— Part 2
I love New York!
DC was amazing, but I was surrounded by power people. At Penn Station there was a chaos of color and variety and some cooking music. We made our way towards the music and there were these kids just jamming. Such joyful music. There were tears in my eyes. This was just so cool. To go from uptight DC to this!
We wandered around Penn station until we started to overcome the fog of sensory overload and saw the signs to the 1 & 9 subway. Then we solved the mystery of the Metro Card, went through the turnstile and there we were waiting for our first NY subway. Cool!
Zoe had wanted me to bring back a subway token but they have been replaced by the MetroCard.
You can buy them in vending machines in $10 dollar increments. They have a magnetic stripe and you swipe them through a reader on the turnstile. The reader subtracts $2 off the card and lets you through. The cards also work on the buses.
At this point we haven't seen daylight except for that brief moment we came out of the Lincoln Tunnel. The DC subway is spacious and modern. Very tastefully designed and clean. The New York subway is crowded, cramped, not so clean, but so full of energy, so full of life. I was so excited I thought I was going to wet my pants but then realized it had just been a long time since I had been to a restroom. The train came and we were on our way.
We got off at the Christopher Street / Sheridan Square stop, found the exit, climbed towards the light, and and exited into Greenwich Village. Holy shit! What a circus! The variety. The colors. The chaos. Capital Hill on steroids (a Seattle reference.) For the first time this trip I was surrounded by people that I could relate to. I love this place. I already said that. I just may say it again before we leave.
We gawked and wandered and looked at the map and found West Eleventh Street and our hotel. We checked in, dropped off our bags and went back out into the maelstrom. We walked down the block to see if Griff's studio was still there. The Unadilla Apartments in Bernice Abbot's picture were still there and across the street was 125 West Eleventh Street, Griff's old studio. We took pictures.
After finding Griff's old studio we wandered around in a daze. Sometimes we would just stand gawking. We walked by a film crew filming a commercial and across the street was a wedding.
We found a number of places to eat but we are on a budget and they were too expensive. We finally found a place selling two frankfurters and a drink for $2.45 — Gray's Papaya. There was a line that ran outside the building. We thought that was a good sign. We got our frankfurters, with sauerkraut and a mystery sauce, and an orange drink. There were little shelves in front of the windows to place the food and watch and watch and watch.
We walked up one Village street and down another.
We found a flea market and wandered around. People selling candles, eyeglasses, clothing. What a breath of fresh air.
Found a pub selling Guinness. We both had a pint, and then made it back to the hotel to find a message from Zoe. Now to wait for her to call back. Madelane has crashed.
So, let's go back to yesterday. I left us in front of the Lincoln Memorial eating a vanilla Dove bar, with almonds, on a hot day. It was good. It was cold. We lurched to our feet. At this point lurching was about a fine a movement as I could muster. My right knee was really bothering me.
We headed up the stairs to the Lincoln Memorial. It was pretty cool. I kept looking for Jimmy Stewart but he must have been holding a filibuster at the Capitol Building.
We lurched down the steps and over to the Vietnam Memorial. It should be called What a Fucking Waste Memorial. I only knew of one person who died in Vietnam – Bruce G. Gustafson.
I got into bicycle racing in the late 60s. Bruce was one of the bicycle racers in the group that I hung out with. In the summer of 1968 I followed the Washington State Bicycle Road Championship on my motorcycle, a 1967 Honda CB450.
Today the race is run over a short course and has multiple laps. Then it was a much grander race even if the racing level wasn't that high since not a whole lot of people new about bicycle racing in 1968.
In 1968 the State Road Championship started outside of Yakima, at Fruitvale, and went over White Pass. It was then downhill for miles to the bottom at Ohanapekosh, at the base of Mt. Ranier. The riders did this in a tuck, coasting down the pass. It was harder than it sounds since, at this time of the morning, the west side of the pass was in shade and still cool. The riders had worked hard climbing White pass as the morning heated up. The riders would get cold and stiff as they coasted down White Pass before they started climbing up Cayuse and Chinook passes. It was hot as they neared the top of Cayuse Pass and Bruce was in third place and dying. Bruce was getting pretty wobbly on his bike but he persevered, caught a second wind, and eventually overtook Jerry Baker to take second place behind Tom Baker. One of the images that I have kept from that race is of Bruce struggling up that mountain pass on that hot summer day.
