(Careful, it's a long one. What? Hey, don't laugh at me.)
Ah, the R train. I'm getting rather snooty in my old New York age, turning my nose up at other trains as they pass through the station. The N? How gauche. The W? Mention it not. The Q? Mind your throats, please. My butt just feels right in the R train's seats. Plus it takes a little longer to get to Sunset Park on the R, so I have a bit of writing time. And people are calmer on the local than on these high-fallutin', fussbudgety express trains like the W or the 4. Ppppttthhhhhbbbbpppttt.
Had a rousing Labor Day weekend, and by "rousing" I mean frivolous & lazy. So lazy that I cannot in fact remember what I did on Saturday. I'm sure I did something. Might've watched Star Trek. In fact, I did. But if you asked me which episode or which series, damned if I could tell you. I remember a bald guy. Probably The Next Generation, then. Although Deep Space Nine had a bald guy, too...
So we'll just move on to Sunday, then. For weeks, I'd been planning on seeing the American Museum of Natural History, but I never woke up early enough to get to the Upper West Side by 5:45 (no laughing, you), when they close. So when I woke up at a roosterly 11:00 on Sunday morning, I couldn't help but jump at the chance.
And not to belabor this, but I needed a friggin' jacket. In August! (save this letter and shove it in my face around February; you know you'll want to) Leaving the Wifely to her repose, I boarded the good ol' predictable R train for Manhattan. Unfortunately for me, the R doesn't go all the way to the museum. And changing trains on the weekend is like solving a freaking Rubics Cube with some of the stickers missing. I switched trains 5 times, consistently boarding the ones that weren't running their normal routes due to construction. Damn them. Damn them to hell.
But I did get there, with two hours to browse. Two hours is about my museum limit anyway. Although if I'd gone the whole day, I probably wouldn't have been able to cover this one in its entirety. They've got a lot of stuff, man. I mean, like, you've seen stuff, right? Well, this is, like, a lot of it, you know? Dude!
(THE MANAGEMENT WISHES IT TO BE KNOWN THAT THE AUTHOR IS KIND OF A STUPID BASTARD, PRONE TO IMITATIONS OF STONERS WITHOUT GOOD REASON. HE HAS HEREBY BEEN ORDERED TO STOP)
Okay. So I started with the space stuff. Of which there is a lot. The space wing (not its actual name, just what I call it) is appended to the main museum building, which is a beautiful old 1860s edifice. The space wing is clear plexiglass, and is dominated by this huge sphere suspended in the center called the Hayden Sphere Thingywhopper (its actual name, I'm sure of it). It's freakin' big. You can circle it on this catwalk, and learn about the vagaries of size while you're at it.
The museum people are very concerned with size, actually. Of all the things you can learn in the space wing, at least 50% of them have to do with size. For instance: At the beginning of the catwalk, there is a placard stating that if the Hayden Sphere Thingywhopper (we'll call it the HST) represents the size of the observable universe, then the little round ball on the placard represents the Virgo Galactic Cluster. The next placard tells you that if the HST represents the Virgo Galactic Cluster, then this rather moldy rubber stopper represents the Milky Way galaxy. Then on down to the solar system, the Earth, & so on. I say "so on" because it just keeps going, all the way down to electrons & neutrinos. I really wish I had seen this as a kid. The insults would've flown.
"If the HST represents my brain, this speck of pocket lint represents yours."
"It does not!"
"And you're a poo-poo head."
"I am not!"
"If this marble is how big a poo-poo head I am, the HST is..."
...you get the idea. Although I could use it in these more adult years. "Okay, if this golf ball represents YOUR girlfriend's tits..."
So once you have mastered the concept of size, you follow a gangplank into the bottom half of the HST. Here Maya Angelou explains the Big Bang--the most violent, cataclysmic event of all time--in a soothing, Reading Rainbow voice. And there's a big concave projector screen at your feet to throw Junior Mints into.
After the 4-minute program (a bit underwhelming, I must say), you exit onto a winding ramp that also addresses size, in this case the size of time. Every few feet is a billion years or some such. Time is big, man. It's like if the HST represents Strom Thurmond...
