I was biking today. And it was cold. -14 Celsius. It’s the same bitter cold as it was seven years ago in 2005 when the Metro Transit Authority (MTA) went on strike just before Christmas. I remember Mayor Bloomberg leading his entourage over the Brooklyn Bridge every morning to make sure that we all knew that we were in this together.He’s always been good at doing that. And then they opened up Madison, an entire lane for biking, pyloned off and policed, which was amazing until a taxi door opened right in front of me, and I went heels over head, “No!” and banged flat upside down onto the curb. I lay, looking into the cold blue, police everywhere, and thought, “Yeah, I’m okay. I can feel everything. I’m okay.” I sat up. My helmet was cracked. My hand was bloody and sore. I shook it out. And then I stood. The cab driver was there, looking desperate. “Please, please, don’t sue me. You can’t do that.” I tried to calm him. And then I realized it was the passenger who had opened the door, and he was long gone. An ambulance arrived. I told the medic that I was fine. He told me I had a broken hand. I didn’t believe him. “You’re in shock, man. Look at your bike.” The front of it was entirely bent. He took us – me and my bike – to the hospital. I waited for the x-rays and read Gotham. They sewed up my hand and I suddenly felt sick. I hadn’t eaten all day. They gave me orange juice and wrapped my hand in a cast. I had to walk my bike to the shop. “Doored?” The bike guy asked. “How many stitches?” “It’s broken.” “Lucky you’re not dead.” I left the bike to be fixed and walked home, 45 blocks through densely crowded streets; the strike was still on. I didn’t take the prescribed codeine – I was too tired for that – and felt oddly content and adrift when I flew to England for Christmas. They gave me a business class seat because of my hand. I stayed at a Hyatt Resort south of London for Christmas with my sister and mother and found myself on the elevator with Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter. I said something inane and one of them smiled. I wrote every night in the hotel pub and thought I might run into them again and I did. They were at a table right behind me; they only had to glance over to see my words. Wouldn’t Mr. Burton like to chat with a writer who had a broken hand? That was kind of like Oyster Boy, right? He might even need a quick re-write or a scene conceived. I could do all of that so much the better with my crooked and lumpy claw. I wrote and drank and finally looked. He was gone. I knew it wouldn’t have worked anyway. I didn’t write like him; his stuff was too weird. I continued to write and edit until closing time every night and woke up late and then came back to New York, the transit strike resolved, the cold weather too. The only scar that remained was my inability to make a fist and the fact that Burton didn’t jump at his chance.
There were only a few people in the streets of Lower Manhattan last night, nothing compared to the crowds in Brooklyn. We went to see the the BAM Opera House to see the Brazilian dance troupe, Grupo Corpo.The performance was very enjoyable, most invigorating really and enthusiastically received by the packed house. And then we had our cold walk home through Brooklyn, around the long lines for shuttle buses and across the Brooklyn Bridge – 41 degrees now – back into Manhattan, many of the buildings on the lower end still dark. We returned to Ward III in Tribeca, our refuge after the storm, to see what it would be like with power and lights. It was still dark, bu it wasn’t the same. It was loud – both the music and the people – and crowded. Our drinks were great, but the Narragansett was now in a glass and the Negroni had ice. We were still content and waxed sentimental about the Days of the Surge before going home to watch Saturday Night Live’s parody of Bloomberg’s press conference, all very amusing, especially the jokes on Bloomberg’s mastery of the Spanish language.
It is cold and bright again today and much of the wreckage remains.The Con Edison trucks are everywhere. As are the emergency relief vehicles, the used hoses and sandbags. But Leo’s Bagels is open again! Amazingly, the line is not yet out the door. And that is most definitely something. Egg and cheese, please.