February 2015 has been reported as the coldest month in 35 years for Manhattan. The East River isn’t frozen yet. But it’s getting there. (Click here or the images below for video.)
I pull the album from the shelf. I open it to a random page. An odd figure is there. The elbows are crooked, the posture awkward, everything unsure. It’s me.I’m a teenager. I think I know better than I do. I know I do. I say and do things because nobody stops me. I just want to grow up. I want out of this childish world. I call myself Dr. Shades as I play basketball in the backyard; I bounce in a chair when I listen to The Partridge Family. I remember running out the door and yelling something stupid. I was referring to a crazy idea in my head; my mother thought it was aimed at her. These memories aren’t treasured. As much as I might decry the lack of a sanctuary in Manhattan’s public spaces, the danger of the cranes overhead, this is the most unsettling aspect of writing, the reflecting, what I find inside, remembering what I wanted to forget so long ago. To quote Jodie Foster from her 2013 Golden Globes speech: “It’s like a home-movie nightmare that just won’t end.” It might appear cute to others, but it is utterly stupid, half-baked and wretched, so much so that I’m even willing to consider the notion presented in the film Looper, that of killing off this version of myself…just to get rid of it, the cringing, the inadvertent shivers, the denial. It’s almost a thought and then it isn’t. The truth is that I hate guns, and that, in the end, like Alvy Singer, “I have to keep going through it because I need the eggs.”
There is a certain schizoid imbalance to writing about distant lands.
My mind is half in the arctic, but when I walk the dog, I know that I am a long way from that.
I think of vast expanses, glacial winds, privation and suffering and remember that I need to get pecorino cheese and a nice Sicilian white for dinner.
This isn’t in praise of the system, certainly not the cleanliness nor service, but rather a sentimental rumination on the aesthetics of industry and decay. The water stains and hanging wires, the rats chasing garbage, scurrying over carcasses of each other. It’s like art, something true. There’s the silence, the distant footsteps and then vibrations and the approaching train, coming and suddenly there, not yours but the express, flashing past the steel pillars, thick and black. It’s strangely idyllic, a place of calm and respite, the traffic and weather above, the air from the tunnel rising up, the train coming at last out of the dark air and dirt. The conductors wear protective glasses – for the grit and abuse – and might hold the train for the switch from local to express, but then seem to prefer the opposite. It’s just a game. I took the E train on a late-night trip from World Trade Center to Jamaica Center and back again. It was full at times – leaving Manhattan and into Queens – and empty too – coming back from Jamaica at 1:30am. I woke, the train idle in the station, half of the shiny blue slippery benches filled with people not going anywhere. I’ve been kicked – hard and with intent – and stood idle after a brute of a man jumped onto the train, having punched another – hard and with intent – and all of us stood there, quiet, eyes averted, complicit. It’s something deep, the furnace of this city, the noise and quiet, the dark and roar, the rush and the emptiness again.