"Quanta...like spit in the dust of a baseball field" - Cody

November 30, 2004

I talk a little while about the year

On November 5th lmy plane landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport at 9:00 PM, and my coworkers and I disembarked. We waited at the baggage claim discussing how different it felt to be on the East Coast, and we tried to piece together the geography of the New York metro area to see how efficient it would be to share cabs to our destinations.

Michael K. used his cell phone to call his sister who explained to him the difference between Chelsea, the Upper East Side and Brooklyn, which had seemed clear in my head, but which I wasn’t able to convey to them with authority, considering myself a mere former resident, and that for only nine months. We had decided on separate cabs by the time our bags were all gathered and we walked toward the exit, past the unlicensed ‘gypsy’ cabbies and their repetitious monotone solicitations.

The line for licensed cabs stretched fifty people long and was swelled by countless pounds of luggage with no cabs in sight. The night cabbies, as I like to call them, trawled the lines with promises of $40 to Manhattan and repeated questions, “Where you goin’?” I buttoned up for a long wait and lit a cigarette that was overdue.

Michael got into a discussion with a driver. What I assumed was naiveté was actually a calculated negotiating tactic (or else genuine unguised curiosity), and he got a fare to Brooklyn and left our group. With still no cabs arriving to dwindle the line, my other coworker, Raj, and his girlfriend found a ride and went on their way. I waited with my two bags huddled next my legs and called Jay to let him know the plane had landed and I was on my way to the hotel.

I was skeptical, still no cabs had arrived, until a few minutes later when a pack of six pulled to the head of the queue. More cabs came in spurts several at a time, until I got one, through my luggage in the truck and was driven through the Midtown tunnel. I got out at Seventh Avenue and Twenty-Eighth Street, entered the Four Points, and met Jay on a floor somewhere near the top. He guided me to the room, helped me drop my bags, and we spent the remaining night before I passed out like two men in love who hadn’t seen each other in more than a week. It had been exactly one week to the day.

The weekend was spent leisurely, walking around, shopping only at H&M because the Levi’s store was dismally bland, and avoiding the New York City Marathon. The highlights were the meals and the time spent together not doing anything in particular.

On Saturday night we visited G, a bar in Chelsea that I knew from my year at NYU, and that I visit every time I return. It’s unremarkable, a front room full of intimidating scenery, followed by a large circular bar with a path on either side that slopes up to a room in the back with seats along the wall, with the coat check and bathrooms further on.

G appears to expand every time I go back, for example, this time I found a room along the side that cuts another bath from the bar to the bathroom with an opening to look into the raised back room. It’s a bar much like Badlands in San Francisco, which I like to call Blands or Sadlands, evoking the unexceptional, unexciting atmosphere of one of the staples of my early history in the City.

On Sunday we avoided the New York City Marathon, got falafel in the Village, moved our bags from the Four Points to the Grand Hyatt, then met Clint and Adrienne at Tortilla Flat. My experience of this Mexican restaurant in many ways mirrors my experience reading Steinbeck’s novel. At first I was skeptical; the kitchy decorations and noisy ambiance provoked me in the same way as the Santa Cruz scenery in the beginning of the novel. Then I was angry, we waited for a table for half an hour without a single table leaving, much as I waited for any phrase, plot element or character to stir my imagination. The big difference between the two Tortilla Flats is that I never finished the novel, while Jay, Clint, Adrienne, Judy and I basically shut the restaurant down.

After a satisfying meal and even more satisfying pitchers of margaritas, we were embroiled in a heated competition with a nearby table in a game of trivia. The prizes were silly keychains, which could be traded in for shots of tequila. We fought till the end and won in terms of tequila shots awarded, but not in terms of the grand prize, a big sombrero. As we passed our rivals in the street afterward, picking our way across a chopped up section of sidewalk in the West Village, for some reason we got into a discussion of commando Barbie. Maybe that was the second grand prize?

Eventually, after a basement club and some juicy reminiscing about our scandalous high school affairs, Clint and Adrienne headed home and Jay and I shared a cab with their friend as far as the Grand Hyatt, then the friend went on her way. I can still hear her voice in my head, her Bronx/Puerto Rican accent beats the pants off anything a southern drawl has to offer. Although I might have had my mind changed in the next few days, but more about that later.

Early the next morning (Monday), Jay left to catch a flight back to San Francisco, and I began a long week, the story of which prompted this long winded account, which I promise to finish soon. It will describe why I was in New York and what I have been doing with myself for the past six months and why you don’t hear from me as often as you should. Again, more on that later...

Posted by cbsisco at November 30, 2004 11:05 PM