Monday, October 31, 2005

RANT: pardon my monday morning rant

pardon my monday morning rant
or... An Open Letter to Our False Sense of National Security:
++ Over the past few weeks, I've thought about chronicling a relatively new phenomenon I see in the city: Cops Standing Around, Doing Nothing. If I didn't think I'd get arrested for doing it, I would take pictures for you of them doing, well.. 'nothing'. And really, I'm not pointing this out as some liberal or anti-police or anti-government rant, I point this out because.. we are literally boring our cops to death and forcing them off of the streets and into subway stations where they dont... sorry, I mean "cant", do what they've been asked to do: make sure all bags entering the subway system are explosive or poison free.
SO Finally, in the name of all things logical - a good fight for principle!
++ But ... really, my people... why does it take the ACLU (or it's branches, in this case) to point out the obvious? Why? ok, 'why' is a stupid question - living in these "elevated terror warning" times, our current government, which shall remain blamele.. err.. nameless, has deemed that the best way to ease the minds of the masses is to show them a net for catching bad guys. The problem of course is that you cant catch minnows in a tuna net.
++ Honestly, GW et al, bag searches do nothing. correction: bag searches will never stop those with bad intentions from carrying out nefarious plans. Unless... and we must consider this possibility... those with bad intentions are completely F'ing retarded or blind and walk right by cops with explosives or whatever, plainly in view. Or, perhaps, they make the mistake of speaking a middle eastern sounding language in frantic tones, right in front of a cop who's a) not busy talking to his cop buddy b) not staring at a wall with a look of "I will surely die of boredom before the end of this shift" c) not checking out girl's asses. d) not passing time by being amused and/or passing judgement on freaky NY hipsters. Granted, all of those things would be a Lot of fun for any cop, but what does it really do besides take them off the streets? In the South Ferry station every morning there are no less than seven cops at any given time standing around, talking to eachother or dejectedly looking at a wall, waiting for their shift underground to end. They dont want anyone's pity, but I feel sorry for them. They know they're not doing anything useful, I see it, we all do. And to cast a net on 34 subway entrances out of 5500?? AND... the best (well, worst) part is that you can legally refuse to be searched, leave the station and enter through another subway entrance. Genius!
++ So please... Office of Homeland Security or Mr US District Judge man or Mr President... stop the security charade and put cops back on the m.f. streets. The futility of this cops-in-subways thing reminds us all, every day, of how "insecure" we really are, if someone really wants to do something evil.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

the 'Sri-L-Indian' "Dosa Man"

The 'Sri-L-Indian' "Dosa Man"
++ My main man of food-carty-goodness, my dosa pal of super-cheap eat-ness, my park-side homie with the uniquely varied, vegan treats... is a finalist in the Vendy Awards - the street-prestigious award given to the best mobile food operator(s) in the city.
++ Purveyor of delicious weekday and sometimes-weekend sustenance, he cooks for... who knows how many people (almost) daily - I consider the line for his food short if it's 4 people or less. (Sadly, the line for his food is hardly ever short - standard seems to be about 6-7 people on any given day at any given time that's not right before he leaves for the day).
++ I call him 'the Sri-Lindian guy' 'cause A) I didn't know his name until today. B) he's from Sri-Lanka C) a good portion of his menu is Indian. D) "Sri-Lindian" is kinda clever and sounds cool, if I do say so myself.
++ While I cant say that I "know him" know him, we're on that sort of "Yo, whassup?" hand-shaking, acquantance basis. If I'm passing by and ordering food or not (and really, it's hard not to order food from him when you can get a delicious appetizer for $1 that'll curb any hunger pangs that might be panging) we shake hands and exchange some pleasantries and then wish each other well. Either he extends this friendliness to everyone, or I have fallen into his "cool camp". (and really, it's hard for me not to fall in people's "cool camps" -- this is me we're talking about). Really though, I think I entered the cool camp from the frequency of my visits last summer - I was practically a permanent park resident for four months last summer, after all - and the fact that I love trying every single thing on menus I like. I also think he liked the fact that as a "dosa newbie", I was working my way down his menu and enjoying every morsel of it. Or maybe it was that I gave feedback on later visits. Or maybe I looks Sri-Lindian. who knows, who cares... his food is Damn good and if any of you lazy-mofos would drag your sorry arses out to NYC, I'd prove it to you... well.. I'd let SriLindian Thiru Kumar and his vegan goodies prove it to you.

