Here’s an interesting set of statistics:
Brooklyn alone contains 2.3 million people, making it the largest New York borough. Were Brooklyn to secede from the City of New York, it would become the fourth largest U.S. city, after the remainder of New York, L.A., and Chicago. With a population of well over two million, Brooklyn has more people than does Nebraska, both Dakotas combined, or Maine.
This place is big.
I’ve fallen behind on some of my projects over the last week, so I spent most of yesterday afternoon in the NYPL’s reading room trying to get caught up. I’ll have to work most of this afternoon as well.
But when I left the library, feeling a little stir crazy, I had to decide what to do with my evening. I’m still in the operative mode of “cheap,” which limits my options a little. Luckily, though, one of New York’s most enjoyable attractions is very cheap–free, in fact.
Josh urged me earlier this week to get aboard the Staten Island Ferry while the weather was still nice. Because yesterday was mild, sunny, and cloudless, it seemed like the perfect day for it.
The ferry ride across to Staten Island takes about 25 minutes. Riding it round-trip as I did (I didn’t exit the ferry) will take an hour.
After boarding the ferry, I made my way to the upper deck for a better view. An outside walkway allows you to look out over the water on either side of the boat. I looked out over the Brooklyn side for a while, finding familiar landmarks for orientation and staring off at Governor’s Island, and then walked over to the other side. Let’s Go New York claims that the ferry ride provides the best available view of the Statue of Liberty, and the book’s probably right. Although many points in Manhattan and Brooklyn have provided nice views of Liberty, obviously none allow her to loom this large.
I was happy the boat wasn’t full. Finding a vantage was easy, no matter where I wanted to be. I stood watching Lower Manhattan recede from view as we passed Ellis Island, Liberty, and the New Jersey shore. I then walked over to the Brooklyn side, to get a view of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and the Brooklyn skyline.
The breeze on that side of the boat was much stronger, so I closed my eyes to feel the air snap against my skin, to listen to the engines gently groan, and to smell the fishy salt of the bay water. When I opened my eyes again, I saw seagulls floating alongside us, wings spread wide to catch drifts off the boat.
During the ferry ride, I felt a new dream beginning to take seed–to travel by ship across the Atlantic to Europe. Ship travel is probably some years hence, for I think the only companies offering such European travel packages are luxury cruise liners, which means the tall dollar, but that just means being diligent with my debts and getting money saved up.
I promised to tell y’all about Friday. Here’s Friday:
My vegetarian, fiddle-playing, hat-knitting, uber-styling, Unix-dorking, zine-writing, subway-busking, bicycle-riding friend Elizabeth met me for lunch in the East Village, at a vegetarian restaurant of her choosing. Kate’s Joint really is a joint. I mean, if you imagine what a restaurant would look like that calls itself a “joint,” that’s this place. The people passing by, with their piercings, spiked or mohawked hair, tattoos, and eclectic choices in clothing were fun to watch. The food was yummy.
We talked for a couple hours, and then she went off to knit another hat, while I made my uptown to meet Amy at the Hayden Planetarium. Amy, visiting from Minneapolis, is a much bigger space geek than I am–she majored in space science in college. She explained, patiently, the things I didn’t understand as we toured. What a great place.
The show we saw in the Planetarium was lovely–I literally gasped when the star field filled the dome–but a little light on hard science for my tastes. Well, it’s aimed at a general audience and considering it was written by Carl Sagan’s collaborators on Cosmos, the science that was there was impeccable. But it’s got me hungering for more, and fortunately, the Hayden offers lectures and courses. Introduction to Space Science looks especially nice.
After the Hayden, Amy and I wandered down to Midtown and the Times Square area, which of course was swimming in tourists. We called Josh, my roommate, and had him pick a dinner place. He met us at a charming, well-run Italian restaurant in the East Village. Yummy, yummy food.
After, we dragged Amy out to Ace for a drink-up. Quite a few people turned out, including Famous Comic Book Writer Guy, who seemed nice and funny, but a little geeky. I guess we’re all a little geeky, but he was a little geekier. But that’s okay. It’s weird recognizing someone based on publicity stills…
Right. Drinkup. Not much to say. We drank and we drank. Then, we drank more. Following that, in an amazing and unexpected change of plans, we drank and drank and drank. Then I went home and slept.
That was Friday.
Sorry it’s been so long between updates. My big news right now is that I’ve found a new apartment. This arrangement with Josh was always only temporary, but now I’ve found a permanent home here. Well, let’s say, I’ve found my first permanent home here. In reality, it’s simply less temporary than Josh’s.
