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Jul 23, 2003
1.The very long wait in Newark Airport: Lisa's flight was not until about 6, and Velinda and I promised we'd wait for her there. (Ok, so *I* promised I'd *make* Velinda stay with me while I waited for her). She was nervous about flying alone. Lisa's joining us on the trip was as bizarre and spur of the moment as the trip itself. I had had lunch with her a few weeks before Velinda and I were supposed to go. While over lunch, I told Lisa about our trip. She, as any sane person would be, was horrified at how cavalierly we had done it all...no hotel, 9 days(!?) in NYC...
no money??? She clucked her tongue and shook her head at how irresponsible we were.
And less than an hour later, she had booked herself a flight...every bit as irresponsibly as we had. Because she was a last minute addition to our plans, she had to get a separate flight, and hers came in at about 5 pm that day. We were in Newark by noon. So for all those hours, Velinda and I had to occupy ourselves. Thankfully, we're pretty ingenious at that.
2.The harrowing (?) trip into New York City: The shuttle driver was a maniacal. We were crammed into a shuttle with a newly wed couple, a surly teenage girl from Texas with her aunt who kept telling me all the best places to get beer in the city. She was all of 17 but more jaded than I am. She kept offering me carrots.
Velinda has a fear of fast vehicles and was terrified, much more so
than being in the plane, strangely. I had been terrified in the plane. I hadn't been in a plane since I was 13. Then I had been blissfully ignorant, not in the least bit afraid to fly. Much, however, has happened in the interceding years to
make me afraid. Unlike Velinda, I kind of liked the maniacal ride into the city.
I noticed at once the rock face of along the interstate, something we just don't have down here. It was hilly and rocky there. That was interesting alone. We hit the peak traffic time, despite the fact that it was a Saturday and were stuck in traffic for hours. I didn't mind. It was a dream come true. I was in New York City!
I had dreamed of this day since I was a child.
3. My first thoughts: My first thought of NYC was, "Oh wow, it looks like home!" It reminded me of New Orleans, oddly enough. The old Victorian storefronts and warehouses were the first things I noticed. We went through the Holland Tunnel, and by nightfall we were driving through the Village. People were everywhere. The little trees were lit with Christmas lights. The cafes were crowded. Every car on every street was a yellow taxi...herds of them. I later, thankfully, made several trips back into the Village...one alone, one with Vince, and one with Ben.
4.The Hotel: The Windsor was in a very nice part of the city, catercorner from the Ritz, right on Central Park, a block or so from
The Plaza...but not in their league however. It was nice however. It was old, from the 20's it seemed, small, intimate. The staff was
all Russian and Puerto Rican it seemed. Our room was nice, but old. Still, I liked it. It was very Gatsby-esque...the bathroom especially.
I could imagine Daisy, Tom and Nick with ice cubes and the window open. The first night Lisa and I spent a great deal of time spying into the windows across the street into the apartments, making up "Rear Window" scenarios.
5.My first meal in the city: My friend Mark had driven down from Toronto to meet us, and we were aimlessly searching for a place to eat
near the restaurant. It was very late, nearly 11, and we were just about to get a sandwich at some anonymous bland sandwich shop
when I spied the legendary Carnegie Deli. So I insisted we go there. It was pricey, and touristy of course...and we all had much too much food
(for future reference, corned beef does not keep well, unrefrigerated on a hotel bureau overnight). But it was an experience....and much better
than a BLT at some innocuous deli, right?
6.Mark: I spent the next day with Mark and his friend Pat. We toured Central Park...which was like one huge outside festival...free concerts
spontaneous street performances....sensory overload. We walked for miles and miles. I took one of Mark's patented "best hotels of the world"
tours. He loves the finer hotels. We went to Central Park Zoo. It was all very overwhelming, but the nicest part was seeing Mark again.
I hadn't seen him in 2 years I think. Things hadn't changed, in both good ways and bad. How many times we'd walked the extent of New Orleans, once from Elysian Fields to the Riverbend, talking about, among other things, his love of, and my dream of, New York.