Monday, October 24, 2005

5 words short of a full novel on how I am now part of Urban Volleyball League's Co-ed Level D5 Division and Quad Champions!

++ Long title or not, that's what I became 1/7th of on Friday night. My (7 member) team from last season went through, as I'd mentioned, a fairly easy series of teams winning, I think it was, 21 out of 24 games. The real competition it turned out, were in the other branches of the playoff tree. which was welcome, certainly... but unexpected. SO unexpected in fact, that it turned out to have been staged... [insert suspenseful music here] as in: a mediocre team had acquired some "ringers" from the highest skilled divisions to help them out in the playoffs... which might have worked, had they been a little more sly about it - If you're trying to pretend that you've been playing for 10 weeks with a given team, it's probably best not to be overheard saying to your teammates "so your name was..? ...Mike, that's right" or.. "oh, by the way, I'm a lefty". They got disqualified, advancing us to the quarter finals.
++ The quarterfinals were against our only major competition we'd had during the regular season - in fact, one or two of their best players hadn't been there when we'd played them during the regular season and for whatever reason, during the quarterfinals, we decided to play like blind, autistic zombies on a world with very heavy gravity. All the pawing at the air and brain damaged cries for brains didn't seem to help us in the slightest. We summarily lost game one 15 -12. Since our strategy was working so well, in game two we jumped out to a 6-0 deficit... We were not only trailing, but now were also really quite pissed at ourselves. And then... 11 to 3. Eleven to three? What the hell? ridiculous. Not our unbeaten team! And then something happened... not quite the-Grinch-grew-a-heart "something happened" but sorta like that actually. We decided to look into this much rumored "ass kicking" thing we used to know so much about. No, not "ass kicking" literally, though we did consider that option too. We got on a roll... And how. Point after point piled up. Our serves were on, our hitting, blocking, passing, all of it. They took time outs - it didn't matter. They dinked and tried cheap shots that while legal, are signs of desperation - we plodded on. 11 to 12 - our first lead of the match. then 11-13. 11-14. 12-14. 13-14. Uh-oh. 14-14. 14-15.. phew... 15 all. 15-16 ... and finally, 15-17. Game three was played with a frantic, almost spastic intensity of focus. It's sometimes amazing how much the world drops away when you're singularly focused on the do-or-die game of a two out of three match. And yet, again, we stuck with our tried and true strategy of falling behind early... 7 to 3, 9 to 5, which point we woke up... 9 to 7, 10 to 11, 11 to 13, 12 to 14, ..15 to 13. Ta-daaa. Quarter-final champions. In the 10 years one of our teammates has been playing in various leagues, he'd never won a quarter-finals, so we took a second to relish the relative infrequency and specialness of the moment.
++ Next stop, the semi-finals - to be played a full month away. Why a full month? good question - so everyone can forget about the finals and go out of town? maybe. One of my teammates and I had (have) formed a new team so the semi-finals was a reunion of sorts with the team we'd recently help disband. A little awkward, yes.. but we all seemed to still remember each other's names so.. on we went. Oh. After our quarter finals match, we were told that due to the limited number of teams playing in the Summer league, we'd be playing teams two levels above us for the semi-finals and finals. Great - just what you want to hear a month before a match. And yet, it turned out to be just that... "great". We went into the game playing just to have fun, playing just for the hour or so of exercise and free volleyball this night of finals was offering us. Before the game had started, we'd watched the other team warming up a bit and noted that they had one of those "super tall / semi-unskilled guys" that I've mentioned before but that aside from him, only one other guy could really hit well. The other players seemed of average skill so... hmm... unless we were missing some telltale sign of our soon-to-be destruction.. it looked like we might actually stand a chance. And so we started. And suddenly... before anyone really knew what was happening.... we were in the lead - all the while trying to ignore the obvious shock we all surely felt for being in the lead. Shock turned to confidence... insurmountable odds seemed now... ahem.. "mountable" (sorry, I couldn't resist) .. and confidence turned to consistency... consistency turning into a great big steam roller. Game 1: us. Still, we couldn't help but feel like we'd been a bit lucky or maybe the other team had been in a minor funk... they'd certainly come out of the gates swinging in game two, right? Ri... Nah, not really. They did play well, but we played better - our confidence steam roller had a full tank of gas and was being operated by a highly caffinated Union steamroller operator from local 232. (huh?) So we ended up winning two straight games, 15-8 each, and were then called over to the referee's stand to be awarded one fancy-schmancy team plaque and silly muscle-tee shirt with Urban Volleyball League D5 co-ed Division Champions printed on the back. Uh-huh. A plaque for 7 people - That'll work well!
