"The world does not reward honesty and independence, it rewards obedience and service. It’s a world of concentrated power, and those who have power are not going to reward people who question that power."-Chomsky

"The trouble with self-delusion, either in a person or a society, is that reality doesn't care what anybody believes, or what story they put out. Reality doesn't "spin." Reality does not have a self-image problem. Reality does not yield its workings to self-esteem management." -J.H. Kunstler

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."-Dylan

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

5/6/09: Manhattan

We caught the late morning train back to Penn Station and had lunch with Chris's friend, Stephanie. They had gone to SVA together, and been roommates for awhile. She lives in Brooklyn and works as a video editor for a midtown advertising agency, which means she edits TV commercials for a living...and hates it...claiming it's "killing her soul". I liked her immediately! We seemed to have a lot in common, although I chose not to explore this common hatred in any depth. They were having fun reminiscing over "award winning" grilled cheese, and I was content to mostly listen and watch people. I would come to find that People Watching is one of the great joys of New York City. I had heard that before, but for the love of Christ! You just can't help it.

SVA was nearby, so from this swank restaurant the three of us were off on a brief, nostalgic tour of Ye Olde Stomping Grounds. They showed me a couple of their favorite spots and old apartment before Stephanie had to, grudgingly, get back to work.

From there Chris and I began making our way toward Soho, where he had more friends to seek out. Along the way we took a casual stroll thru NYU's campus where Chris imparted unto me the crucial knowledge that "NYU girls are easy." Thanks Chris, good to know... now. From there it was a slow stroll toward the subway, and eventually Soho.

I really liked Soho. We stopped into one of his old coffee shops from years ago where he was warmly, if not psychotically, greeted by an old customer who recognized him. She also had named, and was chatting with Mike: a bird perched in a tree.

Craig's coffee shop was next, a few blocks away but still in Soho. What struck me about both of these shops were how old and tiny they were. They couldn't have been more than 10 or 15 ft. across. Not the kind of place you'll write a phantom screenplay while drinking coffee to be seen.

Craig's place was staffed by an extremely attractive young lady, so we got coffee and sat outside on a bench to take advantage of the view while waiting for a call from his friend, Margo. Chris had mentioned that Craig's "thing" is acting, and that he's been on CSI a number of times. I would rather be gang raped by rabid rhinos than watch CSI, so I didn't recognize him at all when he eventually came by. Another interesting tidbit on Craig: on 9/11 he was standing in front of his shop when the first plane flew directly over his head just before hitting the WTC.

From Craig's we decided to stop in to a little bar called Milady's. It was only a couple blocks away, and we figured we could have a beer while we continued to wait for Margo's call. Chris had arranged to have dinner and/or drinks with Ingrid later on in the evening, and we had now begun contemplating just calling it a city and heading back to Jersey after we'd finished. Chris called Ingrid and set an earlier time and a place on the Upper West Side to have drinks. In the interim, we decided to just stop in to see Margo for a quick hello, figuring he could come back the next week if he missed the sit down. We grabbed another train, and headed to Wall St., and then the WTC site as it was approaching 5:00.

This was the first time I had been to Ground Zero in the daylight. It never ceases to silence me as I quietly look up to the now- empty skyline and replay the images long since burned into our psyche. The planes. People jumping. The towers falling. Policemen. Firefighters. The tidal wave of dust & debris flooding the streets. 

Thoughts race, but none have to do with patriotism. It's the definition of "heroism"; how it has nothing to do with an athletic field or a television production. It boggles my mind to see the hole in the earth, nearly 8- years later, and think that 3,000 people died here, yet commerce and real estate values mandate our collective values: something simply MUST be built. I see the pile of rubble, still smoldering, in my mind. I hear George Bush making love to his megaphone. Then Dick Cheney giving his WMD proclamation followed by the images from Abu Grahib. This place is a magnet for me, yet obviously not for the reasons our handlers would like. Ground Zero both saddens and enrages me. This is the place that the world, yes, but my country in particular-changed. It's the place that America, at least the idea of it...died. The very spot where America became Amerika.

As we tried to walk the perimeter, I found a crack in the fencing that exposed the entire substructure, and the thing that they'd like to sell you as "The Phoenix Rising from the Ashes": The "Phreedom" Tower. On the spot where so many freedoms were obliterated. And not by the planes. As I saw the sight of this "Phreedom" Tower taking its embryonic shape, I think I may have vomited a bit in my mouth.

From the WTC site, it was a nice subway ride north to the Upper West Side, Columbia University, and Ingrid. Ingrid is Chris's ex-girlfriend, and his travel partner on the first part of his cross country walk. He freely admits that he ran her off, so I was eager to meet her! For whatever reason, I had very low expectations. Yet, the same had been true of Bill & Laura and the theme would continue; I greatly enjoyed her!

Their travels and relationship had ended, as best as I can decipher (and remember thru the drunken haze) from Chris's refusal to slow down and just enjoy the walk. He has been openly conscious of this while we've been out here, so no big revelations. I laughed when she told me she was amazed, and happy that I "had gotten him to slow down" because she couldn't. It's nothing I've done, but I got a kick out of it.

Beyond their past, Ingrid was interesting in other ways. She is another of the philosophy/psychology double minor types with which I love to have coffee driven conversations. She is obviously brilliant, and if we had had more time, and not been drinking, the chats would have been priceless! I mean, hell...she mentions Sartre on Facebook!

There were other people in this little bar near 115th and Amsterdam. Her boisterous, and annoying (to me) 20- year old friend, Perri and the poor guy she was stalking. She probably annoyed me because she's 20 more than anything! There was also Kwami, a guy who was quite interested in our travels, loved my hat, and was happy to tell us all about ourselves.

I had forgotten that NYC bars close at 4am. We started drinking at 9. Do the math. Ingrid, however, had a hookup at the bar so, although we were drinking the whole time, we spent next to nothing. Thank fucking God...that could have been horrific.

We had long since decided, again, to stay at Ingrid's, and I slept nicely on the most comfortable of yoga mats.