom and headed to Cafe Galleria for a phenomenal breakfast/lunch. After lunch we took another leisurely stroll through the picturesque berg and Sherri Katherine and I hit the road for NYC.
Just outside Lambertsville a cop sped up alongside Sherri's car. She jokingly cheered, "Go get 'em!" and just as she completed the sentence he slipped behind us and flipped his lights on. The Jersey Trooper (whose breath was rank according to Katherine's up-close and personal position as passenger) stumbled over putting simple groups of sentences together. He introduced himself by name, rank and jurisdiction (weird...must be new...) and then demanded Insurance and Registration. Katherine worked the Jedi mind trick on him (a smooth combination of name-dropping Lambertsville and claiming we had been "antiquing." New York plates apparently are only acceptable in backwoods Jersey if antiquing was the reason for the visit), and before Sherri could gather her proof of insurance he had warned her to slow down and sent us on our way.
We entered Brooklyn from the south (a first for me) and Sherri dropped us off at The Sovereign. We entered an apartment full of sleeping bodies. Henry (Katherine's brother), Molly (Katherine's sister), Daniel (Molly's boyfriend), Sarah (their cousin), Christian and Tranesha were all recovering from a hell of a NYE party the night prior. Soon the kids were put in order and we began a trek into the city. Katherine and I took a little longer to arrive and met with everyone at Go Sushi on St. Mark's. While we drank sake and gulped rice, a gent named Ben from the Canada wandered drunkenly onto the patio to awkwardly try striking up conversation. He was nice enough, looked like he'd been in a fist-fight recently, and thankfully listened when his lady friend begged him to leave us be. From Go we wandered onto the streets. A serious yen for a hookah lounge was upon us and though the original choice of lounges was closed we accidentally found Revitali on 1st Ave. and St. Mark's. The place was mostly empty when we sat down. The decor was relaxing and the owner, Sam, was pleased to take care of us and very very friendly. We all goofed around with the hookahs and drank our fill. We were having such a good time that people wandering past in the frozen streets stopped, looked inside and then walked in. Sam, realizing the service our party of laughter was performing, refused to let us pay for the last two hookahs or the rest of our drinks. We poured ourselves out of the lounge around 4AM (I love that city) and made our way back to Brooklyn; some via cab and a few of us via subway.
Daniel and Molly cooked up a fearsome feast for everyone and ushered in the day perfectly. Katherine and I elected to rest our weary bones and troll around the house all day, finally capping the evening with a double feature of Henry & June and The Cell. Perfect.
Woke and escaped to the city...
Had a bastard of a time with the trains, the R local was not running and both Katherine and I were suffering from hunger-induced retardation. Once we were on point, we opted to leave the underground and wander Little Italy in search of nourishment. The air was frigid and walking around soon seemed like a massive error. Chinatown and Little Italy were teeming with weekend consumers and shoppers. We walked all over Chinatown trying to find a certain restaurant that Katherine wanted to tale me too, but in the end had to give up on it as the cold became too much. We paused on a street corner re-aligning our thoughts to search in Little Italy while Katherine told a story: when she was about fifteen, she had been standing on that very street corner and a man had propositioned her, "Hey, want to get a room?" and shown her a wad of bills. She fled inside the nearest restaurant and after telling them the story, they sat her down with a hot cappuccino until her ride arrived. I made a command decision and suggested that since we were literally on the front stoop, we should eat at Puglia, for the sake of the story! When we walked past the plastic door cover, we were awash in party-goers. A hundred people sat and stood waving white napkins over their heads and dancing drunkenly to synthesizer accordions while the birthday boy cheered them all on. It was manic and a perfectly warm welcome from the winter streets and mindless stoic pedestrians. We were shown to a joining dining room and settled in for a fine Italian meal. A college football game between Atlanta and Arizona...strangely enough...held our rapt attention until my beer and our pizza arrived. The pizza was a cheese and garlic dripping masterpiece and we both applauded our decision to come to Puglia (and quietly thank XO for being such a difficult restaurant to find!). We finished off dinner with a piece of authentic NY cheesecake. Though I paused for a moment thinking Katherine had made an error by ordering only one piece, I was soon educated on the density of NY Cheesecake. I could not have finished a piece on my own if my life depended on it! Before we had decided to walk back out into the wind and cold, we were greeted by the Mexi-Elvis commanding the synthesizer. He gave the dining room and excellent show, his sideburns, giant belt-buckle and self-embroidered dress shirt (bearing his name) left us laughing uncontrollably! I posed for a necessary snapshot with him before leaving.