++ What now? Yeah, that's what we asked too. We were to play the winners of the next match for the Finals - which meant we sat on the sidelines getting cold while our opponents were basically 'warming up' with their semi-finals match. It did give us the opportunity to scout both teams playing to spot strengths and weaknesses, of which both teams had many of the former and quite few of the latter. What was in it for us to stay and play the finals match? - we'd already won our team plaque and t-shirt so... maybe we should save our team and our opponents the exhaustion of playing a second match? - such were the thoughts and doubts bandied about by my teammates and myself during our time on the sideline. And yet, the overriding sentiment seemed to be "well, if we just leave, then the winner of this match we're watching just wins the finals flat-out without doing anything for it". The competitor in us (or was it the spoilsport?) wouldn't let us do that, so... on to the Finals.
++ Our opponents star player in the finals was a 6'3", super-fit, red-headed lefty with a great hitter's swing but only moderate defensive skills.. the rest of their team appeared to be... let's say B+ at best (while our team always seemed to hover between A to A+ on great days and B to B+ on bad days) so again, it seemed like we might stand a chance, especially given our recent win over a team we'd considered better than us going in to the match. Long story short (yeah right - like I've ever made a long story short), we played well... really well. I was "on" or "in the zone" or whatever you wanna call it.. the rest of my team was, likewise. Gone was the inconsistency we'd sometimes display under pressure, gone was the frustration of knowing we could play better and gone.. or, well, absent.. was our supposed 'team captain' who it seems, was out of town for the week ... which meant that her negativity, her blaming ways, and her inconsistency were something we didn't have to deal with that night. We played a controlled, tight game but balanced it with the fun and laughs that comes from carefree confidence and taking the game, but not oneself, seriously.
++ And so we won. the scores were a lot closer against the finals team but I do believe we led them the whole way through two straight games. All in all... well, pardon the continued braggadocio but we were a bit in awe of our own greatness. Again, we were called over to the referee's stand and given [drum roll please] ... individual plaques. Did they cost $1 each? probably. Do any of us care? hell no. Will we display said plaques proudly? probably not.. they're super cheesy. And yet, I had to prop up the plaque and t-shirt on a bookshelf at home so I can look at it for a week or so and revel in my own (team) greatness. Why? because I'm 1/7th of the Urban Volleyball League D5 co-ed Division and Quad Champions and who knows when I'll get to say that again.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

tv, books and movies i liked or didn't

+++TV that rules:
...The Colbert Report is the funniest show I have ever seen in my life. three times as funny as the Daily Show which was already five times as funny as anything else, ever. A letter from Stephen, to you, the true American heroes (for watching his show) may illuminate why he is my new god of comedy.
...the Daily Show, I've long said, should be REQUIRED VIEWING for American citizenship.
...Extras is as funny as the original Office, maybe moreso. Ricky Gervais is at the very least, a patron saint of comedy.
...Curb Your Enthusiasm is still funny as all get up. how can being annoying be so funny?
...Lost came back swinging but lost a bit of stamina over the past two weeks. Oh well. They're all still really really really ridiculously good looking. (bastards!)
...The Office - the American Office, is funny, but in a more American way. ie. it's rude, caustic and fat, it's not as inventive, but it's still highly highly entertaining.
...My Name Is Earl - if you love Kevin Smith like I love Kevin Smith, you probably love Jason Lee too. My fear is they're making him too unlikeable for the show despite the repentant ways.