More accurately, I didn’t find the place. My new roommate did. He’s a friend of Josh’s who’s been looking for a new spot to lie down at night. He found it and called me to see. We both liked it, so we grabbed it.
So, the place. It’s in Park Slope, just a few blocks from where I am now. The new apartment is on Seventh Avenue between First and Second streets. We’re just a couple or three blocks from Prospect Park and we’re in the midst of a great commercial district. Seventh is lined with all sorts of nifty stuff: a bar here, a hardware store there, a toy store, book stores, laundries, groceries, a neat little Italian place that sells canolis and fresh mozzerella made onsite, a co-op grocery, a health-food store, several coffee shops. You name it.
The neighborhood has a great mix of old and young, families and singles. It’s multiethnic and very hip. Finding an apartment on 7th Ave. in Park Slope apparently puts me in the realm of the trendy and fashionable, from what I hear. Imagine that.
The apartment itself is very nice. New hardwood floors line all rooms but the kitchen, living room, and bath, which have brown slate tile. Cabinets still have that new-wood smell and there’s manufacturers’ stickers still on the fridge, bathroom sink basin, and tub.
Chris’s room is lovely: large, and with a bay window overlooking Seventh. My room’s a bit on the small side, but it’ll hold a bed, bureau, and night table easily, and there’s enough space in the rest of the apartment to kick around in, so I don’t mind. And I’m willing to trade off size for location anyway.
Not even three weeks in New York and I find an awesome place. I must have a charmed life.
I took a long walk around Lower Manhattan this evening. I’d been inside the apartment all day, editing a book on gardening, and needed to get outside for a while, so I took the train into the city, with no real destination in mind. I wound up on Houston Street and decided to walk west to the river. I didn’t know this, but there’s a nice river walk, so I took advantage of it.
It was a lovely evening for a walk, so there were many people about. There’s a long pier you can walk down, so I walked down it. The view of Lower Manhattan from that pier was fabulous. (Yeah, I took pictures. No, I don’t know when you’ll see ‘em. Have you noticed my damn San Francisco pictures still aren’t online? That was April, dammit. Leave me alone.) You could also look uptown and see the Empire State Building, lit up tonight in Old-Glory colors.
I kept walking.
Soon, I saw to my left a trapeze school. A trapeze school, of all things! I gotta admit, it’s tempting. Very tempting. (Don’t tell my mom.)
I walked on. The Downtown Boathouse offers free kayaking and free kayaking lessons. Now that’s damned cool. It’s a little late to sign up for lessons now; the calendar shows that basic lessons were held at the beginning of the summer. Maybe next year.
I kept cruising. Ahead of me, I saw another pier, this one bedecked with lights and happy people. I started to pass by but then realized everyone walking in wasn’t paying a dime. So I wandered in, to see what was the hubbub. Swing dancing on the pier. Within half an hour, I’d seen opportunities for trapeze artistry, kayaking, and swing dancing. What a city.
I watched the dancers a while, longing to join, but my swing dancing’s rusty. I’m sure I can find lessons around here. Everyone seemed so vibrant and glad, it actually made me happy to see it.
I wandered on, down to the World Financial Center. I skirted the plaza, keeping to the river walk. They’ve done it up nicely–brick walks, trees everywhere, lovely river views, gleaming steel-and-glass highrises. I didn’t venture into the building cluster, but those nearest the river showed no signs of last September’s unpleasantness. By this point, it was dark, but people were everywhere. Jogging, skating, strolling. Making out on benches. Chatting, arguing. I strolled past a cute cove given over to yachting, several restaurants with outdoor seating, another cove. Eventually, I landed at Battery Park.
Parched, I sought out McDonald’s for a keg of Coke before grabbing the N train from Whitehall St. back to Brooklyn.
Last night, I hopped the F train to Coney Island. The train from Park Slope took about half an hour to reach Coney; as we got closer, I looked up from my book and out the window. We were on elevated track by that point, and I was delighted to see the lights of the carnival pass by the window as we arrived at the station. When I saw Nathan’s all lit up, I actually got a little excited. Their hot dogs aren’t any better than any others I’ve had (although I’ll confess that being in New York has taught me to love a frank topped with sauteed onions), but the lemonade was good.
I arrived late, a little after nine. I had plans to meet Lauren and Todd in front of Nathan’s. They arrived shortly after I did, and we met Lauren’s friend Stacey. We then headed up to the boardwalk to watch the fireworks and track down Janet, visiting from California. Todd was the only one who’d met Janet, so he watched out for her and shouted when he saw her pass by.
