Sunday, June 8, 2008

The moral choices of new york no. 1 (3/7/08)

I'm thinking of going in a new direction, everyone. I don't know if they shipped em all out or this winter wasn't cold enough or what, but the number of crazy/desperate/homeless/worth writing about people has been in serious decline. Or I'm getting inured to it all. Or there aren't as many as I thought--supposedly the number of homeless folks is down in every borough but Manhattan, who we all know actually kills and cooks them up in their fanciest restaurants with seared foie gras and shaved white truffle (cheers! clink). Maybe the thing to do is switch gears to updating what the regulars are up to. Or quit (this is has been the most recent actions taken, hence my silence for friggin months).

We'll see where it goes. For now I'm going to start giving you bigger, sweeping pictures of the city as I see it. As I get more entrenched the only thing I can consistently say about New York is that I can't talk about it without talking in contradictions. So in that spirit I'm going to rattle off some vignettes structured by opposing sentences seemingly conflicted (New York is fat. New York is skinny), and explaining how each make themselves to be true through my observation.

But that's all soon. Now is now. Here's what happened last night. Olivia and I went to the opera at Lincoln Center. We can't afford this sort of thing, and so are very bad at it--we sat in seats on the very side almost in the ceiling of the place, which looks like the inside of a wedding cake made out of gold, a giant confection with pillowy diamond faceted knob thingies studded everywhere, a hollowed ballroom with a secret door in the icing that you can crawl in only to see this enormous swirling cross-hatched gold ceiling in the shapes of flames, swirls of fire, positioned above you at varying angles and altitudes, and setting up for the centerpiece of the top, this giant globe of more of those diamond faceted knob light thingies, giving off prismatic light like a moon with flourescent warts.

But after I give the password and get inside to our silly seats that don't sit side by side but are kind of angled back to back in some half-hearted nod to being able to see the stage below--in other words, a great big fuck you you cheapskate next time dish out some dough for Real tickets--we are on our way home, and we don't know the area because it's midtown and that's swank and shinytown and, well, there's nothing for us there--i mean, we inhaled dinner at a place that already is overpriced anyway downtown so we could make it there on time because it never occurred to me i could, ahem, take a cab, like the fatcat i'm supposed to be tonight. Jackass. In my spruced up duds riding on the subway cars, changing lines, running up and down stairs like a yahoo commuter, not like the very distinguished young professional i'm pretending to be on my way to a 'show,' yennngghhs (with that back of the throat WASPy pronunciation full of putting the vowels in your nose and the end of the word, prolonged and choked off, way in the back of your throat, with your tongue pinned to the roof of your mouth so you get maximum glottal snottiness sound), thank you very much and please excuse me, Madama Butterfly awaits.

And so it did. I don't understand opera--literally, it's in Italian, except for the "Abraham Lincoln" ship B.F. Pinkerton the naval turd guy comes in on when he meets Ciao-Ciao San for the first time--but I can understand that sopranoes can hit notes that reverberate my ass four staircases up. Damn. And then she cuts her throat! Serious shit.

But then it's over and we have to find our way home--this time even if we thought of cabs fuhgeddaboutit, ain't no way a cab's going to Brooklyn from midtown, not tonight not anytime--and the subway's somewhere around here and we get on the wrong one anyway so it takes an hour and a half to get home and the whole time the D train is filled with Chinese people because it stops in the middle of Chinatown and I feel strange and small again, like I don't belong in the place I'm supposed to be and like the place I really fit doesn't look like me either, or won't have me at any rate. But before that there is a moment. Before that as we ramble around trying to find the train stop, amid this weird ghostly spindly world that is the place of very rich people making themselves richer by day but silent in those corridors at night, there we pass a church. And this church happens to have stairs, lots of them, leading to their front doors. And it's weird--I stop, or slow down anyway, as we pass because this building doesn't seem closed.

Then I see it. This little bundle, on the fourth or fifth carved stone stair--these big wide stairs like you'd see in a building in Washington, D.C. It's got two paper bags, the lunch bags you'd take to school, you know, if you packed, and an apple I think, and wedged between a little note blowing in that March almost ready to thaw out wind. The paper's flapping around but I can see the writing. I stop. I want to touch it, want to read it. It looks like someone has just been there, or is about to be there, or something, it doesn't matter. There's presence here, the presence of the note and something else, some intention expressed amid all the haunting buildings. But Olivia is shouting and pointing about how she found the D train and she has to get to work and anyway it's late, you live in Brooklyn, fool, why don't you get back where you belong?

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