-- William Gibson, All Tomorrow's Parties
So Adam calls me up Saturday afternoon and says, "We're going to Manhattan. You should come."
So Ian rolls up with Adam and Jason (who was down visiting for a show our friend Nick was spinning at), with John in tow, and after a quick stop at Ian's house, we drove up to Jersey City where Ian had some religious program thing to go to. We walked Ian to the house where his thing was, and he got us some directions to the train station. There's an SUV there, with Hawaii plates. First time I've seen Hawaii plates on a car outside, you know, Hawaii. Jersey City is a mix of old Philly suburb and South Philly. Broken concrete and sidewalks, too many law and bail bond offices.
After asking a few people for directions ("Yeah, man, it's over there", pointing in the opposite direction we'd been going. "You can walk wid us."), we get to the train station. John, Adam, Jason and I PATH into NYC around 1700 and headed to Jason's dorm at NYU.
I manage to get my bag caught in the fucking doors getting on the train, to the short-lived amusement of the other passengers. John had to push the doors open for me. That was fun.
In New York freedom looks like
Too many choices
In New York I found a friend
To drown out the other voices
This being my first time in New York, I suppose I should relate some of my initial impressions: Streets encased entirely in the shadows of buildings. People are much more vocal here than in Philadelphia, or Phoenix, or Albuquerque. It feels like L.A., only maybe less mean and turned sideways so it's vertical.
Walking towards the dorm, we see numerous BDSM shops, some transvestites scuffling (I missed this, apparently). People talking loudly, yelling at each other (though generally not meanly, just being loud). Tiny corner stores and a twenty-four-hours flower shop.
Voices on a cell phone
Voices from home
Voices of the hard sell
Voices down a stairwell
In New York
Just got a place in New York
I see someone with my model cell phone, for the first time in three years, and it's the first of maybe four. Fucking figures.
The subway is necessarily more complete than the Philly transit system. You can buy rechargable cards, which is awesome. Each trip costs two bucks, which is less than awesome, but whatever.
Twenty-eight floors up, the view from Jason's dorm room is amazing. Adam gestures to a point in the sky and says, "That's where the towers were."
In New York summers get hot
Well into the hundreds
You can't walk around the block
Without a change of clothing
We drop off our bags and head back out. They take me to see the Hole. People are selling photo albums of the towers, the five-picture time lapse series. The towers crumpling. The Hole is awash in floodlights, fenced in, with a concrete barrier on the other side so you can't actually see down it, just look across at the buildings on the far side, at the spanning emptiness.
We go for food. Adam has been talking about this Japanese place for a few hours now, how it's so cyberpunk, just like the noodlecart in Blade Runner. It's less than cyberpunk, the service sucks, but my udon was good so it's all whatever. They manage to make Adam's ramen without any seafood, so he doesn't end up dying, which is also probably a good thing.
Jason gets a hold of Akira via SMS or AIM on his cell phone and we agree to meet up at 2130 in Times Square.
Hot as a hair dryer in your face
Hot as handbag and a can of mace
I just got a place in New York
We head out, and Times Square is Vegas without the over-planning and less guilt. The crowds are close, volatile things. The smell of roasted peanuts and the ever-refracting glare of neon off mirrored glass. We go to Toys R Us to play in the Legos section, and there's a projector on the ceiling displaying an interactive demi-game on the floor. You step on what look to be floating candy bars and a computer in the projector notes this, and breaks the candy bar into pieces. Kids are bouncing up and down on the tile, stomping on light. A life-sized version of the T-Rex from Jurassic Park roars every few minutes, and young girls giggle at it, daring each other to touch it.
We wander up into the giant Barbie Dream house, and there's just too much pink, everywhere you look, and it's damn near suffocating.
In New York you can forget
Forget how to sit still
Tell yourself you will stay in
But it's down to Alphaville
Adam is getting twitchy by this point, too much mediation, and Hell, it's New York, there's plenty else to do. We wander around for a while, go into the Virgin for a few minutes.