+++Books I did done readed goodly:
...The Shroud of the Thwacker - by Chris Elliott (of Get a Life and Letterman fame) has already made me laugh out loud a dozen times on the train. And I'm only 15 pages in. And I genuinely mean "laugh out loud" - I'm not talkin' any ol' "LOL" exageration people type to you, I'm talkin' the kind where people look at you like you're crazy and then try to see what you're reading. If I could recommend just one of the following books, ....well, it'd be Revelation Space 'cause what I'm talking about right now is technically a preceeding book, not a following one... ok, so that's cheating, whatever. read them all! except for the Tom Robbins one... wait for his next novel.
...The Colossus of New York - amazing prose/poetry that sums up the city to a "T".
...The Intuitionist - pretty, pretty, pretty.. darned good. I'm a bit envious of his writing style. ok, very envious. (bastard!) check the 2nd paragraph of the editorial review for a quick synopsis.
...Gridlinked - a poor man's Altered Carbon. readable for sure, but I'm suprised it was so highly "recommended by others who've read ____".
...Broken Angels - the second novel (after Altered Carbon) - amazing though just short of Altered Carbon. In fact, I'm not sure that Richard Morgan can ever reach the super-amazing-ocity of his first novel.
...Market Forces - ok, so I was wrong. he could. and did. Though it could be that I liked it so much because it had all the elements that normally I wouldn't love: Morgan extrapolates a world where commodities trading reaches a brutal pitch and the outcomes of banana republic uprisings are the new market. ... the brokers of the new economy compete for status and promotions via road rage on the freeways of new London. .. at once an anti-globalization treatise and anime fantasy meets The Road Warrior... employ[ing] the graphic-novel imagery of his two previous novels to create a disturbingly brutal picture of slash-and-burn capitalism run amok.
...Redemption Ark - If I haven't gone on and on yet about this trilogy, just... just pretend that I just made you read about seven pages of me loving this trilogy of gloriously delicious sci-fi. Revelation Space is one of the best books I've ever read. Redemption Ark is damn damn near just as good.
...Absolution Gap - is the 3rd in the series and does a fine fine job of wrapping things up. If you've read the other two, you must, under penalty of eternal lameness, read Absolution Gap.
...Wild Ducks Flying Backward - I'm as big of a Tom Robbins fan as they come but sadly, the editorial review puts it perfectly: Publishers Weekly -The author of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and Still Life with Woodpecker has regularly published shorter pieces in Esquire, Playboy, the New York Times and elsewhere. The whimsical, quixotic nature of that work comes through in this hit-and-miss affair—one that remains woefully short on fiction, focusing mostly on the author's travel writing, essays, celebrity profiles and poetry. The best travel piece, "The Day the Earth Spit Wart Hogs," finds Robbins traversing a big game park in Tanzania. His commentary on the '60s, the legacy of burger mogul Ray Kroc and the prose of Thomas Pynchon remains trenchant and provocative; other pieces are dated to the point of irrelevance (his foreword to Terrance McKenna's 1992 The Archaic Revival). As a poet, Robbins is obvious and heavy-handed, but occasionally he hits the kind of mystical note that characterizes "Catch 28" and makes his florid imagery work. The fiction is brief and mostly forgettable. But an essay called "In Defiance of Gravity" starts as a riff on an obscure club and winds up being an ode to the combination of unconventionality and humor that define Robbins's career as a writer.

