March 30, 2004
E.W. reminded me of an article in the NYTimes, "Bowling Ball From 17th Floor Narrowly Misses 3 Officers." The first year I lived in New York, I spent two months living on the upper west side in a hotel with weekly rates. It was advertised as "European style living," which meant that the shared bathroom was down the hall. A friend had lived there her first few months in the city and assured me that while it was run down, the place was clean. I paid one week in cash and moved my few belongings in.
The first night I woke with something tickling my arm. I brushed it off and turned on the lights. The room was crawling with roaches. I moved the bed to the center of the room and slept from then on with the lights on. The next morning the lobby attendant gave me a bug bomb and told me to stay out of the room for at least 8 hours after setting it off.
That weekend, as I was walking along Broadway, I heard a commotion ahead of me. It was early in the morning but I could hear a few voices and the shattering of glass. As I came closer I saw bottles flying through the air, smashing on the street. A figure was screaming from a sixth floor window. Occasionally his head would disappear and then a bottle would fly out from the darkness of the room. I can't remember police being on the scene, but soon the figure was either restrained or he ran out of bottles.
From the article: "The practice of throwing things at police officers from rooftops and other high places is somewhat common in New York, enough so that the targets have a name for it. They call it airmail."
March 29, 2004
Dim Sum at the Holiday Inn
Yesterday, I.T. asked me if I wanted to meet for lunch. We decided on dim sum, and he suggested the Holiday Inn on Lafayette and Howard. He said he liked the restaurant on the second floor. The atmosphere was festive. A birthday party was being held in the front dining room. "We won't be quite so lucky," I.T. said, as he led us to the back. The food was good; the surroundings mellow. I.T. was surprised the rest of the dining rooms were so empty.
The last time I ate in a hotel restaurant was in China. I was visiting Shaoxing with my father, and we decided at the last minute to spend the night. Our hotel was on the edge of town, and that night as we wandered the darkened streets around it, we soon realized there were no restaurants in the area.
On the way back from the Holiday Inn, I.T. noticed a CD taped to a lamppost. He tore it off, wondering what was burned onto it. The letter "K" was stenciled onto CD. On the front of the sleeve was a silhouette of a face made out of felt; on the back were the words "Save New York." The CD had three audio tracks on it, a sort of electronic beat with a vocal track reminiscent of The Notwist. I.T. put the CD into his laptop, but there was no more information to be gleaned.
March 26, 2004
Today is my last day of work at CMW. Last night I went out with Y.C. to celebrate. We ended up at Chickalicious for dessert, which didn't disappoint. Now, I'm trying to finish up freelance work so I can get moving and do some travelling. I'm also waiting to receive my renewed passport in the mail, which is the main thing delaying my ability to make plans.
Last night I dreamed I went to France. At the airport I realized I hadn't yet received my passport. With an hour to go before my flight, an agent told me that I could get a temporary sheet of paper from the passport office and that everything would be fine. It wasn't until I got to France that I also realized I hadn't packed. All I had was a gym bag with shorts and a few T-shirts. And I had left my maps and guidebooks back in New York.
There was someone with me, but I can't remember who. She told me that I should go to Chartes and another nearby town I hadn't visited. She told me that I could go by public transportation, that there was a train that would drop me off, but she didn't know where. I suddenly found a map in my hands and pointed out the route. She was surprised I could read French. I told her that it wasn't so hard. Somehow the map was in English.
March 24, 2004
Subway Story No. 7
Depending on when I get up and out of the apartment in the morning, there's a woman I run into semi-regularly on the subway platform of the N/R train. We stand in the same spot, near the pay phone, to embark. She's usually drinking from a large paper cup purchased from Dean & Deluca. At 14th Street she'll disembark if the express has arrived across the platform; otherwise, I leave before her, at 23rd street. I first noticed her shoes. Looking at past photographs, I've discovered her in the corner of a frame, wearing a white macrame poncho. Today we spoke for the first time. I complimented her on her pants.
March 21, 2004
It's a Saturday night and I ain't got nobody
It's a bit of a late night. It began at J.C.'s 30th birthday party. She held it at S.'s new bar, which is not quite ready for prime time. The interior has yet to be finished, but his drinks are still some of the best I have ever tasted. The construction site look of things has some cachet, however, which makes me think it might be interesting to open a bar called "Work in Progress," with the smell of fresh cut wood and wet paint about it. You'd have to be careful where you put your glass. I left with black paint on my fingertips.
One of G.L.'s friends, a costume designer, wore a dress made of feathers. She had bought it, but she could have made it. She insisted we all could have. "It's not hard to hot glue feathers to tulle," she said. Throughout the night she molted, leaving feathers in her wake. She gave them away as souvenirs. I stuck one behind my right ear and then G. insisted I tuck another behind my left. "Doesn't he look like Puck?" she asked. I was worried I'd be mistaken for Mercury. "It's so Dead Poets," her friend said. I told her I'd kill myself later for her. She told me I had to get naked first and stand in front a window.
