April 30, 2004
Byblos by the sea
Beirut, LebanonLast night I fell asleep waiting for S.S. to call. I awoke at midnight, unable to fall back asleep. Once I did I dreamed; I woke not remembering them.
The manager at the guest house suggested I take a service taxi to Charles Helou. I had told him the night before I wanted to visit Byblos. He looked at his watch; it was past eight. "Tonight, too late," he said. No, I assured him. Tomorrow. We had talked in the car from the airport. I asked him how long he had been in Beirut. "Nine years," he told me. Before that he had spent over two years in Australia. He had gone on vacation when the war broke out, and he chose to stay.
Before the war, his father owned a number of guesthouses. Now they have only the one. But, Sami tells me, they are opening another floor. "Rooms with bathrooms." He beams when he tells me this. They will open next month.
I found a service taxi outside the building. Yesterday it seemed all but impossible, but today the first driver agreed. At the station, drivers asked me if I were bound for Damascus. Not yet. I walked to the Tripoli buses and told the ticket taker my destination. O.K., he said. The bus was almost empty. I asked when the bus would leave. "Five minutes," he told me. To my surprise, five minutes later it did.
Lulled by the guidebook's estimated one hour travel time and by the bad made-for-tv sci-fi video, I stopped paying attention to the road. As an hour approached, I looked out the window. "Bienvenue a Chekka," it said. I looked at my map. Biblos had passed and we were near Tripoli.
I walked up to the driver and asked after my stop. He sighed apologetically. "Byblos," he said, then sighed again. He held his hand, palm up, his fingers together. He stopped the bus on the highway and told me to cross the street to flag down another bus. I thanked him. He held his head to the side and raised his eyebrows in apology.
Not ten minutes later a minivan beeped. "Byblos?" I asked. The driver nodded. After he picked up two more passengers he asked again my destination. A woman behind me translated. "You been to Byblos," she asked? No, I told her. I want to go there. She translated. "Where do you want to go to Byblos?" she asked. The old city, I hazarded. She translated. The van stopped and the driver and the woman pointed down a side road. "Get off here," she said. "Walk around. See everything." She pointed. I thanked them both and alighted.
Byblos lies by the sea, protected by two natural harbors. Once a main port, its fortunes waned with the loss of control of Homs and the subsequent trade route. The city was named by the Greeks after the word for papyrus for the papyrus shipped from Egypt to Greece via its port, which was famed through the Greek world.
A renovated souk leads the way to the Crusader castle. The market has a bit of the flavor of Lijiang; the renovation creates a Disney-esque quality. The stores cater mainly to tourists, selling antiques, pipes, inlaid boxes, and fosselized fish.
The ruins of the Crusader castle dominates the medieval ramparts. I wandered around the remnants of the town first, climbing up to the theatre, with the Mediterranean its stunning blue backdrop. Tourist boats left the harbor for the sea. Passengers screamed as they crashed through the waves; their voices rose from below.
The castle itself houses an impressive museum. I wandered through its renovated parts, before climbing up along its fortress wall for its view over the site out to the horizon.
I hailed a minibus for the ride back to Beirut. Once at the Dora station I found another service taxi to take me to the center of town. The driver asked where I was from. I told him I was Chinese. "You know karate?" he asked. He sliced the air in front of him with his palms. No, I replied, grinning. "You not know karate?" He sliced the air again. I shook my head. "Everybody in China knows karate," he said. No, not everyone, I told him. Then I relented. Maybe Tai Chi, I said. He smiled and nodded, seemingly pleased with my response.
April 29, 2004
I have arrived
Beirut, LebanonThis morning I caught my first glimpse of the Mediterranean Sea. Last night it lay a black void on the edge of the city; today it was an undulating blue. I arrived after 10pm, the flight on schedule. At the airport I struggled to find a phone and then a phone card until an attendant at the rental car counter offered me his. I called my guesthouse and ten minutes later Sami Al Hamra appeared at the gate. He had a small boy in tow, who he introduced as his neighbor's kid. I introduced myself to the boy. He shook my hand then shied away, laughing, in the back seat.
This morning I awoke at seven. The reception desk was closed. I had decided to spend the morning at Saida, a small town south of the city, once noted as a prominent and wealthy Phoenician city. It dates back 6000 years.