Burlesque was the order of business. Coney has a weekly burlesque show on Friday nights during summer. Lauren and Janet, being at heart horndogs, were all about the burlesque. Not that I had to be dragged in screaming, mind. The setup was a gameshow–This or That–in which audience members are enlisted as “contestants”. They answer sex trivia questions, and have to guess which curtain holds the most luscious dancer–Let’s Make a Deal on hormone therapy. Janet answered the call for a pie-eating contest. Vying against five other contestants, she won handily. For her trouble, she received a butt plug from the night’s sponsors, Toys in Babeland.
Of course, the real attraction was the near-naked women, and they were certainly on display. Tassles–one swinging this way, one swinging that. Pasties. Thongs. A crocodile woman came out to battle against a Mexican wrestler. Of course, they began the bout fully dressed but that didn’t last long. The Mexican wrestler won, but was soon challenged to another bout by “Suzie Sukiyaki” who’d come to Coney Island to claim it for her corporate masters at Tokyo Disneyland. (Disney’s expressed interest in buying out Coney Island and Disneyfying it. Given Coney’s long history of seedy entertainment, most long-timers are outraged. Can’t blame ‘em.) Poor Suzie. When the wrestler ripped off Suzie’s costume, one of her pasties came off with it. The crowd hooted and stomped at the site of bare nipple.
Rowdy, fun, vaguely sleazy. The auditorium is stuffy and not air-conditioned. With last night’s temperature dropping no lower than 82, the mercury inside must have reached 95. Sweat just fountained from everyone in the room. In the end, I think it might have added to the atmosphere. When we came back after intermission, we sat up at the top of the bleacher seats and we all got a little giddy from the heat. We whooped it up and shouted until hoarse.
I’ll tell ya…there’s something about this city.
Yesterday, I spent the day outside the no-AC apartment, mostly working on freelance assignments. I visited two libraries: the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library and the Humanities and Social Services Library of the NYPL (that’s the one at 5th and 42nd, with the two lions in front that everyone thinks is the main branch–it’s not).
I noticed on an earlier visit that the NYPL’s big reading room had electrical outlets built into the tables, meaning I could plug in my laptop. The Brooklyn library had no place where I could plug in and unfortunately, my battery was hosed, so I took the train to the city and worked there.
But that’s not very interesting. After exiting the train at Grand Central Terminal, I walked the few blocks to the NYPL, stopping en route to pick up a carryout lunch. I ate on the terrace in front of the library. While I sat there, an old man sat down a few feet away and began feeding the pigeons. He filled his cupped hand with seed and held out his arm at chest level. One brave and curious bird flew up, landed on his arm, and ate from his hand. Then, several birds. Before long, pigeons were hovering about this man, waiting for a turn at the trough.
The old man clearly took great pleasure in this, but when another man began talking to him about birds and pigeons, the expression on the old man’s face became pained and pinched. He made no reply and shuffled off awkwardly, birds trailing after him.
I am now safely and happily in New York City, land of brave and/or stupid. I’m staying at my friend Josh’s place in Park Slope, a charming multi-ethnic neighborhood in Brooklyn. I arrived via Amtrak, and although the leg of my journey between Louisville and Chicago was hellish, the trip from Chicago to NYC was very nice, especially the run along the Hudson between Albany and NYC. We hugged the Hudson River for nearly that entire leg of the trip. The mid-afternoon sun shone brightly on the river, the gently rising Catskills, and the lush, verdant palisades across the way. A calm breeze rippled the waters of the Hudson, and the cool temperatures (mid-70s) made me envious of the boaters taking advantage of the perfect day.
In many ways, this Amtrak voyage was picture-perfect. In one northern Indiana town we passed through, two young boys bicycled past the train, pedaling in the opposite direction. As they passed us, they waved back at the train. I felt like an extra in a Cary Grant movie when I saw that.
I’m blogging right now from the dumbly named web2zone, a Samsung cybercafe venture near Cooper Square. It’s pricier than EasyInternet, but the Samsung place has two things in its favor: it has Microsoft Office, which means I can actually edit from here if absolutely necessary (the hourly prices would cut dramatically into my profits, so I hope not to–it’s just nice knowing I can); and unlike EasyInternet, it’s nowhere near Times Square, which as you’ll recall, I fucking hate. This means I don’t have to weave around and trip over the tourists lined up for the Broadway production of The Lion King or those queued to see whomever’s on display at Madame Tussauds. (It was a waxy Samuel L. Jackson; today it was waxen Albert Einstein.)