Anyway, saw the rest of the space stuff & wandered into the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall. This was cool, as it featured many of his hats. I like hats. Beyond this is what I like to call Diorama Land. I've never seen so many little 3-D glassed-in scenes in my life (for those who've forgotten, as I had, what a diorama was). There were big ones, complete with mannequins of Squanto and Starving White Man, and little ones showing the bloody onslaught of Newly-Fed White Man into the forest primeval. I don't know why, but I dig the little models of trees & houses & such. One day we will build our dream house, and there will be little dioramas all over the place. Really. Don't laugh at me.
Then came Taxidermy Town. I've lost a lot of my taste for zoos over the years because I don't like seeing the animals cooped up, but having their glass-eyed corpses stare at me doesn't seem much better (I know, I know, all this from a guy who's on the fucking Atkins Diet). I will say that if I ever meet a live tiger in the wild, I will ruin my underwear. I came upon an upright but very dead one rather suddenly at the museum, and I damn near had an accident right then. Its eyes were looking at me the way that my cat looks at a mockingbird. I now feel very sorry for mockingbirds. And for people who think camping in Africa is an "adventure vacation".
Around this time, the museum guards started to get all shifty & watch-checky, so I made my exit. I suspect I shall return to see the dinosaurs next time. The museum is right across the street from Central Park, so I wandered over & eventually found myself on a narrow, winding little path. Something was different here, & I couldn't tell what. Then it dawned on me: There were no other humans.
I turned in a circle and surveyed my observable universe, and sure enough I was completely alone. I hadn't realized how long it had been since I'd been in a public place alone. I mean, it's New York. There's always somebody else going wherever you want to go, even it it's to the dump. So I just stood there, listening to the crickets & the sound of...well, silence.
After a few minutes, it occurred to me what I'd actually found: The perfect place to get mugged. So I moved on, though reluctantly. Completely by accident, I happened upon Shakespeare Garden, a nice little collection of flower beds & little winding paths that eventually lead you to the Castle. Now this is impressive. I mean, it's not a CASTLE castle. I've been to England, so I know about those. This is kind of a proto-Disneyland castle, never really designed for siege so much as commanding views. And the view is excellent. Wifely's right, New York is definitely more itself when the weather is grey & drizzly. Quite English, actually. Though with fewer sheep.
I made a bit of an error in judgment, however, immediately after leaving the castle. I spotted a bathroom on one of the paths. This is a rarity. Generally you enter Central Park with the understanding that you're only going to be there as long as your bladder will hold out. Or you find a tree. But seeing this bathroom threw off my mental urge-containment field. Suddenly, not only did I have to pee, I had to do other things as well. My excretory system is an opportunistic little bastard.
So into the little hut I go, spotting a few kindred feet under the 5 or so stall doors. Finding an empty receptacle, I was surprised to find it rather clean. I should've been suspicious right then & there, but my body had already made its plan, & the show must go on. The second I sit down, everybody else begins to clear out of the joint, for no explicable reason. Soon I am alone in the Central Park bathroom. Only then, pants around my ankles, does it occur to me that this is probably an even better place to get mugged than the spot I'd discovered earlier. Think, Opie, for Christ's sake.
Sure enough, in walks a new pair of footsteps. I peek out from under the stall door & see the nondescript black shoes stop near the door. They simply stop & stand there. Oh, great. This guy isn't in here to pee. I sit completely still, afraid to give some indication of distraction. Then the shoes begin to walk slowly towards the far left stall. Okay, maybe he does have to pee. But he doesn't go into the stall, he just stops in front of it. Then he steps in front of the next one. What the hell is he doing?
At last he comes to mine. He's just standing there in front of my stall. I glance up and realize that there's a tiny crack at the top of the door, through which I can see a bloodshot, staring eye. Fuck. My brain starts thinking of possible defense tactics for a man in my position. I could fling poo at him. That might buy me a few seconds.
I don't know what happened right then, but all of a sudden my fear somehow transmuted into anger. A particularly irritated, Donald-Rumsfeld-at-a-press-conference sort of anger. I heard my own voice say with infinite contempt and disgust, "Can I HELP you?"