+++ Movies that ruled... or didn't:
...Land of the Dead - no I will NOT stop watching zombie films. Not now. Not ever. George Romero is the Hugh Hefner of zombie world.
...Unleashed - Jet Li and Bob Hoskins? Really? Yes - in a strange way, it actually worked. like a pregnant lady craving for pickles and ice cream.
...Kicking and Screaming - warning! Alert! Abort! AVOID at all costs. do not let your love of Will Ferrell blind you from the great wall of crap you will walk into if you rent this. You've been warned.
...Suicide Girls: The First Tour - ahem. ya, so I rented this. the book is amaaazing. take a discreet peek at your local book store. the DVD however, is beyond lame.
...The Interpreter - when will I stop loving Nicole Kidman? The answer, again, is never. I've been trying to shake my love for her for years so... avoid the movie unless you share my Kidman-love. Or you harbor a secret Sean Penn love in which case, you're still out of luck, he looks like he got mauled by a very cruel bear.
...The Thirteenth Floor - it's rare (and by rare I mean 'never') that I turn off a movie half way through. 'nuff said.
...Da Ali G Show: Season 2: Disc 1 - You either love Sasha Baron Cohen or you are too old to know about him (not that there's anything wrong with that) or you are brain dead and have no sense of humor. Ali, Borat and Bruno stay one step over the line of tear inducing laugh-making.
...Robots - When did Hollywood start making kids flicks that adults enjoy? Robin Williams (voice) is only mildly annoying. oh, who am I kidding, he's annoying as hell, but the movie more than makes up for it.
...The Longest Yard - Adam Sandler is no Burt Reynolds. Yes. I just put those words in print, which I think is like saying a marmot is not a groundhog. wait, a marmot IS a groundhog! Still, no one cares. know what I mean?
...The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - All in all, I thought it was true to the spirit of the book with only minorly annoying deviations. How can you avoid a movie with a depressed robot?
...Sahara - Neeeext!
...Crash - Amazing. kudos, kudos and more kudos to the makers and stars.
...Sin City - Beauuuutiful. Excellent. Amazing. not for the squeemish. heavily played noir never looked so good. best movie so far this year, I say.
...The Motorcycle Diaries - Eh. decent foreign flick. not great, but good.
...Oldboy - Wow. definitely recommended.
...Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior - muy impressive. ha ha. get it? muy thai ...? ok, bad. I know.
...Born Into Brothels - Good lord. another amazing documentary. check the description.
...Riding Giants - Yep. that filled my seeing-big-waves-movie-fill for the year.
...Kung Fu Hustle - MOST excellent. assuming you like the kung fu films too.
...Groove Armada: Best of Live at the Brixton Academy - So amazing, I bought it.
...Downfall - another good foreign flick. not super duper. ok, maybe duper.
...XXX: State of the Union - ok, just 'cause I like Ice Cube and liked the Vin Diesel XXX movies doesn't mean they're all going to be good.
...Constantine - swear to bajesus, the best thing about this film was the song in the closing credits.
...Ocean's Twelve, 2004 - Eh. did they really need to make this?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Dead Can Dance @ Radio City Music Hall


saw the NY appearance of Dead Can Dance at NY's famous Radio City Music Hall.

America's most popular entertainers have thrilled audiences at Radio City Music Hall since its doors opened December 27, 1932. Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis Jr. and Tony Bennett to mention only a few .... More than 300 million people have come to the Music Hall to enjoy stage shows, movies, concerts and special events. ... Radio City Music Hall is the largest indoor theatre in the world.

Ok, I'm lazy,... and sleep deprived today. I'm not going to review the show except to say it was A-ma-zing - emphasis on "zing". Everything I could have hoped for from seeing one of my favorite bands from my goth / dark & scary / high school / college days. Here's what a vegan said about the show (some good concert pics, too) And a good review by a Seattle-ite of their Seattle show, the only differences being that our NY show had a full orchestra and they served drinks. well... not Dead Can Dance serving drinks, or the orchestra.. that'd be some show... no.. Radio City Music Hall has several bars that serve drinks.

