It’s been 7 and a half years since I lived in New York, since 3 days after 9/11 when I left the city for other cities. Suede’s Brett Anderson: “The sound of the streets, insane as anything.” New York is much like this, gloriously tragic, cold and overwhelming streets of another global island.
2/13/09. A direct flight to Newark, a train to Penn Station, and the E train to 51st and Lexington Ave. puts me 2 blocks west of this week’s temporary quarters at The Pod hotel. I felt at home on the subway. I tried to sleep for a few hours, to no end, and Pap called a few hours later. We had coffee at 13th and Broadway near Union Square and then ate Thai food, felt sick, and went our separate ways at around 7 pm. I slept for two hours but became restless between 11 and 4 am. I began to read Don Delillo’s Cosmopolis (2003) which, ironically, is set about 4 blocks south of where I’m sleeping (that would be E. 47th St.). Eric Packer, a thriving Billionaire asset manager sees the rising Yen—which he’s acquired to stabilize large global debts—begin to eat away his empire as he drives west across 47th street in a stretch white limo. I begin to fall asleep after a flashback where Packer bargains (and has sex) with an art dealer for the “walls and all” collection of Rothko’s Chapel.
2/14/09. Saturday morning I’m at Central Park walking on rocks waiting for Pap so we can eat and go downtown to meet Helen at Film Forum to watch Jean Luc Godard’s Made in USA (1967). Since she’s late, due to the re-routing of the No. 1 Subway line, I sneak in a nearby bookstore and read New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg (2007), edited by Marshall Berman and Brian Berger. I stood there reading Meakin Armstrong’s contribution to the book, “Writing New York,” and remember only that he basically calls Paul Auster “gentrification fiction” but writes more favorably of Don Delillo and Richard Price. After meeting Pap and getting a “famous” hotdog at Grey’s Papaya, we meet Helen and her friend/colleague Luke at the Film Forum. Made in USA’s diegesis is comical and cinematic, for instance in its cross-citational rants on capitalism and American cinema. Anna Karina was beautiful and captivating spread out across that screen. After the film we walk toward China Town and eat steamed buns, chicken & black bean sauce, and “the best General Tso’s chicken” in town, with a few Tsing Taos, at restaurant called Congee Village. I feel like we went one by one around the table discussing recent relationship and/or life travails. A lot of laughs and heartfelt commas. After this I met up with Chad back at The Pod and headed back downtown for some brews, but ended up back at the Belgian bar/restaurant next door on E. 51st with many Laffes.
2/15/09. On Sunday morning Chad and I met Brianne at a rip-off breakfast joint in Time Square called Europa—there so we could attend a 12:15 ISA (International Studies Association) Panel on Jacques Ranciere nearby. Jacques Ranciere is a French literary/film/visual theorist, in vogue throughout the academic disciplines, and especially art and aesthetics, right now. His core thematic relies on a relationship called “the politics of aesthetics,” which is what happens when a particular measure of co-belonging is reoriented in order to give rise to new visibilities (what he calls a “redistribution of the sensible”). What separates Ranciere from the modernist/postmodern arguments is that he begins with a presupposition that this partitioning of the sensible is always happening (think Finding Forrester) even as we ignorantly work from the same categories or surmise that some form has been exhausted (so even if it seems that “punk or hiphop is dead” or “literature is exhausted” that focus is only repeated because new forms of co-belonging are being ignored by dominant discussions). I like Ranciere because I feel he would assign Lipstick Traces (1990) before he would assign Adorno, or John Barth before Marx. I ducked out of the panel to pick Tippy up at 3:30. For dinner we had some kind of Tuna Tot-ta (check spelling) at the afore mentioned Belgian restaurant, even though the waitress had recommended the snails. More Laffe for moi, and for Tippy some kind of beer with pink syrup added. The raw tuna was garnished in onions atop a light cream sauce and surrounded with some species of green leaf. Amazing. Not sashimi, not poke, but more like ceviche though more purposeful in the entire configuration. We went to the Pig & Whistle at 51st and 2nd Ave and ended up being patriotic with a Yeung Lings and a hellfire hot bucket of chicken wings—exacerbated by newly chapped lips. Between the bartender, a traveling Irish businessman, and Tippy, we triangulated food/beverage with screens and conversation.
2/16/09. You get up early to catch the Metro North, and this is the day I am most enveloped by memory. By 8 I’m sipping a coffee and taking pictures of Grand Centrals interior dome, with 37 minutes to kill. On the Metro North I take video of the panning landscape between Harlem and the Bronx, and stop paying it much attention from New Rochelle on. I get off at Rye, and Emily picks me up at a nearby coffee shop. I miss my sisters when I don’t see them. She takes me to see my grandmother who looks great, chin high like an aristocrat, and though her vision is said to be spot-on she says “is that you Noah?” Emily’s 3 kids explain their artwork to me on video, decked across the white walls of Nana’s convalescent home apartment. My favorite is “meteorite hits bird,” which shows exactly that. It’s actually a sequence image, where the fiery object collides with the bird, which then crashes into another, sending both into gravity’s grace. I love real art, not that fake shit custom built for college campuses (that would be Rothko). This is an important trip. We ate lunch at Stamford mall, visit my brother-in-law/ex-Monday night basketball foe, and then head to the train station New York-bound. I’m on the train fast-forwarding through Westchester, than the Bronx, then Harlem. Tippy and Pap are in Chinatown. I’m looking at the past through Bronx streets and two girls sitting in the adjacent seats. Tippy and Pap (I come to find) are exploring eachother’s futures in their discussion of guy types. I meet up with them in China Town. Jay, Pap’s special friend shows up a few minutes later. Since I know their relationship status I feel they want to talk, so Tippy and I head off to meet Chad for the worst Thai food ever (between 51st and 50th st. on 2nd Ave.). We check out the cost of Will Ferrell tickets and walk around Time Square. We return to the hotel and I cut down my ISA presentation to a more specific topic.
