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11.24.2004

U2
A funny thing happened on Monday. I took the subway up to Columbia to sit in on my friend's lecture there, and when I exited the 1-9 at 116th Street & Broadway, there was a flatbed truck with a band on it playing across the street. They were playing quietly and there were only about 25 people watching them. I could only see their backs.
"What's with the band?" I asked a woman at the bus stop.
"Some campus band pulling a stunt, I think," she answered.
But as I walked towards the gate to the Columbia campus, I kept watching the band. I couldn't hear their music over the traffic, but they looked decidedly familiar. After squinting for a minute, it occurred to me that I was looking at the backs of U2.
So I crossed the street, and sure enough, it was Bono, the Edge, Larry Mullen, Jr., and Adam Clayton playing a few tunes quietly to the dorm. I took a place about ten feet from the truck and watched a groggy, hung-over looking Bono croon a song. I turned around and looked at the dorm. Every window was full, and each one had a young woman staring dreamily down at the band. I laughed. What a way to wake up.
After awhile, Bono looked up and, pointing to an attractive young woman, said, "Hey lovely, what's your name?"
She sat there for a moment, cheek propped up on her fist. "Julianna."
"Well, Julianna, you're beautiful and I love you. This song is for you," at which point her face slid off her hand and onto the window sill.
After the song ended, the truck began to slowly pull away down the street and Bono looked up at Juliana and shouted, "Have a great day, darling. I love you."
I turned and looked up the window to see Juliana waving and reaching for Bono as her lips silently mouthed "I love you," over and over and over again.

People are always asking me why I moved to New York, and it's become one of those questions that drive me a little insane, having had to answer it over and over again. I've created pat answers. The seasons, the energy, for work, etc., but it occurs to me now that I have a new - more accurate - answer: because sometimes, when you come out of the subway in New York, U2 is playing on the back of a flatbed truck and rolling down the street. It's New York. Things just happen.

11.18.2004

The River
I had intended to get a place in Manhattan. The logic was solid: I came to New York from San Francisco seeking to place myself in the thick of things, where the energy level was the highest. All boroughs are redeemable (or so I'm told - I have yet to visit Staten Island), but Manhattan is irrefutably the energy spike. And so I looked in Manhattan only. My Brooklyn-based friends gave me hell. Their grumblings are, I think, not altogether different from the Boston-New York rivalry, where, until recently, Boston fans were constantly up in arms about New York, but New Yorkers couldn't really be bothered to pay attention to Boston. Some of my Brooklyn-boosting friends were downright offended that I could choose to spend so much money to live in Manhattan when Brooklyn was ripe for the taking. "Yes, but, see, I didn't move all the way from San Francisco to live in Brooklyn," I would say meekly, and they would get all up in arms, all worked up in a tizzy. "You get bigger apartments and more open space for your money," they all shouted. I tuned them out. It wasn't that I was telling them that they had made a poor decision, just that I didn't agree with it.
But when a full-time job eluded me, I became wary of signing a lease and instead began looking for a sublet. I sent out a fleet of emails and the first one that responded happened to be in Williamsburg - the hippest place on planet earth. I came here from the Mission in San Francisco, which if I may say so myself is pretty damn hip. I think it has more used bookstores per capita than any other place. But it is a sickly stepchild when compared to Williamsburg. It looks like Fresno compared to Williamsburg. And the place I'm living in? It is an immense industrial loft, the kind of place I had seen in movies and waved off as being only possible in films. I walk around and feel strangely like I am on the set of Flashdance. So far I have resisted the temptation to wear legwarmers and ripped sweatshirts and pour buckets of water on my head. So far.
What attracted me to the area, besides the chance to live in a crazy loft, was its proximity to the city. Bedford Avenue is the first stop into Brooklyn on the L line, which runs east-west underneath 14th Street. It is quick. 15 minutes door to door to Union Square when the timing is right. No farther at all than my cousin's apartment in Hell's Kitchen, where I was graciously put up for a few weeks.
But I didn't factor in the East River. It is a rather large barrier, psychologically. I knew this going in - I studied things like this in school for crying out loud - but I had never really experienced it. I will be in Manhattan - downtown, say - at 4PM. I will have dinner plans in three hours. And even though I would certainly have gone home to my cousin's place if I were still crashing there, I will most certainly not go home to Williamsburg with a three hour gap. It is Brooklyn. It is far away. Over the East River and through the hip woods.

The Computer Returns: Episode XVII
So, in celebration of the fact that I finally have my computer back, I will actually post something!

The Subway. I have made my share of mistakes on the subway, and I intend to get them all out of the way as early as possible into my chapter of New York life. I have intended to take the E out to Brooklyn and realized too late that it dead ends on its own spur by the WTC. I have likewise fallen asleep on the uptown E thinking that I was safely headed up to the Upper West Side. I woke up in Queens. The E doesn't go to the Upper West Side. (oh, E. oh, evil, evil E.) I have been on a devious Manhattan-bound F train in Brooklyn that magically transmogrified into a G train. At the time, I thought I had the situation covered. I thought I was in the clear. I simply walked across the platform and snagged the next A train (an express, no less!). Only, not so much. The G doubles back on itself, so walking across the platform put me on an outbound A train (an express, no less!). I ended up far, far away. I have also missed my stop at Columbus Circle on the uptown A and watched forlornly as every single station from 59th Street to 125th Street flew by the window. Hello, station. Goodbye, station. (repeat seven times: the A train runs express the length of Central Park) It has gotten so dire that I have been happy - on multiple occasions - to realize that even though I had accidentally boarded a train going in the wrong direction, at least it wasn't an express. I have only lived in New York for a month and change and I have already made these mistakes. I will make more, I promise.
Those moments don't bother me so much, because the vast majority of them will not be repeated. The smells, though. Those trouble me. The bad ones are tolerable. The urine I can handle. And the vomit and the feces. Those are manageable as well, if only because once you smell them you can just turn your nose off for the duration. It's the mysterious smells that bother me. The smells that are, well, strangely pleasant, and beckon further olfactory investigation. They are devious odors like sirens perched on the rocks. "Strange, it smells like Snickers down here," you say to yourself, and wander about looking for the source of the...and then you find it. And it's not Snickers. No. Not at all. It is definitely not a Snickers. Last night, for example, what was it that I smelled at the BDFV 14th Street Station last night that eerily resembled the happy cinematic scent of freshly popped popcorn? I never did find out, but you better believe it wasn't actually popcorn. I couldn't stop sniffing, actually wanting more of it. I don't want to know what it was. Ignorance, in this case, is surely bliss.

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