Wednesday, 24 August 2005

Denise & I were tired, so we woke up much later than we wanted. We prepared ourselves for another great day in New Yawk, took care of the doggie, & took the subway to our appointed meeting spot, as set by Christina: her office building, down in the Financial District. Soon enough, we met up with David & Christina.

Those two, along with Kelly, had been up pretty late the night before, & they had imbided many fermented products, or, to paraphrase Alan Jackson, David musta had fun last night, 'cause when he woke up his hat was a little too tight. By the time we saw him, though, he was fine & appeared his normally chipper self. In fact, he & Christina had already seen a few sights that morning, as she took him by Trinity Church, one of the oldest churches in New York.


The graveyard of Trinity is old & cool in that way that really old graveyards are. I wish I'd been there—I would have really enjoyed checking it out. David, however, did me a favor by taking this movie of the churchyard, which shows you how neat it was.

2005-0824-nyc-trinity-graveyard.mp4 (4.0 MB MP4)

In particular, the great Alexander Hamilton is buried at Trinity, another hint as to the age & importance of this city.


In front of the church is this object, what's left of a large tree's stump & roots.


Christina told David that the tree had been standing in front of Trinity's sister church, close to the site of the World Trade Center. On 9/11, the tree was blasted over, but it fell in a way that didn't damage the church or any of its tombstones, & its giant limbs helped protect the church from any damage from debris. Afterward, the trunk & roots were saved, & a sculptor is going to use them in a new work that will be unveiled soon.

In fact, reminders of 9/11 are everywhere in southern Manhattan. Not that it's surprising. For instance, we later that morning saw this sculpture, which used to be on the plaza of the World Trade Center.


When the towers collapsed, the statue was terrifically damaged, as you can see. However, it was recovered, & here it stands, as a monument to resilience.

In fact, much later in the day we drove in a taxi past the site where the towers used to be. Denise & I visited in August of 2002, less than one year after 9/11, & back then the area was still raw & ripped open. There were still crowds of people all about the site today, but things finally seemed to be coming back.


After meeting up with David & Christina, we walked through beautiful Battery Park, enjoying the weather, the people, & the sight of the Statue of Liberty, far off on the water.


Here you can see Denise sitting, looking out at Lady Liberty holding her torch. She was very thoughtful about the Statue, since it represents some of the things she's spent the last 8 years fighting for at the ACLU & in her personal life. David, too, since he works as a public interest lawyer.


Just a little further, however, it suddenly became much easier to see the Statue of Liberty. In fact, we got a 2 for 1 deal here!


Christina knew of a really good Chinese restaurant, so we walked through the Park, hugging the shoreline the whole time, until we reached the Liberty View, & she was right: it was a really good Chinese restaurant, right on the water, with a view of the Statue. We ordered & had a delightful meal. Once it was over, we had a choice to make: what to do the rest of the day? It was already 3 pm or so, so we couldn't go to the MoMA, when I suggested going to one of the best bookstores in America: the Strand (another fabulous one is Powell's, in Portland). Christina knew exactly how to get there, so we got on a bus & took off.

Along the way we passed the mighty Intrepid, which is now, IIRC, docked.


We also saw a truck selling "Street Coffee". This whole trip, we've been talking about Street This & Street That, as in, "I'm hungry! Let's get some street noodles!" or "Mmmmm … I could really go for some street candy right now!". We finally found street coffee, & we zoomed by before we could get any!


We were let out near the Strand & began walking down the street. There were shops galore on the way, but one caught our eye, & we almost stampeded inside: Halloween Adventure.

Holy Macaroni, this place was awesome. I wish I had $10,000 just to spend in there, because I would. I'd go nuts. There were extremely realistic-looking full-size mummies, gorillas, monsters, ghouls, & ghosts that would be perfect to have around the house. Wouldn't this giant gorilla look awesome in a foyer?


It's really, really hard to see, but there's a giant spider up above here (you can see the white fangs on his face in the middle). Where would that best go? On a ceiling, upside down? On top of someone's 4-poster bed? In a closet? Oh man!


And how about this beauty? By the pool? How about just in the middle of the living room floor? (And yes, those are feet in its mouth—awesome!)


Need an insane killer clown with dynamite in his mouth? (I clowns, & this one was a great evil clown!)


This Predator mask was excellent. Hmmmm … in a bathroom, behind the towels? Or perhaps just worn?


Of course, some items were not to be messed with. Geez, some super-villains are so touchy!


Denise had fun with several of the items in the store too. She found an elf's shoe that looked postively fetching on her little foot. With the right hood, some pointed ears, & some glitter paint, she would be the elf's elf, or the brownie's brownie.


She also found a pair of shoes that make her feet almost as hairy as mine.