Finally it's time to head to the damn bar for Scotty's birthday party (which I suppose was what initiated us coming up here). A couple of guys are standing outside some giant store with frosted glass, rapping to the passing human flood.
Akira finds us as we're wandering down a mostly empty side street and we pile into his car. Akira's driving is what people are always talking about, when they talk about New York drivers. Considering his method of navigation, a constant and seemingly uncontrolled weaving in and out of traffic, cutting around cars lined up to turn and a complete disregard for safety laws, lanes, or even simple common sense, you'd think anyone driving with him would be praying to any God or other nearby creature with a supposed omniscience, but not once did it feel like Akira was in any way out of control of the vehicle.
Of course, the fact that everyone else was driving like this didn't do too much for my nerves, but hey, if you're gonna go out...
Kyle calls us just minutes after we get into the car and we go to pick him up at Penn Station. Jason gets the privilege of Kyle sitting on his lap. New Yorkers have no issues with yelling at you if you're half-hanging out the window of a car, either.
After a half hour of driving around we find parking and head to the bar. A few things should probably be explained about this place. It's Remote Lounge, which according to mdxi was talked about a few years ago on teh Interweb. I hadn't heard anything about it until Adam brought it up, however.
The Irish been coming here for years
Feel like they own the place
They got the airport, city hall
They even got the police
Irish, Italians, Jews and Hispanics
Religious nuts, political fanatics in the stew
Happily not like me and you
That's where I lost you
The concept of the place is painfully and disturbingly post-modern (or pomo as hipsters and the unsubtle ironic say): There are cameras all over the place. Each booth is equipped with a console containing pinhole cameras on servos in a glass jar, a phone, a video monitor, and simple controls (about a dozen buttons and a joystick). You can control cameras anywhere in the bar from the consoles. The bar itself is also equipped with cameras and controls, and there's a bank of monitors above the bartender displaying what people are looking at.
In New York I lost it all
To you and your vices
Still I'm staying on to figure out
My midlife crisis
There are roughly fifty cameras in the place. Mostly they're pointed at girls chests or butts.
We meet up with Ian and Eric in the bar, and get introduced to Scotty, who I don't think anyone but Jason knows, and some guy who will forever be known as the Wisconsin Guy.
After tooling around for an hour or so, Jason finally procures a booth and we start drinking and fucking around in earnest.
As Jason has a Zaurus, and Manhattan has all the 802.11 coverage you could ever want he starts leeching bandwidth from a misconfigured access point and spams porn at the bar via the booth camera. Not to be outdone, the guy on the other side of the booth moons his camera (a couple times, actually).
I manage to get Adam and Jason to goatse the bar. I can only hope that by that point there were many people tuning into our booth feed, because that may be the only crime against humanity I'll be able to partake in, and get away with.
Some people come and go, some of which we seem to know, some of whom Jason has invited over via the booth's phone. Eventually Adam gets some woman to get some Jaeger shots and she and her friend join our table. This is the part where the story gets funny.
I'm mildly drunk by this point, and not really giving a damn about much of anything. So this woman, who turns out to be 41 year old, Italian-Cuban, and from 181st Street (which meant little to me), starts hitting on me. A lot. After a couple hours she's draped herself on me and continues to refer to me as her "little blond boy". She says, repeatedly, that I look like Andrew McCarthy, who she's always had a crush on. I have, at the time, no fucking clue who this is and go so far as to deny this persons existence. He is, however, a real person, and was, in fact, in Pretty in Pink and fucking Mannequin.
At some point, Eric left with two girls.
You know I'm still afloat
You lose your balance, lose your wife
In the queue for the lifeboat
You got to put the women and children first
But you've got an unquenchable thirst for New York
I don't recall much, if any, of the conversation, except for me saying vaguely and improbably profound things about how surreally fucked up the entire concept of the bar is (considering that I've been dealing with IRC for almost a decade, and various socio-political and personal relationships stemming from all that, you'd think the whole thing would have affected me less), but I do remember Jason explaining some of what he does at NYU (neuro-science) to Nyra, the woman who at that point was nuzzling me and playing with my hair. To put it mildly, Jason is fucking smart.
Another round of Jaeger was ordered, which I declined on the basis of me already being drunk enough.
Lucky too, as by the end of the night (around 0330), Adam attempted to get the woman to take me home. Insisted on it, in fact.
I managed to fall over getting out of the booth, not all that drunkenly, simply because Kyle was looking at me and edging in and out of my vision. I get up and stare at Adam, who is still arguing the case for me getting taken home by someone old enough to be my mother, almost, and I say "Dude, she hassa go to Mass in the morning, fuggoff." Or something. I don't remember.
The short of it is I didn't go home with Nyra, but instead got put into a cab with Adam and Kyle, by Jason, who told the cabbie: "Take them to Fulton and Waters, and don't let them move." I haven't mentioned yet, but Jason's a bit of the fucking insane. A typical thing for a genius to be, right?
So Adam, Kyle and I end up at that intersection, wherever the fuck it was, and decide that it's too goddamn to stand around on the corner and that anyway we're hungry. So we walk up to the street to a McDonalds and get some burgers.
In the stillness of the evening
When the sun has had its day
I heard your voice whispering
Come away now
I couldn't really explain why, but eating shitty hamburgers on a Manhattan corner at four A.M. was probably one of the strangest things I've ever done. Skyscrapers rising up around us, empty cabs sliding past, and we're devouring the nation's favorite meat by-product.
Jason showed up a few minutes later, and we stopped by a supermarket where he informed a couple of girls that he was in search of cookies. "They're down the aisle," they say, and go back to their conversation.
"No," he insists, "You don't understand. We want cookies."
"Yes. We do understand. They're down the aisle."
I can't tell if it's because he's drunk, but I sort of doubt it. I suspect this is just how Jason acts. Adam is laughing the whole time, as Jason wanders around some more, demanding Kiwi Water from random people who stare at him. Eventually he buys some milk.
He explains all this to the clerk, who says "Shit, no wonder you didn't get the girls. They wanted the fucking Kiwi Water, man, and you got milk instead." Or something equally nonsensical. I'm sobering up by this point, but that doesn't mean anything is making any sense to me.
There is music reverberating down the street, coming from the third or fourth story of a building, a party obviously in progress. Our New York host gets the attention of someone leaving the building and asks if the party's any good, what the cover is, what the ratio is.
"Yeah, it's aight. Ten fuckin' bucks, man, you believe that? And about one to one, half. S'aight."
Jason's vote of going to this party is shot down by myself and Kyle, and we head back to the dorm, where we proceed to sit around for a half hour. I fall asleep for a few minutes at the very least and am woken up by Adam who informs me that we're going to head back to Philly now.
I'm down with sleeping in my own bed instead of on Jason's floor, so we head down to the subway and stand around, bullshitting and talking about the night. Finally, though, it's decided we should just cab over to Penn Station as it's damn near 0500 and the first train to Trenton leaves at 0515.
We get a cab coming out of the subway station and say our goodbyes to Jason, thanking him for the awesome time. We end up running through Penn Station to catch the train, running down an escalator the wrong way, and careening across the platform juts as they're making last call. And here is where our story takes a tragic turn.
Kyle's about twenty feet ahead of me, and we're all running flat out, and I see Kyle's cell phone jump out of his pocket and go skittering across the platform and down under the train.
Adam and the stone-faced transit employees manage to convince Kyle that crawling down onto the tracks is about the least good idea ever. "Dude, I don't have any [next of kin] contact info for you," Adam quips.
The ride into Trenton and then the switchover to SEPTA for the ride into Philly is mostly full of napping. I force Kyle to read Just Another Empire instead of his Java Cookbook for a bit. Finally we get to 30th St Station and share a cab.
Philadelphia sunlight filtering down through light cloud cover, and it's good to be home.
Except for Kyle losing his phone, I'd have to say my first trip to New York was pretty much perfect. Good people, good fun, random funny things happening. We'll definitely be doing it again before too long.
Oh. There are pictures.
I guess it was a good thing somebody brought their Gameboy camera along, huh?Posted by: DinoNeil at March 18, 2004 3:56 PM