Friday, October 07, 2005

ALERT! alert! aler... hey, look, something distracting!


"Most specific terror threat ever" says the papers.
-----Yeah, ok, that was kinda scary. or Is. or ....Would Be, if it weren't for our wonderful human propensity to dampen the perception of danger and keep in check the reactionary tendency to say "oh yeah? well then I just wont do _blank_" Whether blank is "ride the subway" or "fly in a plane" or "ride that roller coaster" or even "play potentially knee damaging sports" - people hear of life's dangers - big and small, process the information, have a moment of fear, or dont, imagining the consequences and then... then they start their tried and true trudge towards accepting, and then ignorning, a statistically improbable danger. - "what are the odds?", the saying goes.
-----Maybe I shouldn't walk down city streets - Thirteen people a year die in NYC from air conditioners falling out of apartment windows. Or maybe I shouldn't eat at food carts - I heard someone got sick from one last week. Maybe I should talk my friend-who-is-a-girl (word jumble, strike 3 words) into moving into a safer neighborhood - 3rd St and Ave D is a little sketchy at night. Or maybe... maybe we should all just leave this city. It's far too dangerous, I hear. Just a big ol' bulls-eye for the terror-lympics. "If they are going to target somewhere, it'll be" this 'Capital of the World', our 'Metropolis', Gotham.
-----"Whaduya gunna do, riight? ..riight?" is what I imagine the collective New York spirit to be saying right now. Yeah, that's right - I hear the collective New York spirit in the voice of a saucy, Brooklyn-beauty Italian girl - you know you do too, dont kid yourself. She's right though. Do we all move? Stop taking the subway? Have faith in our police to stop potential terrorists? Ok, now that would make me laugh, if it weren't such a grave subject. In the past few months, I have definitely seen an increased police presence on the streets, in the subways, on subway cars... but doing what? Standing around? talking to eachother? watching people with backpacks and briefcases and satchels and big plastic bags breeze on by them without a second glance? The NY Metro had a quote yesterday from a straphanger that said that the only thing he's doing differently lately is not making eye contact with police so they wont stop him and search his bag. If I could say just four words to that guy, it'd be "what are the odds??" Have you ever seen anyone stopped and searched in the NY subway system? I haven't. It makes me think of Tracy Morgan sketch (below) on racial profiling. I'm not advocating racial profiling and I'm not saying that getting a "shake down" doesn't happen, but I haven't seen it. Not once. That worries me a bit. Doesn't it seem to confirm the theory that if someone wants to do something, they will, and there's little that I myself or the police, can (or will) do about it?
-----Yes, ...the gods forbid, if anything happens I hope and pray for a quick reaction time, an orderly evacuation, a competent handling of crisis. Anyone would, but why all this pretense towards prevention if the only real training, the only real action that'll be taken is towards reaction to an event that has already happened?? Right now, I hear a siren. Is that the first reaction on the scene of tragedy? Every time I see a plane fly over this city, I wonder if it's on a final approach to not-so-neatly hole-punching a building. Morbid? Unfeeling? I would say "yes" perhaps, if I didn't think about planes striking buildings Every Time I Looked Up to watch a low flying plane. What would that do to 8 million urban psyches? Can you imagine? For me, it's instilled a faintly reassuring notion of "well if something's gonna happen, it's gonna happen" but it's also perpetuating a culture of daily ingrained fear countered only by "oh, it'll happen to someone else".
-----Wondering what might fall from the sky is one thing, but now the subway? yeah, that's just great. I already get a little sketched out on subway trains when they stop for minutes at a time between stations - (as much as I fight and accept "not being able to do anything about something", I still want the option to be able to go where I want to, do what I want to). So now I'll get to wonder if we're stopped because today was the day for their 'coordinated strike' and did I just happen to be on the wrong train? "Just happened to be..", "..the odds", " the time", "..wrong place, wrong time.." - it'll always be the "other guy"... or it'll be "me" and unless I plan on turning New York into a subway-less world, I'll need to gamble on Zero and Double Zero spinning on by me. "Whaduya gunna do, riiight?" - right.