The bus let us off near the old city. From there I made my way to the Soap Museum, sponsored by the Audi family. The museum is set in a house which boasts a small courtyard and cafe. There is little on display, but the soap they have for sale is beautiful. I picked up a free map and then proceeded to the Sea Castle on the edge of town.
Built by the Crusaders in the early 13th century, the castle was once the site of a temple to Melkart, the Phoenician Hercules. What remains is a battered shell of its former self. From there I proceeded to lose myself in the old quarter, trying to navigate the labyrinthine streets and alleyways. On looking for the Al-Omari-el-Kabir mosque, I wandered into a side courtyard. A boy directed me to the main entrance. I followed the motion of his hands and found myself in my first mosque. The courtyard was elegant, the arched hallway hung with wrought iron lanterns. A man prayed in the main sanctuary.
From there I toured the Ottoman Debbane Palace, where the rooms on all three floors circled an open central room. The views from the roofs was unparallelled.
Returning to Beirut, I walked past the masses of taxi drivers at the station to the National Museum. A short film exhibited its reconstruction after the war. Scenes of the sarcophogi emerging from the concrete bunkers built to shield them were particularly moving, not the least of which for the music that played beneath the images and the dramatic use of slow motion photography. The elegant displays traced the historical development of Lebanese art through the ages. Links to Egyptian and Greek art were easily discernable. Perhaps the most beautiful were the mosaics that were preserved, one depicting the seven wise men placed in the center of the main floor.
On leaving I asked if I could catch a bus to Raouche. The guard told me he didn't think the buses were running. A woman told me I could wait across the street and try my luck. The driver of the number 24 bus told me to wait for "one five." A small bus passed, a man called out "Raouche! Ain-el-Mreisse!" I climbed in.
He dropped me off at the Pigeon Rock. The two stone towers reminded me somewhat of Tanah Lat, as the sea had carved an opening through one. A man with a polaroid camera offered to take my picture. He showed me a photo where the water was an impossible blue. I declined, but shortly thereafter a group of Lebanese men engaged his services. Further on, another photographer shot a woman against the setting sun.
I wandered further then paused at the Palace Cafe. This morning I had driven along the sea, staring at it from the window of the moving bus. This afternoon I sat beside it. The sea salted the air. I sat and ate a plate of hummus and drank a small pot of Turkish coffee. Nearby, at table 99, three women gossiped and smoked a fruit filled nargileh. The sweet smoke washed over me, as if carried on the waves. Nearby, a single fisherman stood on a small promontory, casting his fate into the sea.
April 27, 2004
Next stop, Beirut!
Well, Amman. Then Beirut. I'm still trying to figure out which subway to take to get to Airtrain. I was going to take the A but S.L. tells me that the A's not running and I should take the E. I suppose the E is ultimately closer to my apartment. But not by much.
Take care, all!
A situation in Damascus
E.W. just im'd me about explosions in Damascus. Early reports state that a band of "terrorists" set off bombs near the Iranian embassy, in front of the British ambassador's house and the Saudi Arabian embassy. Syrian security forces apprehended one "terrorist" and killed three. It gives me pause when I consider Damascus, but looking at the map, the area of town where the explosions took place are far from where I'd want to visit. Still, I thought about skirting around the city. I'm hoping it's a localized event and the government will have it under control. I'll have to monitor the situation from the road.
In other news, T.K. put me in touch with a friend of his who's flying into Beirut on Thursday. She's a photojournalist working out of the Middle East. She's planning on staying in the city for a month. We're planning on dinner after she gets in.
This morning I made a final run to look at bags, starting with Triple 5 Soul. After checking three more stores I went back. I'm going to be stylin'. I had first looked at a green bag, but when I returned, someone else was in the process of selecting it. One of the salesmen told me he knew I'd be back. I consoled myself by reasoning that green is too military, and I wouldn't want to attract that type of attention. I bought the grey. The bags we bought were two of the last three of that model they had in the store.
S.L. took me out to lunch. We ate at Sweet and Tart, my last Chinese meal until I get to California (whereupon I will be drinking milk tea until I burst). On my way to the drug store to buy sunscreen I noticed that Ben and Jerry's was giving away free cones. I partook. And now I have sunscreen and my bags are packed. I'm starting to second guess what I packed yesterday. Oh well. What I don't have I can buy later. Anyone know how to get to the airport?
