Aug 19, 2011

NYC notes, #1

I spent three weeks this summer staying with my college roommate in the Bronx and exploring New York City; taking notes all the time, preparing to write something more structured later. There are some events that are posts unto themselves (Gay Pride Parade, Henry V on Governor's Island, Alexander McQueen at the Met, the Coney Island Freak-show...), but here are some brief snippets.

June 27: I saw a model come to life in front of the Guggenheim today. A luxuriantly-curled redhead, popping her joints and pouting, breathing lightly from winnowed creamy cheeks while her photographer crouched on the pavement & some Hispanic boys looked on, leaning on a mailbox smoking cigarettes and drinking orange juice.

June 29: Arthur Avenue Market, Little Italy, Bronx. Hand-rolled cigars while you wait (huge brown tobacco leaves, crumpled & compounded into thick tubes), barrels of olives and salted capers, chunks of parmesan shaved off by a burly-armed grocer (this guy, having received the knowledge that I was from Vermont, wanted some maple syrup in return for a cheese sample he had given me — “What, you don’t just carry it around with you?”). There was some kind of corporate party being held in the market, with hors d’oeuvre of pizza slivers, olives, fruit skewers, mini cannoli. A painted piano in the middle of the tables, played by an old man in sparkling, tinkling, flamboyant, very old-world honky-tonk style. The mother of the deli owner got up in her sensible beige pumps to sing an old Italian song, voice still quavering with power & passion, & everyone applauded. It was priceless. Dinner at Dominick’s family-style restaurant, where the waiters loom over you & look at you closely with dark, inscrutinable eyes. A businessman named Greg joined us. A bit about Greg:   - he was wearing a summer suit he didn’t want to spill on but always manages to — light beige, pink shirt
 - warm, sea-nuanced blue eyes shooting out light from a tanned face, chubby around the edges
 - loud, chatty, emotional Italian from Pittsburgh who grew up right here and used to eat lunch at Dominick’s every day as a kid
 - still has dinner at his mom’s house every night
 - heading out to a Yankees game that night
I loved this guy. It sounds callous to characterize him instantly, but he was a perfect relic; a perfect accent to the whole scene.

July 3: I'm on Fire Island, watching speedboats make white lace tears through the dark water. It's gray, sweating light rain, altogether very hazy. Yesterday, we were walking on dark sterile concrete streets that criss-cross the island, through groves of overhanging trees& house-parties. Standing on the steps to the beach under a silver palette of stars, simmering in the sound of sea-woosh & red-faced drunken cocky declamations coming from the mansion behind us. This is definitely a summertown -- a place that only exists for the summer, used as a tourism playground & get-away. Apparently, Marilyn Monroe used to come here.

July 5: I went to a centennial celebration exhibit at the New York Public Library and saw Jack Kerouac’s sunglasses, Malcolm X’s briefcase, Mark Twain’s letter-opener (the handle of which is the taxidermied paw of his favorite pet cat), & the lock of dark auburn hair that Mary Shelley tied up with tiny white fingers and sent to Percy when she was only seventeen.

July 6: Today, there was a Wall St. broker/executive/Patrick Bateman type guy walking down the street in a black suit that positively glistened in the sun, earphones blasting music, a cigarette held between his teeth. Swaggering skinny shoulders. An air of absolute imperviousness.

July 8: 3 am, and I'm sitting up in the living room; vermilion lipstick still smeared on my face and blaring out in the empty silence like a siren. Tonight was the night of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. We set out on a drizzly gray evening looking like tramps -- boots, fishnets, miniskirts, and elbow-length black lace gloves. Confronting the streets like this is a very unique experience... At the movie theater, there were freaks & geeks & a few token whores. There were also two lovely transvestites who couldn't dance in their tight skirts, but I whirled like a dervish to pre-show pop-punk & disco. The cast was big, brash, vulgar, all-out-there, as they should be... but somehow too intensely self-conscious and referential to be welcoming. Rocky himself was a marble-white specimen with blue eyes & a blonde stoner shag. Virgin sacrifice: make your best orgasm noise into a microphone. The whole thing was like a silly, late-night circus of sexuality with some sacramental call-backs & songs thrown in to draw the audience in. I did a lot of shouting at the screen, of course, along with the other fans in the audience. Coming back home in the early hours of the morning, the subway was eerie and deserted; and of course the strange, askance looks couldn't be helped.

July 13: The open-air fish market in Chinatown is sparkling with flies over the smooth pink & gray-mottled cold scaly sides of meat. Glassy doll eyes on ice. One huge severed head with lips delicately hung open, exposing a bristle-line of thin razor teeth. Whole blue crabs suspended in dead animation with claws out.

July 14: I gave $5 to a man leaning against the wall of a tunnel in Central Park playing "My Way" on smooth saxophone, its echo dilating into a sublime sepulchral moan for the ages. He smiled at me from beneath his hat, between notes.

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