** Tracy Morgan: I know in the past, I've popped a lot of jokes about the police and how they get down. And I'll be driving in my lavender-colored Jaguar with the hip-hop blaring, and they pulled me over for no reason. And I would be pissed off, you know? But never again. I'm here to set the record straight - I like racial profiling. I got new eyes! Racial profiling is a good thing! Officers, I support you. And I don’t care if the dude is white, black, green, blue, whatever. If something doesn’t look right, shake him down. Now, I'm not saying to beat his ass, or nothing like that.. but just shake him down! See what's happening. You working at the airport, and someone looks suspicious? Shake him down! He got a long ZZ Top beard? Shake him down! You see a pasty-faced white dude with a "Jesus Saves" backpack wrapped in the Confederate flag? Shake him down? The dude got his head all wrapped up, and he ain't Erika Badyu? Shake him down! Hey! They probably ain't even guilty, but shake them down! They'll get over it. Look at me, I have! [ laughs ] So, law enforecement officers, Tracy Morgan completely understands racial profiling. I support you. And remember - if a guy's got a little bit of weed in his car, and he ain't hurting nobody, don't make me throw it out.
Saturday Night Live

Monday, October 03, 2005

Park to Park through time

---Central Park begins with Washington Square Park. As a road to elsewhere; as an appetizer for city-nature to come, as a barometer of weather and the amount of clothes people will be wearing. It can predict crowd density. I pass through, scanning the circle, somehow still assuming that someday, someone will call out my name, some long lost friend or acquaintance. someone from high school. an old teacher, a relative perhaps.
---Passing through.. faces.. faces. bodies and faces. and babies. Babies in strollers with mothers on cell phones who pause to listen to the punch line of an "oh my god, did you hear?". I pass on walkways that have carried and carry history. history and more. People. People who've known their slight slivers of history, though never as well as we imagine they could have. People with no written reference to the march of time, or.. those with reference - how many of the same exact steps have I traced that P.T. Barnum walked first? He'd be my neighbor if time wasn't so linear. Living at the end of Washington Place, he and his family would indubitably say "excuse me" as they caused me to pause on my exiting the building. On to the park. And through. The fountain's circle has moved slightly since then. It's moving again, or so they say - "they" meaning the city powers that be, "say" meaning 'force'. A few paths in the park have never changed though. I walk on these. Through. On up to the Astor Place # 6 subway stop - the East side's lone arterial friend. I love the walk there. I love it, except for the fact that it's still Summer. just barely. Summer sweat. Oh how Summer trains us to love good ol' subway A/C. When the trains come, that is. It always seems like cars won’t come until you give up on hoping for quick relief. Train to train. local, express. Your stop comes in a flash when you've got an engaging book. 86th Street. Over to Central Park East. I pass the overflow and afterflow of a Germany parade. ...trying to recall ....if I've ever seen so much lederhosen. And earth tones. Green. clothes, they're just clothes of course - but now they're costumes. proud badges of national identities. The older folk amongst them, I understand. The days of parades and dress up seem naturally ingrained for those of 'their' time. It's the young in costume I'm trying to get. Hasn't anyone taught them that a prerequisite to coolness is being overly-self-conscious? I pass one group of happy Germans then two more groups, three, five, eight then... and then I pass... a civil war regiment of Union soldiers. Muskets in felt sheaths, walking and talking with easy weekend abandon. I blink a few times. Look away, look back. There's no sign from them or anyone else on the street that they are the square pegs meandering down round street. Blues and grays, muskets and field caps, followed immediately by... yes, more happy Germans. I haven't passed a quote-unquote-New-Yorker in a block or two. I love this city. Turn onto Central Park East, oompah-pah bands give way to a bagpipes' amazing grace. In. Into the park. Past the Met. Past joggers carelessly enjoying carless park roads. Past more babies in strollers. Leading lazy mothers for their daily walkabout. And finally....