I had high hopes. I had dreams. I imagined carrying a small pack and travelling light. My clothes all fit with room to spare for souvenirs. Everything looked good. Then I tried packing my camera and film.
I'm almost done for the evening. I've succumbed to the need to bring another backpack. I'll be using it while I wander around during the day anyway, although I still have dreams of a smaller side bag so I won't have to carry anything in my hands. My flight leaves at 11pm. I still have time for last minute shopping. I still need to buy sunscreen.
April 26, 2004
I've been to EMS twice already this morning. First I purchased a small day pack with compartments. The pack came with a laptop case; I was sold. I'm not bringing a laptop anywhere with me, however, and when I returned home I learned that compartments do not make for easy packing. I went back to the store.
E.W. had told me that he likes top loaders. We browsed the EMS website for a while and he recommended the Go-Lite race packs (which boast an "anatomically contoured air-channel mesh back panel"). They're a fraction of the weight and easily collapsible; I'm trying to bring my pack on as a carry-on. I exchanged packs. Ingrid, the manager of the store, called me a crazy guy. So far the pack seems amazing.
Thirty-six hours to go and I still don't have sunscreen. I'm going to do laundry and eat lunch in a bit. And then find a local place to get my passport pictures done. It's too wet now to go to Chinatown.
April 25, 2004
Packing and thinking of packing
In 48 hours I'll be on a plane. I haven't packed yet; I don't have a bag to pack.
E.W. called me from Baghdad. The connection was slow. We chatted about the countries I'm visiting. He said he was jealous. He gave reccomendations for places to stay in Damascus and Aleppo and restaurants to frequent. He couldn't remember where he stayed in Petra; it's been years since he spent the night there. A few days ago, he mentioned a hotel in Beirut that another journalist recommended. Checking the guidebook, I learned it's listed as one of the best in the Middle East, at a price 25 times the hostel I've booked for my first night. Not being on an expense account, I had to pass.
E. tells me that on his week in Syria he travelled with a daypack, which makes me think I should invest in a smaller pack in order to travel more lightly. Tomorrow I'm going shopping for what I hope is the last time. I still need sunscreen and passport photos for visa applications. And perhaps a new backpack.
As we were about to hang up, E. told me he was thinking of travelling to Najaf. Apparently, there have been guarantees of safety in order to visit the town and conduct interviews. Recently, other foreign journalists have gone to visit. I told him to be careful and to remember what had happened the last time such assurances were made to a NYTimes correspondant. He sounded tired.
He tells me that this time around, reporting from Baghdad has changed. They've made reservations at the Palestine hotel in the event that the sentiment in Falluja spill over into Baghdad. At least the truce has been extended. He tells me he hasn't left the city since arriving; on his last stint he was able to travel much more freely. He tells me people are nervous. Before hanging up he tells me he wishes he could take a week off. It would be great to meet up in Amman.
New York cares
Last night G.F. and Y.T. talked about San Francisco. Y. said she wanted to return to SF to start over. G. and I both said that New York seemed to be the place people go to reinvent themselves. G. asked me about my oft-mentioned plans to move to SF myself. I said that SF is a place I want to move to to settle down. I then realized that all my friends in SF are married.
G. said that New York is a place always changing. She said that on a recent trip to D.C. she was asked by an interviewee if she had any children. She was taken aback. She said in New York the question never arises; it's understood that people are still living as if they are much younger. And always the question is how much longer you plan to stay in New York, as if it's understood that one's time in New York is limited. It's a place to come, succeed, and then leave. But therein, too, lies the pressure of the place.
When we parted, Y. asked if this is it. I leave on Tuesday for the Middle East and then California, not to return to New York until mid-June; she plans to move in early June. But then she said our conversation had given her a lot to think about. She hadn't yet heard it strongly from the other side. "Is this it?" she asked. She paused, then said, "Let's pretend it's not."
Listening to Interpol, "New York Cares."
April 24, 2004
DVDs five dollars.
On Canal Street in Chinatown you can get first run movies on DVD. The quality, I imagine, is uneven. Last week, Li-T watched as the police made a bust. Women ran, pushing their carts in front of them. The police watched over their seizures. Tourists, thinking the DVDs were up for grabs, tried to steal them. The cops stared them down.