I was moderately lost by this point, so I was surprised when we turned onto Bowery and Katherine poked me, "Look where we are..." 222 Bowery. She snapped a few photos of me in front of the iconic doorway. The place had cleaned up immensely since my last visit in 2000. There was a still a bum off to my right as the picture was taken, but the walkway was well lit, the lights were on inside the re-modeled foyer, Mr. John Giorno had a name placard for the 3rd floor, and the BUNKER had a placard for the fourth floor next to the call-box. We both toyed with the idea of pressing the button but reminded ourselves that every other douche who'd ever heard of Giorno had probably done the same thing. Our next stop was another icon for me, The Strand Bookstore. 18 miles of books...or so they say. The Strand was filled with people perusing, discussing, and buying books. Truth be told, it was just full enough to warrant slight discomfort. Too much human exhaling, I say. We both tripped nostalgic through the fiction section, art section, and a stop off or two in non-fiction. I picked up the latest Saul Bellow (which I greatly regretted. I loved Herzog, but Ravelstein made me write Saul off altogether. I'm sure my disdain for Bellow and his subject (Neo-Conservative philosopher Allan Bloom) will make it onto this blog at some point), as well as Tropic of Cancer. We both found far too many books to take with us and settled on buying only 50$ worth of what we wanted. The vapid poorly-tattooed girl at the counter commented to me that Tropic was a good book. I asked sincerely if she felt it held up against the Rosy Crucifixion Trilogy and she pretended to know what I was talking about but never answered. Her feigned knowledge compelled me to explain that it was odd, I had read his entire catalog, but had somehow saved the Tropic's for last. She continued to pretend to know what I was talking about and Katherine and I had a laugh about it after leaving the store.
We stopped for supplies before hitting the Q train back to B-lyn. While swilling fine French-press coffee we both confessed hunger pangs and Katherine whipped up a pesto pasta and parmesan biscuits that had me teetering on sleep by the first time I smelled the delicate aromas waft in fro the kitchen. I sat and completed my postcards back to the Left Coast while she prepared the meal and after a short glass of Hendricks’s I passed out unhindered by insomnia.
We got out of the house on time!
*PARADE NOISES --- ACCOLADES OF STRANGERS -- DRUM-CORP POUNDING THEIR APPRECIATION!*
Today we had very important plans. Today we had a date with Dr. and Dr. Goldflam, their son Luca and the lovely Sasha. The night prior a disjointed text-discussion between Dr. Goldflam and I ended with a commitment to meet at NoHo Star. Katherine had suggested it, and Dr. Goldflam had been impressed..."I was just going to say that. Okay, NoHo Star." The Star is a nice little place, gorgeous wait-staff to say the least. The food was excellent as well, but you could certainly tell that coming early was the best policy. The place filled to capacity and overflowing before we had received our coffee. After we finished out meals we elected to take a stroll around the area, The Dr.'s wanted to take Luca to one of his favorite toy stores around the corner. As we walked up Bowery, I saw a tangential friend. He's the boyfriend of a friend of my ex-girlfriend (wow, that's convoluted) and he and I had bonded in the periods between our lady-friend's photo-shoots and various responsibilities. In Tampa, during a convention he and I had run around being hoodlums while the ladies worked at their conference booths. We both welcomed the distraction. I recognized him as he walked past, failed to recall his name ('cause I suck like that) but stopped him nonetheless. It's just too random to see an acquaintance months and months later randomly walking down a street in Manhattan. After the toy store, we all decided that the day should not come to an end, so we piled in the Dr.'s motor vehicle and made tracks for Queens. The Goldflam's live in a quite little neighborhood that still had a little light snow collected in the driveways and front yards. We settled in to continue playing catch-up, played games with Luca (smart little bugger!), had some drinks and I ended up