Now, here we were again, walking for miles and miles...through that very fabled city.
7.Breakfast in Chelsea: Lisa's friends Bob and Vince took us to a restaurant in Chelsea in which it seemed every waiter was a failed
male model. Mark couldn't make it because he was very sick. They (Velinda, Lisa, Vince, Bob) ended up seeing "Naked Boys Singing"
while Mark and Pat and I were watching penguins at the Central Park petting zoo. ahem.
8.Ellis Island: We did the very touristy attractions----Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island early. It was an all day affair. I hadn't realized how many
immigrant men would abandon their homely wives from the Old Country once they got to the US. Apparently, so the placard in at Ellis Island read, that it was a real problem....scores of homely Old Country women who arrived and whose husbands wanted nothing to do with them.
The YWCA and other charity organizations back at the turn of the century seemed to offer a sort of "Queer Eye for the Old Country
Bride" service back then. They'd get their hair cut, get them some western clothes, razor off the extraneous hair, and teach them how to use make up, so that their husbands, who had lived in the states for a few years alone, would accept them. Odd.
9.Brooklyn: Somewhere in those 9 days, Velinda, Lisa and I took a trip to visit Ben, who had moved to Williamsburg. I remember when we
emerged from the subway, walking up, completely disoriented, and seeming to be in a very very different place than Manhattan, but
also oddly familiar. It was rather like Magazine Street. Ben came frantically to meet us at a little Italian grocery from a job interview that day.
We sat out in the grocery for about an hour or so, very pleasantly chatting with the grocers. They asked us where we were from,
and couldn't imagine why we'd ended up in Brooklyn. One of them asked us if there were a lot of "Canadians" in New Orleans. I think he meant Cajuns, but in Brooklyn, I guess, Canada, Acadiana, Outer Mongolia, are all pretty much the same place. All in all, I have to admit, that we never once, in all 9 days, saw evidence of the reputation for "rudeness" that New Yorkers seem to have. People were sometimes cursory, and hurried, but always more than eager to help us bumpkins out. One of my proudest moments came late in the trip, on 5th avenue, while I was alone,
walking "home" as we had started to call it....and was stopped by a tourist and asked for directions. She's probably still wandering around lost now, but I couldn't have been more happy at that moment.
10.The Met: One of my favorite books when I was growing up was "From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler"
I read if in 5th grade. It's the story of Claudia and her bratty little brother who decide to run away from home. It's Claudia's brilliant idea to
hide in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As a child I was constantly fantasizing about running away from home...it was (and is still) one of my my recurring daydreams....and what better place to do it than an art museum, I ask you? Claudia is a genius. Anyway, sometime in July of 2003, I finally (sort of) got my wish...well, for a day at least. I spent most of a day there, from 9 to 5, until they all by chased me out. I spent the day wandering around looking at all those paintings that had been my friends for so many lonely afternoons and evenings of my life. It was tantamount to a trip to Mecca for me....a religious experience...but, needless to say, not without controversy. I absolutely refused to pay or make a donation to the place. They have more money than God, though they like to pretend that they don't. The whole premise of the Met is that it's a public institution. They suggest a donation, but by law they can't force you. I am normally the most non confrontational person in the world, but I do occasionally get my dander up. It's not a pretty sight when I do, by the way. I don't choose my battles very carefully, but goddammit, I fight to the death. Anyway, let's just say that I didn't pay. Later that week I took a trip up to the Guggenheim, alone again. It was pleasant, but not the same. It was smaller and older and dingier than I expected. I oddly enough, gladly paid my admission there. I don't understand myself sometimes...ok, well often. But it seemed (and still seems) right what I did at both the Met and the Guggenheim...not sure why). I took the long way back "home" and went through Strawberry Fields, saw the Dakota, and a million other sights too. I took a trip on the jogging path, around the Reservoir, where Jackie O used to jog. It seemed to me then that every inch of the city was haunted by movies, celebrities, books, images in my brain. I couldn't register it all then. I still can't. I've only barely grazed the surface of the trip...when I can untangle the mess of memories and impressions out a bit more, I'll try to write more.