---the volleyball courts. What's this? 7 people. 4 vs. 3. Well that's just asking for me to start my weekend fun, now isn't it? I get on. I play. I play remarkably well. As I've mentioned, volleyball is a constant battle against embarrassing yourself. It's a game of self-fulfilling prophecy. You do well, you'll be fed the ball often and with trust. Start out bad? Forget it, pariah. You may as well leave, now that you've sullied your good name. So I play well and keep playing well but here come.. [insert suspenseful music here]...the gay Spanish speakers. Not that they speak gay-spanish. Frankly, I dont know what that is. No, they're gay and they're spanish speakers and if you've never been around a group of them, you are missing out. Normally they're really fun to play against (in that amusing talk-to-the-hand-/-head-rolling-sassy-"No-you-di'nt!" kinda way) - unfortunately they are anything but fun to play vollebayll with. Forming a rich stew of nationalities: Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican and probably Spain-spanish, Mexican-Spanish, Central American Spanish, you name it, this is New York after all - they are truly and sadly the most insular, self-focused, self-serving, self important pillars of everything to be hated about competitive volleyball. I curse the bad timing of their arrival that landed me on their team and try to weigh my desire to keep playing longer with the misfortunate comedy of errors that playing with them will surely descend into. We play a few games but.. As predicted, despite my excellent play, I quickly realize that I might as well be invisible. Despite my consistency and reliability, I reap no praise. Despite my being in the obvious "right spot" for the ball to be set to, the setters go out of their way to make a harder set to a less skilled player. This is when I need to be careful. Showing anger or displeasure just intensifies the invisibility. Annnd.. there it is. My first mistake ... a bump pass that sails far wide of my intended target. Eyes roll. Someone says something. Something in Spanish. It starts with "Ayyyye..." and in my mind, ends with a finger snap and more rolled eyes. I am dying to say something to the effect of "you're right! my one bad pass this game must mean that I suck! and all your bad passes were... just you goofing around I guess!" but I don’t. The game continues. I grow more & more invisible. More frustrated. I just want it to end. I make a blocking error. Now something in English. I say something back - Something innocuous but with a tone and look on my face that conveys the following: "I am five words away from killing you and eating your liver. right here. right now. you'll want to watch what you say". No one expected that. Hey, I didn't expect that. I get a little giddy at how well that shut him up. And.. interesting... I gain a little bit of respect from the rest of the team for it, but I've obviously made an enemy, at least for the rest of the game. And so it goes. A few more points. more frustration. I'm just taking up space on the court at this point. And then it's over. I change shoes, grab my bag and head for
---the Great Lawn. I walk out into the middle. Normally, this would be the outfield's for up to any three softball fields, but maybe everyone's season is over? Balls and frisbees, footballs fly and... so... do parrots. Parrots? Two African parrots, full plumage spread wide, chasing each other in wide circles. Around the center of the field - sometimes exploring the outer fringes and treetops. People watch. mouth's agape. Parrots. for real. Parrots in the city, flying free. I sit. How often do you see parrots stretching wings fully to fly, to chase each other? Playing. I'll tell you - never. Not even at the zoo. They land and test the grass. Talons to nature. I watch them watch their talons pierce the ground. The setting sun turning red plumage orange as the light hits their heads and the leading edges of wings. Photos. People take photos. Parents keep short invisible leashes on their waddling offspring. Tiny hands. Hands outstretched, eyes locked on nothing but these park anomalies. "No touching, Caleb". "Uh-uh Karen, we don’t touch the pretty birdies". And then, as if to give the parents relief, the birds take flight again.---And here I am. Sitting on a blanket, watching forest birds pretend they're free, volleyball behind me, soreness ahead. Anything is possible. I could do anything right now. Anything but write more. I cant believe this was the only way to write, for years. Years and years. My writing hand as had its fill.