This weekend, some women have their DVDs stashed in black plastic garbage bags set upon cardboard boxes, like the men selling fake Rolex watches do. Tourists continued to crowd around them.
April 22, 2004
SoHo scaffolding scare
Walking back from the Angelica, the streets in SoHo were quiet. It turns out the police had blocked traffic from coming onto Prince Street. A truck had backed into some scaffolding on the corner of Mercer and Prince, and it was threatening to come down. Cops were stationed on the corners; caution tape had roped off the area. At first we had thought the scaffolding was teetering of its own accord. J.L. pointed to a sign advertising the construction company. I said I'd be wary of walking around their sites in the future.
April 21, 2004
The MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour with E.W.
Coming back from the Sunshine supermarket, E.W. im'd me to tell me he was going to be on the MacNeil Lehrer News hour. It was ten till seven; the show starts at seven. I searched for a tape and put it in just as the show began. The anchor ran down the lead stories. And then, "More on Iraq later, with New York Times correspondant E.W." Moments later my mother called. "E.'s on T.V.," she said. I called J.L.; she turned on the T.V. and there he was. I called L.M.W.; she was stuck at work. But she im'd E. with my running commentary. J.L. im'd me later and told me a friend of hers had seen it and called her. The phone lines buzzed.
April 19, 2004
In line at the RJA office
I stood behind a man who owned a chain of hair salons. He gave his name as Cheik, from what I could gather. "What's the name of the salons," a woman asked. "Franco," he said. "Franco! Why Franco? Why not your own name?" "I grew up in Rome. E parlo Italiano molto bene," he said. The woman continued processing his ticket.
April 18, 2004
A day in upstate New York
E.W. wrote me this morning asking if I had heard the news about Hamas. I had, but only just. He told me to be careful on my trip, and then we signed off.
At the Barnes and Nobles I looked through all the copies of the Lonely Planet Middle East guide on the shelf to find the cleanest copy. I'm sure by the end of my trip I will have destroyed it.
I stopped by the Macy*s flower show. I hadn't realized that the flowers would be on display in the main room. While people shopped and admired the arrangements, a woman led a tour group, pausing in front of a jewlery counter to point out an orchid of note with a laser pen. Her voice projected mechanically from a small speaker.
I met D.I. to drive up to Storm King Art Center, up over the Hudson River, past Bear Mountain, and into the Catskills. The center is a museum that "celebrates the relationship between sculpture and nature" set on 500 acres of land. The area is serene, though one side is oddly bounded by a highway. We spent a few hours walking around, reaching the far end for Richard Serra's Schunnemunk Fork
and Andy Goldsworthy's Storm King Wall
. We were told not to sit on the sculptures. A docent well into her sixties asked D. not to touch the wall. She said she would have to break his fingers.
D. told me he was scoping the place out for potential dates. The night before he had had drinks with friends he met at Club Med. A girl told him that Storm King is one of her father's favorite areas.
On the way back we stopped at the premium outlet stores at Woodbury Commons, another place I had heard of but never been. I bought two pairs of pants and a pair of jeans. At a stand I bought a box of girl scout cookies. Each one has a different word inscribed on it. I just ate "Girl Scouting is all about Fun" and "Girl Scouting is all about Caring."
Links: Storm King, Woodbury Common.
April 17, 2004
Return of the 70s!
At least in temperature. This afternoon I borrwed E.W.'s bike and rode it up the bike path on the west side to 96th. People were out sunbathing, rollerblading, running. On the breeze, you could smell the ocean.
One of the first times I visited L.A., I stayed with my cousin. She worked during the day and so she lent me her bike and her rollerblades and pointed me towards the bike path along the beach. As I rode up to Santa Monica, people would pass. "On your left," they would say. It took me the better part of an hour to realize they were signaling their presence to pass. In New York, that etiquette doesn't seem to exist.
Thank you for calling the Royal Jordanian Airline
"Please be advised that your personal information stored in our database may be accessed by the U.S. goverment authorities."
Yesterday, I received my new passport in the mail. This afternoon I shopped for airfare. After trying a number of agencies, where the prices were upwards of $1000.00 for my itinerary, I called Royal Jordanian. Their price was $756.00. I have until Monday to drop by their offices to confirm.