The man backed away abruptly, as if slapped. Then he darted into the far right stall and proceeded to make the world's most awful, room-filling stench, complete with sound effects. Thankfully, I was prescient enough to quickly put an end to my party & get the hell out of there. I'm still not exactly sure what happened or nearly happened in there, but I confirmed two things I should've known:
1. Don't go to the fucking bathroom in Central Park.
2. Adrenaline-matthew is a real asshole.
Seeking civilization, I decided to leave the park and explore the Upper West Side. Not bad, not bad. Very Seinfeldy. I'm not even sure what that means. Neurotic & Jewish? Sure, why not.
After all my gallavanting, I got tired and headed for home, avoiding the train snarls as best I could. Not long after I arrive at the apartment, I know I'm going back out. Someone next door is having an outdoor party, & they brought their entire bossa nova record collection. Now, I like a good bossa nova. I'm a Citizens For Bossa Nova Jam Fan. But for the sake of Pete, can we vary the selection a little? It wasn't the rhythm so much as the bass line: BOMMM, BA, BOM, BOM; BOMMM, BA, BOM, BOM...over and over and over and over and AAAAGGGGHHH!!!!
Actually, Wifely had been home since the start of the shindig, & she was beginning to show signs of caged-ferret rage or something nasty like that. "Death? Dismemberment? Deadly Nightshade? And your little dog, too!!"
So we went and saw Possession. Nothing better to kill a bossa nova than watching the English get it on. Though I feel a bit sorry for actors who look so much like other actors that you can't remember you're not watching the actor they look like. Like this Aaron Eckhart guy. He's Scott Bakula's brother or I'm a Turkish whore. It probably doesn't help that I've been watching Star Trek: Enterprise a lot lately. Muting the fucking theme song, of course. CHRIST. You know, Whitesnake's been broken up for ages now. KEE-RIST.
I feel like I must've done something on Monday, too. Oh yeah, some preliminary mixing on the album. I may have a line on cheap CD burners, so with any luck, I can kick this Zip drive thing to the curb soon. No promises, but I'm aiming to get this damn record out sooner than later.
Speaking of getting things out (eh? eh?), I have an announcement to make: Ladeez and Gentlepersons, please direct your browsers (after you finish this stupidly long letter, of course) to www.grabapple.net. There you willl be regaled with further tales of the city by none other than the Wifely herself. She's a caution, as they used to say back when everything was sepia. But be warned: If you've pissed her off recently, you may find yourself being pilloried in effigy by the Big Stinger of Aggh. She pulls no punches, & my aching jaw will attest to that. Ow.
Okay, a few more stops to go on this here R train before home, sweet squat. Actually, I'm heading home early today, courtesy of two things which I normally have no use for. No, not the Dallas Observer and the French. Even worse: The NFL and Jon Bon Jovi. You know that big kickoff party tonight in Times Square? Right outside my window at work. The bosses, in their wisdom, knew damn well that by the time we got off at 6:00, leaving the building would not be an option.
So I got out at noon, ate lunch with the Wifely One, & saw One Hour Photo. Robin Williams is a creepy bastard, man. I think he's even creepier to me because I've watched Dead Poet's Society about 80 times, & I've gotten to trust the man. One Hour Photo is like Mr. Keating: The Later Years for me. It's as if after the nasty old prep school fired him from his teaching job & gave him a bad reference, he eventually had to resort to a photo-lab gig in the burbs and go stark raving barkers (that means "crazy", for those without the BBC Geek gene).
That said, it's a fucking great movie. Suburbia never looked so scary. I may have to give up my lifelong dream of a McMansion in Plano, Texas...ACCH!!! AGGGHH!!!! Strip malls!! SUV's!!!! Get 'em off me!!! AAGGGGGLLLAAAGGHH!!!!
(THE MANAGEMENT WISHES IT TO BE KNOWN THAT THOUGH THE AUTHOR HAS GONE STARK RAVING BARKERS, HE WILL RETURN NEXT WEEK ON PAIN OF TESTICULAR BATTERING)
[No yuppies were injured in the writing of this letter.]