duck-shaped pain

30 November 2001
The Year of Museums and Walking Around

Thursday, 15 November 2001

(Read the account of exciting New York: Day One where I actually spent most of the day in a bus, plane or train)

My friend J. sleeps on a bunk bed. He has slept on one for as long as I've known him, and being the honored guest in the apartment meant that I, too got to sleep on one, for the first time in my life. It was both and honor and a challenge, since I'm not used to scaling any sort of heights in order to go to sleep, but I dealt with it.

The morning came sooner than I'd hoped, since I was still tired from yesterday's transportation ordeal. But J. had one of his students coming over for tutoring (he teaches SAT and other standardized test preparation courses), so I had to be out of the apartment before he showed up. (My other option was to stay in bed, up in the top bunk and stare at them like a gargoyle while tutoring was going on, but I didn't think that was such a great idea.)

For breakfast, we walked over to the bagel shop across the street, where we each had a bagel, a bottle of Orangina, and some coffee. I felt lost for a second, since I was in a bagel shop that had no jalapeno bagels, but I adapted quickly. [1]

While we were eating out in front of his building, J. told me that he wasn't going to give me any advice about what to do that day, because I could sure find something to amuse myself with. And with that, he went off to teach the young.

The moments following this were probably the only time in the entire trip that I was seriously freaked out. I couldn't really decide what to do and I was nervous about making my way to whatever it was that ended up being.

I thought for a bit, consulted my guidebook [2] and decided to go with my old standby re: things to do while on vacation -- museums and walking around. [3]

Because I didn't want to go a huge museum (I had plans for later in the day, and thus did not want to spend hours and hours and hours at one place), and because getting there looked relatively easy (it was), I ended up going to the Museum of Modern Art.

(Note: all museum descriptions re: works seen, names of things, impressions, etc., will be vague because while I actually took! notes! while I was looking at things, I left said notes somewhere unknown. Don't be planning any visits around what I say, okay?)

So, the museum was enjoyable. Not as much as it could have been, since it's currently in a state of flux -- things moved around, buildings rebuilt -- and, as such, has only a fraction of its collection on display at any given time. I would have been okay with this, for the most part, had the books and postcards down in the museum store not taunted me with images of things I couldn't look at in person because they were not there.

My favorite part was a collection of twentieth-century drawings that the museum had recently acquired. I enjoy drawings a lot more than paintings or sculpture, probably because they seem so personal -- pencil marks and parts that have been erased seem to convey a sense of the artist actually being there, of having actually worked on a piece, more so, I think, than other media. I really enjoyed this one piece, which was an assortment of really small drawings done by this guy (see? No notes) as sort of a daily sketch journal -- they were all of things like houses and plates and skies and other little glimpses into someone else's world, and I looked at these things for what seemed to be forever. I saw a lot of other things while I was there, but what do I remember? Tiny drawings of someone's backyard.

After that, I walked around.

Serious walking. Wherever I could go and still feel that I could feel my way back. I looked at buildings, watched people cross the street, sat down a lot and watched people that way. There was a lot to look at. Lots of little things that were really great at the time (still are), that made think, wow, this is so great that I'm seeing this big building or this group of people or this random juxtaposition of behaviors but that, when I try to write about them, seem indescribable.

After the exercise, it was time to be social.

One thing that I've never done before this trip is meet someone who I only know through their journal (and vice versa). It's something I've always figured I'd do, eventually, even though the concept gave me pause before I actually did it. You know, because people can say anything they want in their journals, and it may or may not be true.

I was more concerned, though, with how I would come off. Would the unedited me be too different that what appears here? Or am I one of those freaky people who talk just like they write?

Anyway, I have no real answer to my questions (Z., my New Mexico buddy, assures me that the journal comes across as a pretty accurate representation of what I am like), but I am pleased to report that my encounter with another journaller went perfectly well.

I met Drewd after he got off of work. We met at Grand Central Station and managed to find each other in the mass of people. What did we do after that? We walked. And then walked some more. We stopped for coffee and sat for a good while drinking it and talking, discussing our lives and the nature of keeping online journals and a lot of other things. It was an excellent time -- I'm always reticent around people that I've just met (odd, I know, for someone who puts details of her life up on the Internet for anyone to see), but, pleasantly, I found that talking with him was easy. He's very interesting and funny and worth meeting, if any of you ever get the chance.

Post-coffee, we walked around some more. He was concerned that just walking around, talking and looking at stuff, might bore me a bit, but I wasn't bored, not by a long shot. I mean, it was my first trip to the city, so I was pretty much open to and excited about seeing anything, so I was really into it. We stopped to have some pizza -- I had a slice with pesto and something else on it that was very elaborately decorated -- and after dinner, we said goodbye, since it was time for me to meet up with some other friends at a show. [4]

You'll notice that by this time (this was about 9:30 p.m.), I had done a lot of walking. For the most part, I was fine. I had plenty of energy left (or so I thought), and if I had gone back to the apartment at this point, I would have been fine the next day. But I still had a while to go.

The band in particular I was going out to see [5] consisted of a friend of J's from college, two people I knew from Denver, and a cast of others, one of which played the violin.

They were playing at some club out in Brooklyn, and earlier, J. had given me tentative directions to the place, since he had also never been there before. But I ended up writing down the address wrong (right street, wrong number) and he gave me the wrong subway stop (he was guessing) and that ended up being the cause of much fun in the next hour or so.

I got off at the prescribed subway stop, found the correct street and headed in the right direction without any real problems. I walked for a long ways, not knowing what I was really looking for in the way of buildings, but I was at least making progress. I got to where I thought I should be, but there was nothing there. Instead of a grotty hipster bar at the address I had written down, there was a parking lot, and further down a Shell station.

I got on the horn and called J. on his cell phone. Which didn't work at first, and I had to go to a couple of different pay phones before we could actually hear each other. Which is when I found that I had the address wrong -- that the bar was actually another 10 blocks or so away. The problem was that there was a highway or something separating me and it, with no obvious means to go across or under it.

Eventually, I found a helpful underpass, walked the extra ten blocks, and got to the bar. But by this time, I was incredibly tired and cranky. However, I got to sit down, have a cup o' water, and watch the band, which was very good.

It featured J. on bass and R. on drums, two of the finest coffee shop employees the City and County of Denver has ever produced. They do other things now, but that's how I'll always think of them. I hadn't seen either of them for a while, so we chatted after the show, catching up on what we were each doing with our lives, idly gossiping about other people we all know. R. was very excited that this was my first trip to NYC, more excited than even I was. I'm not sure why.

After the show, J. and I set out for his apartment. Which was a long way away. We walked toward the correct subway stop, running into some of his friends on the way and also stopping for some excellent pita sandwiches. I ordered a pita stuffed with tomatoes and onions and many, many stuffed grape leaves and it was good. We talked and read David Choe comics on the way back, and that was also good, no matter how tired I was.

The best thing, though, was finally going to bed.


[1] Jalapeno bagels being, in some places, an example of advanced Bagel Wrongness, or so I've been told.

[2] I bought the smallest, most inconspicuous guidebook I could (wisely avoiding the big, bright yellow New York City for Dummies book that was actually offered for sale in the bookstore I went to), so that I could keep it in my bag and consult it without taking it out or looking really obvious. I don't think it worked -- people don't usually stare so intently into their bags like that.

[3] It's true. What did I do in San Francisco? Went to museums and walked around. Chicago? The same, only with some driving added in.

[4] His account of the meeting can be found here.

[5] I have thought and thought and thought about this, and I can't for the life of me remember the band name.

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