feeling a ridiculous drunken happiness pour over me. Good food, good drinks, good people, again, this is the trifecta la vida! Unfortunately, we capped the evening with a viewing of Sweeney Todd which, in spite of Sascha Cohen, was the WORST movie I've ever seen. Dreadful. Horrid. Pathetic. Ugh. Circa 1AM Dr. Goldflam dropped us off at the Long Island Train and we smoked a few cigarettes before it arrived. We were A LONG WAY from B-lyn and I was amped about a new rail-adventure. The Train was more like a traditional above-ground train (much like the one we took to New Jersey days prior) and we had the whole thing to ourselves owing to the lateness of the ride. We were back in Penn Station in no time and on foot to the Q. I became impatient waiting for the Q back to Brooklyn...buck up camper, it's only been 20mins! My LA must have been showing *blush*
Woke late, even had to take a nap (zzzzz). Tonight was dress-up night. I donned my suit, scarf and overcoat, Katherine wore a pristine lace-top dress that placed her somewhere in an upscale basement Speak-easy 1920. She would not divulge our mission so we rode the subway in style, I in grand anticipation. We made our way to Vanderbilt Hall, and slipped up a non-assuming iron-doored elevator. It looked like a service of employee elevator which serves to turn away your typical tourista. We emerged into a second floor hall and slipped through the dark entrance to Campbell's Apartment, a swank lounge on the mezzanine level at Grand Central Terminal created from the former business office of prewar businessman John W. Campbell, who transformed the space into a pre-Renaissance palace worthy of a Medici. We sit and relax, I have a Sapphire and tonic and soon we are bathed in comfort and conversation. No matter the setting, we always have words, and they never disappoint. After a second drink we make tracks in search of dinner. Katherine takes me to the Algonquin (of Dorothy Parker fame) but we are soon told that they are only serving drinks and hors d'oeuvres. Disappointed we try another place down the street, but again, we are too late and the Taste of India turns us away. As we wandered, we passed a hokey little New York diner called The Red Flame. Both of us gleefully pile into the small front doorway. The staff was bored, on the verge of going home for the night. We are seated and wait patiently for our greasy-spoon magnificence. It turns out to be the best of all choices for the evening and we eat manically and sit back, full-stomached to reflect over coffee. Passers-by look, stop, and then smile and hug their loved ones. They find it romantic to see a couple so dressed and whiling away the early morning hours in a run-down diner.
Woke late again...big surprise...seems a bit of a pattern formed, eh? Rain pelted the Parade Grounds mercilessly and for a moment I contemplated the joyous possibility that I'd be kidnapped by NYC's weather and made to stay longer! We spent the morning between coffee and cigarettes discussing the state, or rather the great unrest of the word and its untidy and psychotic leanings toward not only self destruction but utter barbarity. The inanity of reproduction and the cruelty one must be capable of in order to bring a child into this corrupt and unsalvageable gene pool. I left Tropic of Cancer with Katherine, she began reading it the night we returned from the Strand bookstore and laughed out loud repeatedly. That, my friends is a dear gift that most cannot bestow in the same perfect and yet frazzled style of Mr. Miller. She'll return it to me when she finishes, but for now it is in deserving hands and it will be an excellent first Miller book for her. On a side note, it sounds like Dr. Jones will be taking on DFWallace soon. I'm excited for him, I hope he gets as much out of his writing as I have all of these years. So, back to it... Katherine decided to be a pirate tonight *smile* So, armed with long admiral's coat, and spiked boots with no less than twenty eyeholes we struck out into the damp Brooklyn nightfall. How fitting that is should piss rain on my last day in town, NYC seemed to yearn desperately to provide me with reason to remain. New York, you need not try so hard, it costs a mere 150$ on Virgin to have me all to yourself! Please, accept my permission to indulge often!