Three drinks later I left for S.J.'s loft party. He had moved in months ago, but this was the first time he was inviting people over. The space is beautiful. A few weeks ago, B. was talking about the lack of loft parties in Manhattan, due to the few who can now afford them. They've been moved to Williamsburg and the like. S. seems to be one of those fortunate few to be able to revive them on the island.
Just after arriving the music stopped. A fuse had apparently blown. S.J. fiddled with the stereo as his roommate looked on anxiously. "You know, you can play cds through the DVD player," she said. She moved S. away from the stereo. Moments later, 50 Cent started pumping out of the TV. The screen held a static Panasonic test image.
Around two I got up to leave. It was raining; I was hungry. After seeing T.J. to a cab I called G.L. She told me she had just arrived at Hop Kee and to come eat. We had met up the night before for dinner with J.C. and D.I. The birthday girl was nowhere to be seen. "She went home," G. told me. We ate salt and pepper squid and then string beans sauteed with garlic. I ate and dropped grains of rice on my sweater.
When we left, the staff played cards near the kitchen. G. excused herself for a moment and I talked with her friend about umbrellas. G. returned and as we walked out, S. walked in with the remnants of his party. "Stay for a drink?" he offered, motioning with his hand. I told him I was going home, and that I was with the two people who just walked up the stairs. We said goodbye a second time and I climbed the stairs of Hop Kee to emerge for the second night in a row onto the shuttered streets of Chinatown.
March 20, 2004
The Sunrise supermarket just opened a branch around the corner from me. The space is large, and there's a small terraced second floor. I had heard rumors of its opening from a friend a few weeks before, but was afraid to get my hopes up until I walked by and saw the "coming soon" sign. Last night I walked in for the first time. In the frozen food section I saw the brand of green tea ice cream I like. I reached for a pint and then saw the half-gallon. They're open seven days a week. I'll never be without green tea ice cream again.
March 19, 2004
A few weeks ago I was in the mood to listen to 80s electronic bands. Anything Box is one that I return to on occasion, if only for "Living in Oblivion." While researching further, I came across mention of Worth, their lost album. Recorded after their debut, the album was never officially released due to contractual disputes. One review compared it to Depeche Mode's Black Celebration, calling it "one of the most beautifully dark synth-pop albums ever made." It's piqued my interest. But until I find the time and energy to hunt for it I'll have to make do with Depeche Mode. And I haven't felt so alive. In years.
Subway Story No. 6
This morning a woman tried to cajole her daughter into taking the train. She promised toys at the end of the ride. She promised that the place they were going would be fun. Her daugher wasn't convinced. She clung to the wall, petulant.
Nearby, another woman had a different approach to her charge. She carried her dog on her back in a mesh carrier cum backpack.
March 18, 2004
Some of the Gypsy Kings
I've just returned from the Au Bar. C's cousin is in town with her husband on her belated honeymoon, and she invited me to join them. A mutual friend managed to put us on the guest list. Two former members of the Gypsy Kings, Manolo & Lito, were the featured performers. It's not a place you would associate with dancing on the tables, but two songs into their set, the coffee tables were supporting groups of people angling for a better view, their feet knocking over the wineglasses perched on the edges.
The first time I went to the bar was years ago. It was almost empty, and our small group was the only one on the dance floor. This evening, C. didn't dance, but S. did, and the floor was packed. And her cousin's husband was hit upon by other men. "Serves him right for wearing red," she said.
On an unrelated note, Sunrise Mart opened up a branch on Broome and West Broadway, just around the corner from me. I'll never be without green tea ice cream again.
March 17, 2004
Subway Story No. 5
A man wore a sandwich board on the uptown six train. The sign advocated Gravity Transduction Mechanisms as an alternate form of energy, over even solar power. At Astor Place a group of students boarded. One wore a huge green hat in celebration of St. Patrick's Day. Another had jammed an Irish flag into her backpack. They looked over the sandwich board and asked questions of the man. The man handed out flyers.
One of the students said he had an invention of his own, the double-lidded peanut butter jar. "You know how when you get to the bottom it's hard to get it out? Just turn it over and unscrew the bottom." One of his friends pointed out that peanut butter now came in squeeze tubes. The inventor was unfazed. Personally, I think there's something wrong about squeezing peanut butter out of a tube like toothpaste.
March 16, 2004
On Sunday I took the Hoboken Ferry for the first time. I was attending a dinner at L.'s with E. We walked down the west side as the sun set. Clouds obscured the view, and the brisk air felt like the coming of winter, not the spring that should soon arrive. The sky had the look of late Fall.
The city was beautiful from the water. Lights ran along the shore, the Empire State building stood tall. I couldn't quite imagine the new downtown; I'm not a fan of the Freedom Tower. The most interesting new building soon to be built in New York for me is that of the New Museum, designed by Sejima + Nishizawa/SANAA.