2/17/09. I’d planned on an early rise (and maybe the morning session of the ISA in Time Square), but slept in. We met Chad in the lobby and ate breakfast at a nearby diner, who’s Eggs Benedict I would rate A++. This is Tippy’s last full day, and full it was, begun with a new pair of walking shoes and ended with a foot massage at an acupuncture clinic across the street. We were 4 after meeting up with Brianne, did interviews with eachother outside the 48th st. D Line. Took it to the C and surfaced street-level at Chambers. We proceeded toward the bright morning sunlit construction site called Ground Zero, a space of imagination because no one can see beyond the partitions that enclose Michael Arad’s forthcoming monument. The clear-as-ocean blue sky grew eerie whenever stained by the horizontal patterns of the occasional plane.
I thought of Anusorn’s book and listened to sad Velvet Underground songs and “New York” by Doves, remembering that I sat on the 30th floor balcony across from the towers on the last weekend before their demolition. We moved on for the Metropolitan Museum of Art after cutting through Central Park, West to East along the 81st St. route. I liked the exterior décor of mummy caskets and the melancholy stare of early Egyptian portrait sculptures. I enjoyed a Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida painting, of a female figure in a traditional black/red dress against a black background—and I can’t remember the name, probably painted around 1904. I also enjoyed a ‘blue period’ painting by Matisse called “woman” I think. Easily my favorite is William Orpen’s 1910 “Self-Portrait” Oil on Canvas.
Far more than any 19th century piece, the time inaugurated by this William Orpen painting is one of global communications even prior to the first two World Wars (the envelopes alongside the mirror), the militancy of art (the gunslinger-esque poise of the painter), and the mediation of modernity’s growing anxiety (the bottles along the lower foreground). But more than anything, I like the colors, which more than forms that would follow (cubism, surrealism, abstract expressionism, and conceptual art that lacked it entirely), seem so entirely neutral before the advertising age (“degree zero” in Barthes’ literary terminology). The greens, the yellow vest, the pink and purple envelopes colored according to a likely number of confidantes—the painter is away from home, in the global-imperial capital of London, but ambitious as the city forces people to be. I wanted a chicken pot pie and got one back near the hotel, washed down with the gingery aftertaste of a Hoegaarden. Back at the hotel I sit in the lobby writing image captions for tommorrow’s presentation. Tippy goes across the street to get a foot massage.
2/18/09. In the morning Tippy and I, after a few days of catching up with one world, said goodbyes. And off to an other lifeless world of academic dead souls I went, excess flesh to be gazed upon. I received, surprisingly, good comments, as did Brianne and Chad. Ate lunch with John Friend and Pap, and the later vented on her current living situation. Later in the early evening me, Chad, Brianne, and John went to eat Middle Eastern at Bread & Olives. If you read his two journals, you’d know that Andre Gide never eats dinner with anyone without writing a few pages about it. If you knew why that is, you know why anyone ever writes about dinner tables. AJ, driving through the Bronx, called and I told him the easiest place to meet was E. 51st and so we sat down at a bar nearby and closed the gap on 8 years of distance. I forgive him for calling me “GQ” between 2000-2001. I realize he’s still got this style that is sincere unlike anyone I know, or that anyone knows. Half Costa Rican, half Jamaican, 3 kids, music and film smarts, and a mean jump-shot, AJ is reminding me of the New York State of Mind, talks about the new rise of the black market against recession conditions, and about a kid we used to work with that dealt in laundering money through sex clubs in recent years. He told me about a film an Argentine filmmaker made about the Bronx. Steven, Ray, Matt, and A.J., like brothers. Meanwhile, Chad, Brianne, and John are cruising bookstores between the East Village and Union Square. After I part ways with AJ (“I gotta take my daughter to school in the morning”) we go to a literary watering hole in the East Village called KGB (86 4th St, between Bowery and 2nd Ave). Got some Brooklyn Lagers and some good glances, a bouncer that checked my ID and said “I didn’t know ya’ll had cars in Hawaii.” There was an article that day at Gawker.com about why Salman Rushdie wasn’t a creepy old man, since he could be marked with the shallow gloss (noble and endearing for Gawker) of cavorting with iconic supermodels—and all intellectuals do this sort of thing so they appear other than predatorial (like Socrates, for instance). The last night I had a dream I remember, probably a suspended response to how the previous Saturday Helen said I should call the subject of my dream since even if she’s not in the city, I know she’s somewhere along the Metro North route. It starts like this. I see her in a bar hallway on the way back from the bathroom. Since I’m walking with my face tilted toward the floor she extends her face into my visual range. Maybe it’s not her face but a resemblance—a dream face, better. I express shock but some sort of uncontrolled eagerness. I walk toward my travel mates. She follows and ends up close by, but I find she’s standing hand in hand with some guy who stares off, chin up and pretentiously. He won’t look in my direction. There’s a final sequence in this short episode. I feel a second wind of opportunity. I want to apologize for something a long time ago, and I say something about missing her. She smirks, and walks away not looking back. I like chasing after something I can never possess. And not doing what you know you could’ve done is how you keep most of that memory (and this is why some memories have been closed during this trip). Gloriously tragic, cold and overwhelming, too much soul. New York. “The sounds of the streets, insane as anything.” Again, Brett Anderson of Suede said that. I missed that Steven Taylor wasn’t there (climbing up fire escapes to rule over Washington Heights rooftops), that some of the New York landscape is with Jessica, I’ve got a postcard for Nu that won’t be mailed until I get back to Hawaii, and New York tells me both that I’m still young and that I will return. I had two childhood dreams: to surf and to live in New York.