April 16, 2004
Caetano at Carnegie
I was introduced to Caetano Veloso (albeit unwittingly) through the soundtrack to Wong Kar-Wai's Happy Together
. His music plays over a shot of the waterfalls that serve as the ultimate destination for its protagonists. I wouldn't learn until later the name of the song or the singer.
Veloso's music would appear again in film, on the soundtrack to Pedro Almodovar's Talk to Her
. For five glorious minutes, the film stopped to allow Veloso to sing, accompanied by his musical arranger on cello. The song he sung was the same as in Kar-Wai's film, stripped back to its essence.
I had known that he was to appear at Carnegie Hall in November of 2003. I had asked E.W. if he wanted to go. Neither of us was certain we would be in the city in April. I decided not to purchase tickets and put aside the calendar that had come in the mail. As the date approached, I saw the advertisements, but still neglected to purchase tickets. Suddenly, this week I decided I wanted to go. The show was sold out, but I was told to call for cancellations Thursday. There were none.
Today, I decided to stand in the cancellation line at the theatre. I walked up Broadway to the auditorium and found myself fifth in line. An usher had set up seats for the first ten people and we waited. The couple first in line were Brazilian's, in New York for work. He had seen Veloso in Brazil in an outdoor auditorium. The couple directly in front of me were from Brooklyn. She had read an article in the New York Times and decided to try to get tickets. She had never heard of Caetano Veloso until the article, and had only heard the clips he has on his website.
We waited. Julie Taymor picked up tickets. Airto Lindsey picked up tickets. Ten minutes before curtain, I had my ticket. I walked to the elevator and asked where to go. "You're in the balcony," the usher told me. "You're going up to heaven!" I asked if there was a restroom on that floor. "This is Carnegie Hall," he told me. "We have bathrooms on all
As the lights dimmed and Veloso emerged from the wings, the audience erupted. He took his place amongst his band members and started with a slow samba before turning to the American songbook that make up his most current album. In the majority, he found a fresh approach; unfortunately, his interpretation of Dylan's "It's alright ma, I'm only bleeding" left something to be desired.
Midway through, he interrupted the concert to talk about the recording of his new album. Ten years before, he had recorded an album of all Spanish songs; he hadn't realized the similarities between the two albums. As he talked about interpreting other songs, and trying to find new approaches, he spoke of how certain songs seem to find their own way in the world. He motioned a winding road with his hands, pointing to his guitarist who then played the first few bars of "Cucurrucucu," the song that had introduced me to Veloso's music twice. It was sublime.
As he finished, Veloso considered the music he has made, creating new songs and championing songs that might be lesser known. He had sung songs written for Carmen Miranda earlier in the evening; one she declined to record. The first song he sang was written for her as she was leaving Brazil. The lyric, he said, was bittersweet. She is sad to go, but happy that she might bring glory back unto her village. He then said that then there are times he wants to sing the popular songs, before singing "The Girl from Ipanema."
At the end of his encore, he sat on his stool and waved to the audience. His long arms extended out from his body. Throughout the concert he was in motion, often moving his feet as if he were walking towards us. At one point (during a surprisingly good cover of "Come as you are") he danced. When he left the stage, the audience stood, clapping and shouting, unwilling to let him go.
Currently listening to: Caetano Veloso, Fina Estampa en Vivro
April 15, 2004
Al fresco dining
After days of rain, the first nice day in a while. It was warm and a friend invited me to lunch. We sat outside; my first outdoor dining experience this year. The wind became a little problemmatic (at times our salad would fly away as if afraid to be eaten), but it was great sitting out in the sun.
Currently listening to: Cap'n Jazz, analphabetapolothology
April 14, 2004
I dreamt that I left a job in Pittsburgh in order to take a job as a futuristic air force pilot. I was looking for a change, and this job offered one. I'm not entirely certain how they found me. The location was barren. A thick, muscular man showed me the ropes, introduced me around. He was hoping one day I could train new recruits.
I dreamt that my oldest friend in the world suddenly let me know that she had four other siblings who were older than her. Twin sisters who had died, and an older brother and an older sister in Hong Kong. She gave me details and then ran away. As I ran after her I saw two people fighting in the street, transforming themselves from humans into machines and back again.
April 13, 2004
I love the Met
This morning I had thought to take the afternoon off and go to the ICP or the Met. The day had started dreary, however. As the afternoon loomed, the skies opened with rain. I couldn't bike to the Met and I was unwilling to pay for a subway ride. I finished some work and took a shower.