Dinner was delicious. The wine was good. The company was excellent. Leaving the apartment, J. offered her skateboard for me to ride. The wood was pliable, but the trucks were too tight. I can't remember the last time I rode a skateboard. Cruising down a small hill on a Hoboken sidestreet, I remembered the feeling of Sunday nights in autumn growing upthe desire for one last hour of sunlight to delay the coming week, and the Monday morning school bus ride that introduced it.
Links: New Museum, SAANA.
March 12, 2004
Last night I met up with Evan We hadn't seen each other in two years or more. We went to the John Waters exhibit at the New Museum and then, after a brief drink, to see Michael Ackerman's new show. I had forgotten the opening was that night and asked Evan if he wanted to go. He told me he had worked with Michael at his first job in the city, at a daily newspaper that now exists under a different banner. They hadn't seen each other in almost ten years.
As we wandered the narrow gallery, Evan found a friend of his who he introduced to me. Her name was Elinor and after a moment we realized we had met three or four years ago. I had worked with her husband at a now-defunct internet company. We had met at one of her openings in Chelsea around the time her first book came out. She's working on collecting her second. She and Evan are currently working on a series of Patricia Highsmith covers.
March 10, 2004
I haven't had whole milk in a long time. I don't remember when I started drinking 2% and then non-fat milk, but I now have a hard time drinking whole milk.
The last time I was in Taiwan (almost 10 years ago), I stayed with an uncle. The first morning I was severely jetlagged and walked down the unfamiliar concrete steps into the kitchen for breakfast. He offered me cereal and milk. I took a spoonful of cereal; the milk dripped from the spoon in silken threads. I had never had milk so rich. But I was guest, and so I smiled, thanked him for his hospitality, and slowly ate my meal.
March 8, 2004
Dr. Jones Dr. Jones, Calling Dr. Jones
I just made an appointment for a physical. I haven't seen a doctor in almost four years. D. tells me that people are usually methodical when they choose a new doctor. They ask for referrals from friends, check on references. I chose the first doctor on a list of doctors near my office. She has the same last name as a family friend.
The last doctor I visited only for immunization. I was planning a six month trip through Southeast Asia and wanted to see what shots I needed. I chose him at random out of a book of in-network doctors. After the first round of shots, he asked me if I knew he was a specialist in vaccinations and travel medicine. He had practiced in Africa and was current on all the necessary vaccinations for travelling in third world countries. I told him no, that I just liked his name when looking through a list. He smiled and said he'd see me next week.
(Wake up, now)
March 5, 2004
Last night, P. talked of India. He showed us pictures on the back of his camera. He showed us a woman dancing on the edge of a sword, eight pots balanced atop her head. He showed us a tiger preserve devoid of tigers. He showed us the Taj Majah, shrouded in fog. Actually, he told us, the fog made it even more magical.
There's a fog in New York. The tops of buildings disappear into it. It feels almost like a light rain, and threatens to turn into one. I can't remember the last fog I walked through, though I remember the sandstorms in Beijing, and the rains that followed us through the Three Gorges.
As P. talked, I thought of train stations and sleeper cars. Thirty-hour train rides. A country passing by the window. And my passport, which needs to be renewed.
March 4, 2004
A few nights ago, U. told me she's planning on renouncing her Japanese citizenship. I've never been a citizen of another country, but something about the idea seems frightening, as if it would leave you without identity. It's hard enough sometimes to know where you're from. There's an article in this past weekend's New York Times magazine on the death of languages. The reporter travelled to Tierra del Fuego to track down the last six speakers of Kawesqar. I seem often to lament the loss of things. It must be one of the reasons why I have a hard time throwing things away.
On the other hand, I lost a scarf last week and saw it as a sign of the coming spring. It felt like the right time to lose a thing like that.
March 3, 2004
Last night I attended a wedding. I didn't know the couple, but my cousins arrived after the ceremony. I remember most the food. And the cookies. Before that, I was in an unfamiliar house with Jet Li. We were amiable, but it was understood that we needed to fight each other. And so we did. For hours. Until the owners arrived home and we agreed to postpone our fight for another day. Surprisingly, I was holding my own.
March 1, 2004
I took a trip to Governors Island, courtesy of B. and the New Globe project. We toured the island, then were were allowed into Castle Williams. I had been in the courtyard before, but this time our guide unlocked the towers and ushered us onto the roof. The views from all sides are spectacular. The tip of Manhattan rises to the north, the island spreads out to the south, and the views into the crumbling cells made me shudder. Our guide then took us back into the castle, allowing us passage through the semi-circular hallway. At one end he led us into another tower, but the light failed and the door was locked. We backtracked to where we entered.
A high school friend of mine grew up on Governors Island. I was enthralled when I heard. To grow up on an island seemed a dream. The island now is oddly preserved, awaiting its future. The lawns and buildings sit uninhabited. Playgrounds stand empty. There is activity on the island, but nothing like what has been or what will be to come. Walking upon it, not yet public, not wholly private, is like inhabiting a caesura.