And a cool pink cowgirl hat. That thing is stylin'!


Now, this one is a bit rude, but it's great nonetheless. It's a naked old lady fat suit! Aaaaaaagghhhh … it's heedeeous! My eyes, my eyes!


There were also superhero stuff there as well, like full-size statues of Batman & Superman, & of course superhero costumes by the score. My total complete ultra-favorite I must have that once I get enough money & put it on my brick wall is this AWESOME statue of Superman busting through a brick wall. Is that not the coolest dang thing ever? EVER?


Of course, there were lots of things to do with farts & pooping & other scatalogical matters, & remaining a 7 year old boy at heart, I found all that stuff thigh-slappingly hilarious. I even bought a couple of absolutely awful items that I will use at my next Halloween party, & they are guaranteed -guaranteed, I promise you—to cause people to rush away from me in horror & revulsion. I can't wait!

We left the store, purchases in hand, & walked in the Strand. I was a happy guy, lemme tell ya—superheroes, monsters, poop, & now books everywhere! A Scott paradise! A perfect day in Scottland! Attention, Scott shoppers: blue light specials … everywhere!

We agreed that I would have one hour in the Strand. On your mark, get set … go! And I was off! I bolted through the store like a fiend, searching looking pulling out books checking books out trying to find stuff I wanted. I finally realized I had to focus, boy, focus! What have I been looking for? Ah yes … Penguin Brief Lives, short (around 200 pages or so) biographies of famous folks by writers intelligently paired with their subjects. Larry McMurtry, author of the magisterial Lonesome Dove (one of the most entertaining novels I've ever read) & The Last Picture Show, for instance, writes about Crazy Horse (I bought it & read it within one day on the trip, & it was good). Peter Gay on Mozart. The eminent military historian John Keegan on Sir Winston Churchill. I found all those, as well as others on Joan of Arc, Marlon Brando, & Ulysses S. Grant.

Then it was on to the comics, to see if I could find any collections of Lil' Abner, which I've been searching out for months. Nope, no luck. But I did find a graphic novel on Jack the Ripper that looked interesting, and something really nice: the first volume of the project to reprint the entire Peanuts collection, from start to finish. Covering the years 1950-52, it was a steal at $21.

Meanwhile, Denise found a book about the history of prostitution that she can use in teaching her classes, which she bought.

And at that point, my hour was up. Sigh. I trooped down to the registers, paid for my books, & left. What fun!

And back to Katie's we went, after walking about at rush hour in New York. Craziness! Take whatever rush hour you've ever been involved in, & then quadruple it. That's how it was in New York, as huge molten masses of people surged down the sidewalks & across streets, & cars streamed by in an unbroken line of blurred movement. We hailed a cab, threw ourselves inside, & shortly thereafter were back at Katie's. You know where we all went. Of course we did!

The plan: go out to dinner at a pizza place recommended by Christina. Denise invited Deborah, her friend in Jersey, who in turn invited her friend & co-worker Ed. Since Ed is in a wheelchair, we called the pizza place & asked if they accessible. They assured us they were, so we told Ed how to get there. We were outside, getting ready to get into a cab, when Ed called. The bastards at the pizza place had lied: they were not accessible at all. Ed made a few calls, found a new place close by, & passed along the location to us: Isabellas.

We got there to find a very nice, trendy restaurant. However, it was crowded, since everyone in New York, it appears, eats after 8 pm, & since we needed a table for 7 (Kelly was joining us again tonight), we had to wait a bit longer. Especially since the people at our table took forever to eat their dessert, & then forever again to drink their coffee, & then they just felt like sitting on their asses while we stood around outside for another half hour before they finally decided to leave. Once we sat down, the food was good, conversation was stimulating, & a good time was had by all.

Dinner was over, & Deborah & Ed were heading back to Jersey. Kelly left to go home as well, leaving David, Denise, Christina, & I. Our last assignment before we left New York: take David to Times Square, since it is far more awesome at night. We hailed a cab & headed over to Times Square. Along the way, I talked to Rob Beil on the phone, & we a charming, funny talk. It reminded me of the old days, back in St. Louis. I've said it before, & I'll say it again: Rob Beil is a great human being. If we can clone only one man, let it be Rob Beil, so that the world is covered in Robness. OK, that's going a bit too far. Being covered in Robness might require multiple washings with antibacterial soap. Maybe just hearing about Robness is enough.

We were at Times Square. I've been there now several times, during the day & at night, & it still overwhelms me every time I get there. Times Square is sensory overload made physically present, it's sheer cacophony that you can pinpoint on a map, it's a riotous melange of noise, color, light, people, cars, hustlers, ads, food, offers to draw your caricature or tell your fortune or paint a picture or sell you a picture or buy a bag or shawl or sign or trinket or get you to take a stress test (is there no place without those idiot Scientologists?), strange lumps of sightseers watching some street artist at work, punks, tourists, and just general weirdness. Stand still in Times Square for just 15 minutes, & you'll see a novel's worth of humanity.

