This week, I’m fortunate to be granted a brief business trip in Manhattan. I was last in New York six years ago. Thanks to some kind & generous amigos, my beautiful bride and I spent a little over a year living in NYC, doing our best starving artist impressions and loving it so. Here are three things I made up solely because of that crazy year in that wondrous place.
Aside: The appropriate soundtrack to this article is The Funeral by Band of Horses.
Notes on Napkins in New York (as excerpted from DOWNTOWN SWANS)
I pass a terribly tall building of loft apartments with a gated garden in front. In the garden stands a small statue of a naked torso. No head or arms (barely the start of legs); just torso. The world is a stage and New York is its set.
There’s a street vendor selling bongs. And one with art and another with meat-on-a-stick. And then there is one that’s practically a children’s book shop on a table; everything from Harry Potter to Elmo in strong supply and perfect condition.
We take the 6 subway train. There’s a two-person mariachi band moving from car to car. Their manager/lady-with-the-hat-to-pass-around accompanies them. One plays guitar, the other accordion; both sing. They look sufficiently morose for a New York subway. The guy next to me turns up the volume on his iPod. As we leave the train, Sabine tells Madi and me a great story about a subway preacher she was blessed to hear. He went from car to car (just like the band) only he preached instead of played. At the end of his sermon, he said, “Don’t forget to make a donation. I’ve been working my ass off to save your souls!”
We approach the Metropolitan Museum of Art to find hundreds of people sitting all over the steps. There are people everywhere. The cautious speed of the elderly moving past me is hilarious.
On our way back to Sabine’s apartment, we pass some kids. They’re playing ball. These kids are playing ball in the street. In The Street, I mean that literally. There’s one child, about 9, on one side of a one-way avenue with his two friends on the other side. As the cars, taxis, busses and delivery trucks speed past, the youths in question take turns launching a traditional red dodgeball as high and as far as they can. The final toss I witness nearly hits a man on a bike. The kids crack-up laughing.
On our way to dinner, we pass a cello player and I immediately recognize the song he is playing as the theme from YOU CAN COUNT ON ME (Mark Ruffalo, Laura Linney) …of course, I realize that’s NOT what it’s called and I feel like a louse for not being able to tell you who composed it; but, the movie’s really good so you should just rent it and shut the pie-hole. Anyway…I wanted to toss some money in his case, but I had yet to visit the ATM. Naive Floridian that I am, I hadn’t noticed the sign in his case: “We Take Visa, MC and AMEX”.
For dinner, Sabine’s husband Brian and resident-NY-actress Brittany joined us at Jules Bistro (“Live Jazz Nightly”) on 1st and St. Marks across the street from The Pearl Theatre. The atmosphere was perfect and I had this great mozzarella and tomato salad with French onion soup. Brittany told us that we HAD to visit McSorley’s Ale House (est. 1854). It did not disappoint. A surly gentleman in a grey frock came to our small corner table to inquire, “Anybody here need any beer?” The selection: Light or Dark ale, brewed on the premises. Outside, there was a laminated sign taped to a tree which read, “Smoking Section – McSorley’s Thanks You.”
After Dinner, we walked past CBGB and The Public Theatre. I stopped inside the Shakespeare & Co. bookshop and lusted for nearly the length of a sitcom. Everyone waited for me outside. When I met up with them, Jason Procopio’s little brother, Jeremy had joined the group. He just moved to New York on a whim. On his first audition, just after he arrived, he landed the part of “Jerker Johnson” in NOT ENOUGH PRINCESSES.
The view from Sabine’s apartment is ungodly. We are so lucky.
MANHATTANHOOD is 100 photogenic moments lived in the greatest place on Earth; each one stabbed with an arrow, shaped like a flaming tongue.
My old friend Yahoo used to say “Even in poverty, you can make art.” Sometimes, all you have left is a cheap cameraphone, very long walks and the growing realization that you’ve let down your loved ones. Yet, this poverty of spirit does not add up to art, lemmetellya’.
MANHATTANHOOD is my harried grab at the valuables while the room goes up in smoke.
There’s this moment after you push in your chips and close your eyes, while the gulp rises in your throat; Well… The moment after that: When you open your eyes to find you hold a losing hand, while your stomach sinks; that’s when you’ve been banished from the garden of MANHATTANHOOD.
It’s the tired tale of getting older and losing your faith / talent / whatever.
It’s a love letter to NYC, written ineffectively and inconsistently.
It’s as close to a comic book as I’ll ever make.
It is what it is.
This is how folks move. They gather in clumps and smatters. They may not speak to each other; but, there they are, shoulder to shoulder, waiting on a car. It’s hot as a hoochie, three stairwells down.
What strange ideas will climb into my satchel and follow me home? We’ll see.