Friday, April 25, 2008

The last seat

After work yesterday I decided to walk to the Marsh Hawk Press spring book launch. Not looking at a map, I though, how long could it take me to walk from Spring Street to W. 27th? Or another way to put it, the Holland Tunnel to the Lincoln Tunnel. It turns out there is a weirdo exponential math to the street grid on Manhattan's most Western edge. I finally hit my first street number at 10th. And it had all been uphill. Ah, only another 17 blocks! I'll be there early. I turned up the Brazilian techno pop playing in my ears, and walked another 5 blocks before I hit 11th street. It must have been another quarter mile to 12th. And so on. Finally at 14th street, a decimal math order was imposed on the grid and it was only one block number between streets.

The sun was golden and turning the cobblestones and brick into gold and copper, women wore light cotton dresses, everyone seemed to be laughing in the warm air, and I walked through neighborhoods I haven't seen for years or decades and it was all utterly changed. Prosperous. Grills and bars and cafes and art galleries. Also chain stores and air-space condos with a symbiotic infiltration of old buildings. My legs were starting to turn into rubbery pasta when I finally found the Ceres gallery hosting the reading. And I was only 7 minutes late and well before the reading started.

There was a lovely remembrance and moment of silence for Rochelle Ratner (from Sandy McIntosh) and the three poets read. I sketched and photographed Jane Augustine, Tom Fink and Karin Randolph. The gallery was featuring the sculptural work of an artist who uses driftwood and branches. Rather like the fence my husband's cousin built around her deck in Montana from ancient weathered limbs. Except these were wall hangings not meant to keep skunks out.

After some chatting and nibbling of pineapple chunks, I headed home. But once again, even though it was now dark out, I didn't need my jacket, the air still held that mix of cool and warm intoxication. I accidentally walked west at first and discovered I was at 11th avenue. Vans, lights, actors cooling their heels in cop uniforms, and a food table announced a movie or TV show was being filmed. A nice looking silver haired man was leaning against a brick wall.

"Whatcha shooting?"
"Law and Order?"
"Which one?"
"Uh, Special Victims?"
"Buzzer noise nope, that's filmed in New Jersey. Criminal Intent."
Law and Order was once filming in my neighborhood, I ran up to Jerry Orbach and told him how much I loved his role. He was lovely about it. Seemed like a great guy in person."
"Yeah, I've been told he was."

I look down the street and people seem to be fussing around an old car.

"We're gonna blow up the car, you can stay to watch if you want."

Another younger guy turns to me and says, "I was just in that car getting it ready. When you think in maybe the last 20 years of all the people that got in and out and sat on that same seat, and I'm the last person to do so..."

We all nod.

It turns out the silver haired guy and I have jobs, as designers, more similar than one would think. I pointed out that in print design nothing actually explodes.

I head back to my subway entrance, 4 avenues away, and as I pass a playground lit by flood lights and casting a multitude of shadows, I whip out my camera and shoot and shoot and shoot. A little boy in a yellow cap and an eyepatch stops to watch me. I tell him I like his hat. His mother catches up to him and he repeats what I said in another language to his mom, tugging it proudly. She smiles. And it was the kind of night where everyone felt kind and wonder scented the air.

No comments: