clap clap blog: we have moved

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Because, well, because I spent it whacked out on Dayquil.

xmas eve day, manhattan

it is cold but there is no moisture whatsoever and on 17th street women load presents into car trunks wearing shorts and a sweatshirt while people walk by in full parka-and-scarf getup. i've already been to the office where I keep thinking I'm hearing people there, even though it's empty, even though I know it's empty, because it's never empty, not these days at least. i duck down to pick up the boxes and there's a chatter of something, except computers and ventilation and other things are already humming and chattering, it is a plutonium quiet, but the ghosts remain.
when the taxi pulls up to the hotel the driver pops open his trunk without even asking. a doorman lets me out and ask if I'm OK and I say yes but later I wonder what seemed to be wrong. i guess i was probably stumbling. the walk to work was normal: up a little late, maybe, but the regular train in, listening to music, the walk across 16th and up 5th, the elevator up, the whole deal. but then it was dark and quiet and then straight outside to an uncrowded street and straight into a cab and now in this covered entryway for the hotel, not even on the street but getting out of a car.

i take the elevator up 44 floors by myself, and it runs express from the 8th to the 28th, the LCD floor indicator just saying "XX" and I feel the speed in the fluid in my head and my ears pop. at my floor i get out and look down the shaft at all the lower floors and it's like a belltower, and it's quiet like a monestary, no music, muffled noise, scattered people. i deposit the boxes in the room and then back out to the non-street street where someone will get a cab for you and the family ahead of us in line is trying to talk a taxi driver into taking all 5 of them in one car, but no one will do it. a man in a cowl and a cap ushers us into the backseat of a yellow cab. my father says that they were waited on by 6 people from the time the taxi got to the hotel until the time they got to their room. it is a very room, with a good view, although maybe not as good as the one i saw from a hospital room a few weeks ago, i'm not sure. it depends what kind of things you want to see when you look outside.

at macy's there is a man in a carrot suit handing out fliers and people looking at the window displays, which cross-promote both forms of the polar express and are less creepy than the movie, probably, but still not very nice. we never get to see the phantom ones but i've seen the musical anyway so how can it compare? store windows are outmoded as spectacles, sad to say. we walk all the way through the store through the women's accessories and perfumes and cosmetics and something else and my dad says he hasn't been in here in 30 years and there are people everywhere and as we are about to catch an elevator my mom comes out of one, and we hug, and i think we take some pictures. my mom has a new coat she bought that morning because she was cold.

we take an elevator up to the eighth floor (which is going just to the eighth floor and not to anywhere else the attendants are quick and frequent to tell us, although later i will come to appreciate this level of information transparency) which opens just near santaland, where my mom had been waiting for us. we walk into the "quick peek" area which is surprisingly uncrowded (in contrast to the multilayered line that awaits santa's own personal beck & call, which fills me with a sort of sucking dread and almost makes me want to abandon the idea of this whole christmas thing entirely) and i think of david sedaris of course but i also think of how cute the little baby is, sitting there on santa, who looks very wholesome in a not creepy way, to be honest. but then on the way out i see the line again and i think, no no no.

outside we take an uptown bus and a crosstown bus and enter grand central. my mom goes straight to the tourist information booth and crowds around with a bunch of other people and asks when the laser light show will be occuring. not for a while, so we go down into the food court and eat. i am very whacked out by this point and i stumble to the bathroom and i don't really remember the bathroom, but then i'm in line for soup and i get some soup and like a pepsi and a water, and hopefully these are all things i want because they could be like vomiting in a cardboard box and giving it to me at this point and i'd be like "could i get bread with that," and then i get a table and we eat, corned beef sandwich for my dad and chicken salad for my mom and boston baked beans soup for me, with sausage. i think the soups i like best are uniformly ones with pork products in them. i like most soups pretty well, but throw some bacon or sausage or ham or whatever in there and i'm your man, sam. i take a dayquil and start to feel better. my dad goes to take pictures and my mom goes to smoke and i just look around, sorta, but i also just stare off into space a good bit.

then it's time for the laser light show! so we go up into the rotunda and lollygag around for a few minutes and then it starts. it's actually sort of silly and unimpressive but charming, somehow, although i'd enjoy it more if keeping my head elevated didn't cause dizziness. one group has the right idea and is either laying down on the floor or tilting their toddler's strollers back so they can have a direct view. a small indian girl with pigtails perched on her dad's shoulders is just going totally nuts for this, although it's unclear if this is from the lasers or the music or all the people or because she's just generally excited or what.

we tale the escalator up and walk through the lobby of the mostly deserted met-life building until we get to a small shopping concouse (featuring godiva, home of the chocolate bar that's in my jacket pocket right now!) that exits onto 45th street, and we walk through the oddly advertising-saturated pedestrian tunnel until we get to the continuance of park avenue. my dad wanders off to take a picture and my mom almost gets run over by the traffic, which she thought dead-ended at grand central. but she's OK. we walk up park and take pictures of the lights on the waldorf-astoria.

i have to pee and we can't decide where to pee until my mom looks into the lobby of sak's and goes "ooh!" and so we go in there. apparently the only men's bathroom is on the 5th floor so i head over to the elevators by myself and it's very confusing and we're all trying to push things and it's way too crowded and eventually we head up, but people keep getting on and the getting off is hard, and when it gets to my floor (which, by the way i've noticed from looking at the signs in the elevator is the only floor in the building without a women's bathroom, which should tell me something probably) no one moves enough so I have to sort of squeeze my way out, and push past this little girl who's been crying, who gives me a really mean/sad look after I get out and I feel kinda bad.

the bathroom is luckily right there but there's an attendant, which always freaks me out, so i sneak around to the end and wash my hands really quick and run out, but for some reason there aren't enough sinks or something, so there's sort of a pile-up between the urinals and the faucets, which is not pretty let me tell you. the shoeshine guy outside the bathroom looks just like me, i think, and as i'm waiting for the elevator i look at the very expensive suits and want to touch them but figure i shouldn't. back on the surprisingly small ground floor i do a lap looking for my parents and instead see all the brands have their own mini-stores: louis vitton, chanel, prada, etc. some of the people seem familiar but a lot of them, i wonder if they are from new york or new jersey or long island or somewhere else. they are dressed all wrong. no one tries to spray me with perfume, which is nice, but i'm still feeling a little woozy.

we all meet back up and hit st. pat's, across the street. my dad decides to stay out front because they yelled at him once to take off his hat, which is fair. me and my mom start in but then she worries where's the shopping bag and so we go back out and my dad has it, so we go back in, but we keep tripping over the steps, which are off in a way i can't quite pin down. inside it is annoyingly crowded and sorta pretty, but sorta not. in the far left corner is a nativity scene that has a lot of people looking at it. there is a box on one side that explains how they are all hand-carved and that if you want to donate money, please put it into the box and do not throw it at the nativity scene as it will cause damage, which people apparently need to be told, because there is the same box on the other side. i record a little bit of the sound of the church and the sound of me opening the door to the street and the change there.

we make our way back to the hotel, busing it down to 46th and then walking crosstown. my dad goes into a cigar store that is like my own personal hell. you walk into the foyer and there is a vent above your head blowing heat on you and then you walk into the store and there are like these things on top of cases blowing smoke or steam or something white and cloudy into the room, and it just smells and feels horrible and like a fever dream. me and my mom wait outside and my mom goes up to a guy on the corner and gets a flyer for free margaritas at a mexican restaurant down the street, and they have a conversation, and then we talk about getting some margaritas.

the hotel ground floor is busy and we take the long way accidentally, chasing my dad around the circular bank of elevators, trying to find the entrance, and it feels endless. there is a small girl being lead calmly by her mother except the small girl is not walking, she is dancing. we find the elevators and whoosh ourselves up to 44, and in the room i decide for some reason to take a shower, which turns out to be a fantastic idea, as the water is nice and hot and the steam makes me feel much better. who says two showers is only for summer days? not i. i try and take care of the flaking skin on my poor nose but there's nothing much to be done, so i grab a pack of cigs for the missus and take the M7 down to Union Square and walk to the restaurant, where miss clap is outside, talking to her parents, and has a hard time getting off the phone. we hug and take pictures and my dad and i go inside and wait at the bar, where he suggests we do shots, and i say ok, except apparently he was kidding, so i just get a vanilla stoli and coke instead, except it's got only the vaguest hint of brown in there when i go to take a drink, which means that a certain bartender wants me drunk on xmas eve. which normally i'd be all for, but sick as i am, this isn't such a good thing.

dinner is good and i have veal for the first time, which i like a lot, although my taste buds are not at the tip-toppiest. afterwards miss clap and i go to duane reade and get dayquil and more kleenex and take the train back home.

xmas day, brooklyn

had a hard time sleeping so i woke up early and read haroun and the sea of stories. miss clap woke up and asked me to read her some, so i did. then i read her "the santaland diaries," which she enjoyed. there also may have been a dance of some sort. we decided these would be christmas traditions, which we can because it is miss clap's first xmas, her being jewish and all. she is, as she puts it, "the kind of jew that thinks the only difference between us and christians is that we don't celebrate Christmas." but she has agreed to celebrate it with me this year, which is very nice of her although in fairness i've done two passovers already and gave her hannukah presents this year, so we're running about even.