We took the Q through to Canal and transferred to the 6 train uptown. A bit of a misnomer as we ended up on what is famously called the Lower East Side. Cornered by Houston and Orchard, we found warmth and the Snowboard Crew in the Sixth Ward. Monthly, sometimes more frequently, the Snowboard Crew gets together for happy hour at varied locations. It is part reunion, part dating circle, part meet and greet. Everyone I met was a delight and I tied few pints on quite enjoyably in spite of knowing only Katherine and Sherri. After we'd had enough, we piled (we = Katherine, Sherri, Audri, myself) into Sherri's car and headed toward Bowery. Kenka was chosen as our feeding destination. Upon entering I was struck by the place's Blade Runner ambience, not to mention the enormous Raccoon on the front porch with red shining lights for eyes under a Japanese hat of straw. The tables were solid, in that they had four walls, and there was no way to put your feet under the table. The chairs were miniature; apparently they do not permit people with large backsides to eat there, such a shame. The menu was psychotic and busy, but I was finally able to settle on the Pork Cutlet as the safest and hopefully tastiest choice. The secondary menus had illustrated pictures of extremely hardcore Japanese bondage...nice! Other highlights included a large bear doll on wall and a small porcelain chalice with what looked like a picture of OJ Simpson on it, brilliant. My meal was excellent. The strange and dense BBQ sauce (plum?) was good enough to lick from its bowl (and how!). I made my way to the restroom. At first I was a bit afraid, both door signs were in Japanese characters and I couldn't discern the difference. However as I looked at the doorknobs I realized that the men's had a small cutout of Japanese porn (medieval) showing a penis and a vagina for the ladies. Sherri was in rare form and it was a genuinely amazing night. I stepped out for a smoke in the shark bowl (as Katherine calls it) and the falling rain was illuminated by the gaudy yellow lights and came down as light daggers from a completely black sky. The smoking area was a small space between the buildings littered with Japanese signs, rice paper and bamboo shades and a myriad of heavily decorated bulb-shaped lanterns. The heavy, sodden, yellow light and the hand painted decorations created perfect environment, I could not think of anything to add or subtract from the scene. Henry joined us as we finished polishing off our fried ice cream treats. Henry elected to hit Mamoun's for his food and we made our way back outside. Kenka gives you a small cup of pink sugar before you leave to create your own cotton candy dessert. Yes...cotton candy...we walked out front to the machine, poured the crystals into the center of the machine and twirled a stick to catch the candy. I wasn't very good at it and lamented that mine was quite a bit "smaller" than the ladies. Henry rejoined us and Sherri SPED (nutcase driver) off across the Manhattan Bridge toward home. We dropped Audri off first, then Sherri. Sherri was kind enough to loan Katherine her car to take my punk ass to the airport (THANK YOU Sherri!). As we approached the Parade Grounds it became apparent that parking would be a nightmare so we let Henry off. As we were stopping he said, "If it smells like Sage when you get there, it's because...I was burning sage." He laughed and I spoke up, "Yo, save some for me." "You smoke pot?" "Like a motherfucker!" I'd seen Henrys' pipe a few nights prior but didn't know if it was something I should bring up. Katherine and I drove around for another half hour and finally lucked into a spot on Parkside. Katherine had to flip a tough u-turn but slipped perfectly into the spot. We stayed up for a bit watching Samurai Seven with Henry but inevitably we had to retire.
It rained hard through the night...relentless. Martin Luther King (aka ORION!) made his final appearance screaming at the top of his mentally-distorted lungs that he BELIEVED! Katherine beat on the ceiling with the broom, to no avail. She's going to end up having to call the cops on that piece of shit. It was a sad morning, sad to leave, sad to prepare to leave. They grey morning stretched out before us replete with traffic jams and unreadable streets signs, but in the end I made it to JKF in time. We hugged a final time at the terminal and I bade Katherine a temporary farewell. I had a final spot of worry as I could not find a check-in station for Virgin American and ended up taking two laps around the front of the terminal. I finally found it, with 15 minutes until boarding. I made it sloooooooooooowly through security, though I must admit it was smoother than LAX. I found the terminal and relaxed onto the ground leaning up against a wall. My flight home was blessed (a second time!) by an empty seat between my row-mate and I. I tried to write on the plane, but not much came through. My head and eyes were still abuzz from New York and the brain was refusing to accurately translate into words. I resigned to read instead and took notes when my mind was focused enough to do so.
When I touched down in LA she was covered in a brown haze. It felt like Spring instead of Winter, as is par for the course in Los Angeles' endless seasonal-shenanigans. Walking off the plane I was surrounded by the familiar again, house-wives in 300$ velour track suits and 60,000$ wedding rings. Children (both young and old) with angular haircuts and black jeans that may as well be ballet tights. Even Manhattan on a Saturday night contains only a fraction of the frenzy Los Angelinos whip up at LAX. Once outside I lit my first return cigarette and waited for the Flyaway. Los Angles looked the same, for that I was comforted. Yet, she looked different all the same, changed, aged, and perhaps a little less mysterious now. I've been here for four years now and it was the first time I had seen LA as an old lover, a familiar sight, but no longer as exciting. I vacillated between morbid disappointment and an unstoppable urge to write my fingers off for every moment of the rest of my life. I thank my twin cities of ecstasy for never disappointing me and, as ever, inspiring me to no end.
I was bereaved to leaving New York. Katherine had given me an immeasurable gift by making New York mine, making it a little piece (like many I have collected over the years) of the Earth I can truly call home.
I hope you have missed me Los Angeles, for even though I made sweet, dirty, sweaty, fuck with your sexy sister I long, more than ever to be nestled firmly between your succulent and polluted thighs. Amen.