Oh, you want proof? Check these pics out. Keep in mind that it was close to midnight, & it was still bright as day.


In fact, that's the thing that David kept exclaiming in wonderment: "It's like day here! Look! You can see everywhere! You can't tell it's night unless you look straight up!"


"Bags for sale! Get your bags here! Only $5! When they're gone, they're gone! C'mon ladies, get your $5 bags here! Designer bags! All sorts of bags! $5! $5 bags here! Check 'em out! Tonight only! Bags for sale!"

That was the call of the men selling handbags, & it drew David & Denise like moths to a flame. It was sheer cacophony on those tables, as women—and one man—pawed through a Mount Everest of handbags, picking up one then the other, looking for the perfect $5 bag.


Denise found several, as did David. He was thrilled!


Meanwhile I was glad that punk was still in fashion, at least around Times Square, as I hadn't seen any punks anywhere else.


Although, dude, 1979 called—they want their green mohawk & red Doc Martens back.


Guys were offering rides on a "Party Bike" that seats 7 or so people in a circle. I thought to myself, "Who would be dorky enough to ride on one of those through Times Square?" & then, about 5 minutes later, a group of women rode by, having the time of their lives, screaming & laughing & having a ball.


An enormous screen was playing the Jimmy Kimmel show live, & some of his cameras were trained onto an island in the middle of Times Square on which stood, crammed together like Japanese subway riders, hundreds of people, all watching Jimmy Kimmel & at the same time being watched by Jimmy Kimmel, who was ordering them to do stupid stuff that he then broadcast on his show. He would say something like, "Simon Says give yourself a wedgie!" & these morons would do it! You can't see 'em very good, but trust me—that mob of people is watching Jimmy Kimmel & doing what he tells them. If there was a God, a meteor would have struck that group of people as we watched, as a warning to humanity that there are limits to stupidity that should never be crossed. But no meteor appeared; ergo, there is no God. Just thought I'd clear that up.


Also on that island, but away from the compaction of idiots, was a military recruiting station. This one covered all the branches of the military, & I can't believe I never noticed it before. It kind of bothered me. No, not kind of—it really bothered me. Military recruiting, right here in the middle of Times Square? Amidst the lights, the excitement, the noise? It just seems a bit … oh, unfair to young men & women who are already shellshocked by their surroundings. I wonder how successful that particular recruiting station is.


As we walked around through Times Square, we ran across a guy who was creating some pretty intricate art using only spray paint. It really was quite impressive, although the fumes about knocked me on my butt. I have no idea how someone could do that, night after night, without suffering permanent dain bramage.


I was impressed by that dude … until we walked another 100 yards or so to find another guy doing the same thing. 200 yards up, yet another guy creating art with spray paint. On the other side of the street, there were 3 other guys, spaced out, doing the same thing! Then it hit me: Times Square is proof of Darwin when it comes to sales & gimmickry. Someone invents something new—hey, I'll use spray paint to create art!—& rolls it out in Times Square. Within a short time, other people see that guy, realize they can do the same thing, & all of a sudden you have 6 or 7 men creating spray paint art in Times Square. Over time, only the best couple survive, & they thrive, until the next thing is invented. And so on. There is no honor amongst thieves, but there is copying & survival of the fittest.

Before leaving the madness of Times Square, David shot a movie that takes it all in.

2005-0824-times-square.mp4 (3.7 MB MP4)

We still had to have dessert, & Christina had a plan: check out Times Square, & then step into The Roxy, a deli that's been located on Times Square forever, for cheesecake. The Roxy's menus give you some of the flavor of the place.


The menus even have a helpful course in deli-speak.


We ordered one piece of strawberry cheesecake for the 4 of us. "Only one piece!" you're thinking. Look, bud, that one piece cost over 8 bucks, first of all; second of all, it was the size of a basketball player's foot & it weighed about 37 pounds; & thoid of all, we were eating it more 'cause that's what's you do when you're sittin' in Roxy's on Times Square. Not to mention it was after midnight, & you know it's just not a good idea to eat that late. Not that we ever break that rule. Oh no!

We didn't even finish the cheesecake, that's how much there was. Good God Almighty, that was one huge, thick, solid hunk o' cheesecake! Waddling out of there, we took a final picture of David & Christina together, hugged her goodbye, & climbed in a cab bound for Katie's.


We arrived back at Katie's late, but not so late that we couldn't one last glass of wine on her marvelous deck & enjoy one last night in New York. Finishing the last of our glasses, we crept off to bed.

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