outside it is a dull blue, a sharp morning air. we call the car service and wait outside. there is no wind. it feels exactly like something, although i don't know what. maybe standing in the middle of an airstrip. the car turns out to be an SUV, which is weird, and the two of us are all dressed up in long coats and nice shoes and sunglasses. very fancy. we roll down broadway under the jmz and lots of stores are open, but the only people we see are orthodox jews. no one is around. it is noon on a saturday. shabbat. it is deserted. this is not how broadway feels.

the restaurant, peter luger's, is similarly in a deserted area, with a cold view of the bridge, but when we go inside people are packed cheek-to-cheek in the bar, waiting for their tables. the first two names i hear called are "myers" and "green." my mom is getting a champagne and chambord at the bar so me and miss clap gets one too, and my dad gets a canadian club & ginger in honor of brooklyn, his old drink and his old home. near here is where my grandfather grew up, and my father is finishing up a book on the semipro ballteam that used to play in a stadium a few blocks away. but i still don't belong here, i suppose.

at our table there are very good onion rolls and a waiter we want to call "igor." everyone is taking pictures and we do too. i am sweating a lot although it is not hot and i take off my sweater and loosen my tie and splash water on my face in the weirdly outdated bathroom (looks like it's from a catholic school built in1963) but nothing helps very much. the food is very good, although that'll have to wait for later. as we are leaving, a large group comes in and one of them says, "oh good, our favorite table."

this time the car service car is just a regular towncar, and we all crowd in, all kind of confused. we stop off at my place first to drop off the bag o' beef (leftovers from the steaks) and then tool into the city. everywhere it is abandoned but there is no sense for the abandonment. in a storm or similar bad conditions there would be reason not to see anyone, but it is a beautiful day, even more beautiful, maybe, without all the people, because with that quietude the dust has settled and the air is clear. nothing stirs. we putter slowly through the landscape.

even in manhattan it is quiet. moving across houston or up 8th avenue feels sedate. three pm on a saturday and it's like a CNY town. the driver goes down 44th instead of 46th so we just have him drop us off at the corner, but to get back on the sidewalk and to the hotel we have to squeeze through the gap between scaffolding and a nut cart, a palpable gate, and all of a sudden we are back in new york, whatever that means, times square still being actually somewhat busy, although nowhere near as busy as usual. it feels like going through a time warp, somehow, like a transition between worlds. Is this what it's like to have money, to take cabs everywhere? To not have the stretch of ground between the subway exit and your destination absolutely memorized? To be isolated in this way, to be able to ignore all those people? Or is it just Christmas?

I think I rely on the noise of people, that particular chatter, on the way they shape the air when they're around. Human contact is nice but even anonymous and impersonal human interaction, glanceless and neutral, can serve a purpose, and I wonder if I don't need a certain amount of this to feel OK. It is a very particular kind of white noise--a flesh noise, maybe, the randomized humping and galomphing of all those souls, that can chase out other noises, that can seduce my own flesh into a unified sound. we all want to think for ourselves but there's such a thing as too much independent thought. to be slipped into this mass choir of players who do not recognize each other but harmonize nevertheless is a form of beauty.

when we read, we try to determine the story's moral point of view. for instance, haroun and the sea of stories was what rushdie wrote while he was in hiding, and it is quite clearly an allegory about certain things, and part of the pleasure of reading it is trying to figure out what stands for what, and what judgments he is making, especially given that the book itself concerns a story-within-a-story that stands as an allegory too. so if new york is a story, what is its moral point of view? with the people gone it feels like farmland, but it was once and could be again, so this is no great shakes. is new york trying to tell us something about ourselves or does it not really care? the things we have created between ourselves seem much more interesting and complex than any one of us. we are little mcnuggets of entertainment; this is the grand feast.

but what do i know? this is my first christmas in the city, and usually we don't even leave our warm, bright, carol-saturated house. and so we go up to the hotel room and open some presents, and it is very lovely and warm again. afterwards we drink some tea but we are sleepy so everyone hugs and kisses goodbye and me and miss clap take the train home in our fancy clothes, still feeling vaguely ridculous. after a while she goes back out to eat chinese food with her jewish friends and i stay in and go to bed early, and sleep well, thankful now for quiet.

merry christmas to all, and love and thanks to mom, dad, miss clap, and everyone i'm going to hit up later. (i swear.)