One way or another, I hope to have my iBook wired up very soon. Once that happens, I should be able to update this thing more often. I hope to have a lot to talk about.
I’m tired. I guess it’s no surprise–the last week has been busy, with my interview on Wednesday, going with Tim and Christine to see Twelfth Night on Thursday, the drinkup on Friday.
The drinkup. Lot of drinking at that drinkup, but I guess that’s the point. I met Todd at his workplace on Friday afternoon. We schlepped my bags back to his apartment in Brooklyn, he changed clothes, and we headed back into the city. We stopped off for slices of pizza before joining the crazy kids at Ace Bar. The Ace kids were loud and funny and drunk and flirty and funny and drunk and loud. Which is pretty much everything a good drinkup should entail, no?
We left Ace around 3 and since Todd and Lauren were hungry, we headed out with Molly and got slices of pizza. Molly knew another place, so we ducked in there and ordered a pitcher of beer. It was kind of a dive, but it was fine, and we sat and talked. Todd flirted with Molly and Lauren; I just sort of watched it unfold in my own little haze. When the bartender switched off the neon and upturned stools onto the bar a little after 4, we knew it was time to go home. Molly lives around there, so she walked back, and Todd, Lauren, and I grabbed a cab back to Todd’s apartment.
Next day, got up at 11. We washed as much bar smell out of us as we could and swilled cocktails of filtered water and Advil. We met up again with Molly–and a guy named Slippery Pete–for brunch. Biscuits and sausage gravy. And coffee and coffee and coffee and coffee. A large picture of a smoking cat gazed over us as we fought to take in all that food before us. The plates, I fear, won. I think Lauren put away most of her omlette and home fries, but the rest of us left a lot behind.
Molly went one way, Slippery Pete another, and then Todd and I saw Lauren off at Penn Station for her train back to Long Island. We later met up with Josh for a late, late showing of Metropolis, followed by beer and pub grub at a Greenwich Village bar. Stumbled back to Todd’s, collapsed at 3:30.
Got up at 7 to haulass back to Indiana. Subway to Manhattan. PATH to Newark. NJ Transit to Newark International. Tram to the terminal. Kludged heavily to the gate, with 45 minutes to spare before the flight was to leave.
Suddenly from my backpack, a cell-tone rendition of I Walk the Line. I fumbled open the zipper, rummaged around for the phone. Elizabeth, calling to apologize for missing me twice last week. We caught up on the rest of my week and the unfortunate disasters that plagued hers, and made tentative plans to get together when I get back.
Buoyed by a nice call from a pretty girl, I boarded the plane. Uneventful flight to Detroit on a sparsely populated plane meant room to stretch out and nap. My connection to Indianapolis was almost immediate, so I rushed down the terminal to my other flight, just in time. I’d rather rush from one gate to the next than sit like a toad for an hour waiting for a flight. Sparse again with room to unpack my legs and doze. At the Indianapolis airport, I collected my stuff and waited for the shuttle back. My iPod handed song after song to my ears on the trip back to Bloomington: Springsteen, Costello, Waits, Dylan. Prince, Madonna, Ella.
I dread travel days, especially those like yesterday: four states, four modes of transportation, navigating unfamiliar stations and airports and ticketing systems. What I once saw as adventure, I now view as tedium. But with the call from Elizabeth, the relaxing flights, and the relative compactness of the trip (just over three hours from Newark Int’l to Indy), it wasn’t so bad.
Blogging on the run.
I’m in Times Square again, at EasyInternetCafe, which I just love the hell out of. These cafes started in London as an offshoot of the EasyJet empire, and they have cafes now throughout Europe. I think NYC is their only American outlet, but I’m not sure. I dug the hell out of them in London and Paris, so finding one here was a relief. Terminals at the hostels I’ve stayed in are horribly expensive–on the tune of 15 bucks an hour. EasyInternet offers a sliding scale, based on how many customers are in the store. A buck will buy you anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, so it’s very much worth the trip into Times Square–which, truth be told, I really fucking hate.
I’m off soon. Probably gonna join the tourist throngs at the top of the Empire State and gaze out over the city.
A friend told me in e-mail that she’s not surprised I’m exhausted. She said I’m basically on a work trip–my interview on Wednesday, learning the city, learning more about finding housing, finding my way about the subway system, and so on. I think she’s right. I’ve already started to think of this city like my new home, which is funky, if you think about it.