K.T. called. She asked if I would make a delivery for her on 84th and 1st. She offered her Metrocard and the delivery fee. I said yes.
The Met was packed when I entered. Outside it was pouring. In the lobby, the room steamed with people coming in from the rain. The coat-check lines were long. In the Mideival room, a girl knelt before a 15th century statue of the Virgin with Child as if she was praying. I stood behind her. She turned and smiled. On the floor before her was an assignment she was filling out for school.
I went to the museum specifically to see the Chuck Close exhibition. The exhibit consisted of a number of his prints, proofs, and working objects. Various techniques were on display, including mezzotints, silkscreens, Ukiyo-E, and paper pulp multiples (a printing techinque I had never before encountered). While the show was small, it was spectacular. Exhibit text carefully detailed the processes, and the proof prints explicated the various steps.
Wandering through the museum, I casually browsed Byzantium: Faith and Power (1261–1557). A number of beautifully illuminated manuscripts were on display as well as an awesome 13th century chandelier. On the way out I stepped into the American Wing.
On Feburary 12, 2005, Christo and Jean-Claude will launch their first project in New York City. 7500 gates, each 16 feet tall will follow the edges of the walkways and will be perpendicular to the selected 23 miles of footpaths in Central Park. Free hanging saffron colored fabric panels will be suspended from each of these gates, drooping to seven feet above the ground.
In a section off to the left of the building façade lies a winding gallery, which includes sketches and plans for Christo's project. The drawings are fantastic. I'm already trying to think of places above the park from which to take photographs.
If there's a reason to stay in New York for another year, this would be it.
Links: Chuck Close
, The Gates
The elasticity of time
I just realized it's still Tuesday. Last night, while chatting with M.L.W., I looked at the date. It was past midnight, and the clock said Tuesday. We made arrangements for Thursday, and I thought to myself that it was but two days away. I then settled into bed to read. This morning I woke and began working. Looking at the clock I realized it was still Tuesday. That everything that had happened yesterday was on Monday. And then Sunday seemed so very far away. It's hard to keep time straight when there's no obvious deliniation between the weekend and the weekday, and when day and night become just different shades of grey. Compounding that confusion is my complete lack of a set sleeping schedule.
April 12, 2004
Bumble and Bumble
This afternoon I went to Bumble and Bumble's open model call. Every Monday, people can stop in to be assessed for a free haircut, given by students at their university. The majority of people attending looked like college students. Unfortunately, the openings they had were all in May, and were therefore unavailable to me. The woman suggested I call a number later to book and appointment in June.
As I was leaving the building, two women walked through the front door. "Sixth floor," the guard said. One woman thanked her and as they walked past, the other turned. "Where are we going?" she asked. "Bumble and Bumble," the guard said.
April 11, 2004
Coconut milk is high in fat
It was a Bernd and Hilla Becher day today. SoHo was oddly quiet. Chinatown wasn't.
This afternoon, I met up with C.H. for tea, the second day in a row I found myself at Tea & Tea. Afterwards, she showed me where to buy a whole chicken for $5.00. You choose a chicken and put it in a line on the counter. The butchers then skin and debone or cut up the chicken to your specifications. With the breast meat I made a Thai green curry. J.P. had shown me what to buy in the Thai grocery store on Mosco street. The curry was disappointing. Either that or I was unable to judge for myself. After I cook I find that at the end I can't taste anything, or that the tastes are too subtle. I should have invited someone over.
Bang chi lai
At a Chinatown supermarket the non-Chinese security guard was stopping people with plastic bags. "Bang chi lai," he told me. I stared at him blankly. "Bang chi lai," he said again. Then he tried something in what I assumed was Cantonese. A moment later I realized he was saying "bau chi lai," which loosely means "tie it together." The word I heard him using, "bang," means "help" as opposed to "bau" which could be translated as "tie" or "package" as in "package your things together."
Sitting to the guard's left, behind a sushi counter, two Chinese chefs watched the antics. An old man came in with a plastic bag. The guard said "bang chi lai;" the man turned and left the store. The chefs behind the counter turned to each other and shared a "what can you do" smile.
