Monday, May 12, 2008

New York Part 1 of 3

My flight left at 11:15. The plan was to sleep the entire way so that I wouldn't be a zombie. While I did manage to catch quite a few z's, I might not have been able to sleep the entire way. There might have been pillow encroachment. "What is pillow encroachment?" you ask. Pillow encroachment is when the girl in the seat next to me brings a full size pillow, lowers her tray, plops the pillow down on it and goes to sleep. Pretty much the only way I can sleep on a plane is if I lower the tray and lean onto it, so my tray was already down. Her pillow took up all of her own tray and half of mine. My head was turned toward the side of the plane and I was trying to sleep, so it wasn't until her elbow rammed the back of my head that I realized what was going on. I feel like I am a fairly rational and friendly person but when I sat up to figure out why I'd been elbowed in the head, I did not take kindly to the extra six inches this girl was taking. But she was asleep. It's really not in my nature to wake someone up to have a confrontation with them. It's a lot more in my nature to sit in my seat stewing over the fact that I "rented" just as much airplane space as Madame Pillowhead and yet, suddenly had considerably less. I sometimes wonder if I am ever so oblivious to my surroundings.

I landed in New York at 5:15 am and, thanks to taking only a carry on, boarded the Air Train after making a pit stop to gargle away my stale slept-on-an-airplane breath. I bought a Metro Card and hopped on the Long Island Railroad because obviously, the city of New York would be so kind as to include buses, subways, and the LIRR on one card. Sitting across from me were men in hardhats. I glanced around at all the people with their tired glazed faces and their worn hands holding cups of coffee, heading out before six for another grueling day doing something that required a hardhat and the weight of humanity temporarily rendered me exhausted. I was heading into a city with Broadway and Rockefeller Center and Wall Street, but I was seated across from guys who bounce past graffiti on their way to another long day in the elements or buried in some subway tunnel. Then a guy came by and asked me if he'd punched my ticket. Alarm crept up my spine and settled in my cheeks. I was pretty sure I didn't have a ticket. I dug out my Metro Card anyway and handed it to him. There were definite smirks on the faces of the working men. Mr. Ticketman explained that what I handed him was a subway ticket (to hide humiliation I tried to play dumb) to ride the LIRR would cost me an additional $12.00--because really, New York is nothing if not expensive. The fact that I actually had the right amount of cash to hand him was nothing short of a miracle. There I was with my luggage and my oversized purse looking every bit the tourist and I could see in the face of a man across from me that he thought I was overprivileged. I'm fairly certain he thought I'd ever wanted for anything in my entire life. But just as his assumed presumption of me was incorrect, he might wear a hardhat because he finds them fashionable. Perhaps his worn hands were simply a result of a lack of lotion. Maybe, even, he was on his way to the manicurist. At 5:45 am. I got off the LIRR and boarded an A train bound toward my friend's apartment feeling tired and slightly disappointed in the way the chips sometimes fall.

But when I got off the A and climbed the steps out into the city I remembered the airy weightlessness that I felt the first time I experienced New York. It's effervescent and disjointed in an oddly comforting way, not unlike how it feels to begin falling into your dreams while still somewhat conscious. It was drizzling and the leaves shivered on their branches like thousands of nerve endings, buzzing with overstimulation. Cars honked and people dashed from buildings and the world felt alive. I used to love a show at Sea World called City Streets. It was sadly replaced in 1992 by Wings of the World bird show and now, it's stadium is home to Pets Rule! (Just to be clear, the show actually has an exclamation at the end of it, I am not trying to end that sentence with exuberance.) City Streets was supposed to be a snapshot of life in a big city. The backdrop was a facade of apartment buildings, laundromats, sub shops and grocery stores. The performers danced and roller skated and jumped rope and, at nine or ten I found it all wildly exciting. I wanted to move to a busy street in New York or Chicago and learn how to do flips in roller skates on a half pipe. For the early nineties, City Streets must have done a great job masking the dealers as break dancers and the smack as lollipops because I didn't worry at all that if I moved to downtown Chicago I might have offers to turn myself into a coke addict. All of that to say, when I stepped out into the fresh air in Washington Heights, I felt like I was stepping onto the set of City Streets and there was a slight tap in my otherwise two left feet.

Then I found my friend's apartment and, while she went to work for four hours, I slept. Around noon I heaved myself out of a hazy stupor and made my way downtown. Kristin and I met when she got off work and had a late lunch at Vnyl and then headed to the theatre district. We were able to get half price tickets to a certain show by Jonathan Larson because we might have felt that seeing it on Broadway before it closed was a good idea.

On Friday my plan was to go to New Jersey so that I could add another state to my list and then hang out wherever my little heart desired while I waited for Kristin to get off work. It was supposed to be a fairly uneventful day but it became a very, very eventful day. I called my husband in the middle of it and told him that I had just made the dumbest decision of my life. When he asked me if it was dumber than dating a certain Egyptian I said yes. You see, the decision to spend two and a half years with that one person was kind of like Eve eating the fruit. Stupid, oh yes. But she was deceived. Shame on me for allowing the deception. But, this was more of an astronomically ridiculous decision. With that one person I kind of blame him for most of it. This, though, was entirely my doing...

Stay tuned.


  1. You are so much braver than I ever could be. Just reading about the whole train/subway thing makes me...what? Nervous/embarrassed/scared to death. And then you braved the big city and went out in it again. Very brave. (Not nice to leave us hanging until tomorrow, though. Not nice at all.)


  2. oh come on, the cliffhanger? that's just not fair!!!

  3. I knew many people that performed in that City show at Sea World, I am so glad they brought you so much joy.

  4. Yeah City Streets! That show was awesome. Just so you know, if you go behind the scenes at Pets Rule! you will find the old city set. Its still there, they just built the pets stage in front of it. So, long after the streeters stopped dancing and flipping, I have stood outside their apartments and sub shops. It made me smile.

  5. I so remember that show!

    And I remember that, the summer before I moved here, I had this crazy jumble in my head of what New York was going to be like. I thought it would be a smoothie of:

    SATC/SVU/Sesame Street

    And now, well, I'm here, and as it turns out I don't walk down the streets in strange tutus or yell FREEZE POLICE or sing songs with pieces of foam.

    I bet this city is never exactly like anybody thinks it's going to be.