Last night after dinner I remarked to C.H. that I didn't think one of the people at the table was that attractive. "He's not my boyfriend!" she practically shouted. No, I said. I just didn't think he was all that attractive. "I never thought he was!" she said. I know, I said. I'm just agreeing with you now. "Oh," she said. "Now you agree with me." I'm slow, what can I say?
April 9, 2004
Short Hills Mall
On Sunday, I found myself at the Short Hills Mall in New Jersey. If you're from out of state, they will give you a coupon book at the customer service center. I found my CT driver's license. My friends pulled out their P.R.C. identity cards. The first thing we did was to enjoy a free fountain soda from Au Bon Pain. At Bloomingdale's, I got a free keychain. One friend finds it confusing. She thinks that people will think my initial will be "b". Or "p," I pointed out. Or "d." Which almost sounds like the title of a Ms. John Soda album. I also wanted to partake of a yogurt at Neiman Marcus, but my friend declined. She didn't want to spoil her dinner. "It's just a yogurt," I said. She said no.
M.L.W. tells me she loves the Short Hills Mall. That all the stores she likes can be found within.
At dinner a few nights ago some friends were talking about sleeping pills. One said that a friend of hers had taken Ambien. She said to be aware that after taking it, her friend would not remember the last 30 minutes of her waking day before falling asleep. Her friend had done work or other things and then woken in the morning not having realized she had already done it. Her husband would have to remind her.
Last night another friend of mine brought it up. She told me she had just found a new job but that she had to get up early in the morning in order to get there on time. She had asked one doctor for the drug (it's prescription only) and was refused. She's planning on seeing another doctor soon.
Last night my sleep was a jumble of dreams, none of which I remember. It's been a slow week.
April 5, 2004
There were only three people at the pool at one point this afternoon. I had a lane to myself. My mother made me take lessons when I was in junior high and high school. Once a week we would go to the pool. My lessons consisted of swimming for two hours. Our swimming instructor, Celeste, would sit at one end and devise the next round of laps. Inevitably, the first thing she would do is make us swim twenty laps. Then give us kickboards and have us kick for ten laps. Then think of a certain stroke and tell us to give her laps of that stroke. We were in the "advanced" class. Occasionally she would try to teach us the butterfly, the only stroke none of us knew. That would last for ten minutes and then she would give up and assign us another set of laps to round out the lesson.
I dreamt that I ran the New York Marathon. At the very end there was a crush of people to run into a small brick building and touch the far wall, which would determine your time. I came in at four hours and four seconds. But for the crowd I would have come in under four hours. A man sat at a desk writing down people's times in a ledger. A friend of mine told me that he added ten minutes to my time.
Soon after the park was abandoned. The lawns were filled with the detritus of the race. Water bottles and numbers and wrappers dotted the grass.
There was another dream I had remembered moments ago, but now it's lost. This is my 101st posting.
April 4, 2004
Fort Lee and River Road
This afternoon I rode in a car along River Road in New Jersey. I haven't been on that stretch of road in years. It's on that road that S.L. taught me to drive a car with manual transmission. I was leaving in a week for France, where I had reserved a rental car to drive to Brittany. The manual cars were much cheaper than the automatics, of which there were few to be had. She drove to the end of the road where she found a large parking lot in which to teach me. After an hour driving around the parking lot, we drove back north up towards the George Washington Bridge. We stopped at the Japanese super market for a few more lessons. Once I was more confident we took a break and walked into the store. We were too late; it was just closing. It's massive.
I can't rememeber if S. let me drive back across the bridge. I think she did but once we returned to Manhattan she took back her car. Later it was stolen, but not before theives broke the windows and she had them replaced. In France, I did o.k. Driving around Paris proved to be a nervewracking experience, but once out in the country, I was fine.
April 2, 2004
A series of dreams
I dreamt I was back at work. And leaving work, the skies were dark. The streets were empty. There was the threat of lightning, and I heard someone shout that I had 20 minutes before the storm would hit. I walked into the subway at 23rd street. When I arrived at Prince Street, the station had been transformed into an international nexus. Any cell phone plan would work in the station from anywhere in the world, as a woman showed me. A Japanese schoolgirl was showing off her cell phone to some friends. It looked like a Tamogachi. The station had the atmosphere of a futuristic bazaar. Everything was steel polished to a high lustre. Then L.W. called; my phone sang the "Mexican Hat Dance," and I awoke.