The next summer Bruce was off to Vietnam not to return alive. That ride was almost 36 years ago.
As you come into the Vietnam Memorial, there are several books, each with 58,000 names and where you can find the name you are looking for on the wall. I found where Bruce's name was located -- Panel 15W - Row 053. 36 years of life for a name on a wall doesn't seem like a good deal to me. And for what? Bruce and 58,000 of his closest friends might like to know, too.
Goodbye, Bruce. I wish I could say we learned something. We are running out of room for memorials at the Mall.
To catch the subway we had to head north back half the distance of the Mall. My legs are hurting. We pass by the Ellipse and can look up at the White House of the Antichrist. As we looked at the White House, the Washington Monument was behind us.
I have to mention the Washington Monument again. So simple and so changing. The Washington Monument was the biggest surprise for me. Seeing all the Washington, DC, monuments and places in pictures just doesn't do them justice. You must go see them yourself.
As we continued to walk towards the subway, we heard sirens and, in another Washington, DC, moment of surrealism, a heard of bicycle cops came spinning by followed by a heard of motorcycle cops. The sirens receded and we kept limping.
By now the sky was overcast and we could see lightning. We kept walking and walking towards the subway station. As we turned the final corner and sighted the station the rain started coming down and it was starting to go horizontal by the time we hit the elevator and descended into the cool and dry catacombs of the subway.
Forty minutes later the subway rose into the light again at Church Falls and it was still raining
We should have been there early enough to catch the shuttle back to Seth's apartment, but the driver must have quit early. We waited around and then caught a bus. It was dark by the time we got off the bus and we needed to pick up some cereal for breakfast. We saw a Subway — not a Metro but a sandwich store and I had a fine dinner of a turkey sub, Fritos, and a Coke. Then we picked up some cereal at a supermarket and walked back to the apartment.
Laundry, cleaning up, and to bed.
This morning we caught the bus down to the Metro station.
I have to say that the rail transportation around here is fabulous. From the Metro station in West Falls Church, VA, we took the Orange line Metro rail heading into DC where we transferred to the Red line that took us to Union Station.
The escalator from the Metro station dumped us at the door to Union Station. We were in the city a little after 9 and could have been on the 9:25 Amtrak to NYC but decided to have a cup of coffee.
So we were on the 10:25 Amtrak to New York City, which left at 11:00.
The train pulled into Penn Station at 2:37. A walk down a few halls and then we were on the 1 & 9 train to Greenwich Village. We walked to the Larchmont Hotel and arrived at 3:15. This is so civilized.
While I was writing the last section, Zoe called. It was great to hear her voice. She is as excited about me being here as I am. She asked me if the energy level in New York was invigorating or exhausting. Definitely invigorating.
Interesting window displays.
I discovered very quickly that New Yorkers deal with crosswalks quite a bit differently then Seattle pedestrians. First, there is the crosswalk light with the white image of a person walking. This means it is OK to cross the crosswalk. Next is the crosswalk orange Blinking Hand of Death. This means it is OK to cross. Lastly there is the crosswalk orange Solid Hand of Death. This means it is OK to cross but you might want to look for vehicles. I adopted this enlightened attitude to crosswalks very quickly. Madelane had a hard time with this concept.
We approached a crosswalk with the Orange Solid Hand of Death, I looked for traffic and seeing none, and without slowing down, crossed. Madelane stopped and the couple behind her ran into her back. She employed a tactic that worked well on our trip: “I'm from Seattle!” I think this was like admitting that you are the village idiot. It worked every time. The coupled laughed and we walked together for a block chatting. I have to say I was expecting rude New Yorkers. I found friendly New Yorkers wherever we went.
We made it back to the Larchmont Hotel.
One little bedtime story. Seth, who we stayed with in DC, had gone to visit his grandfather. Seth loves music and Whole Wheat Radio has expanded his music world tremendously (as it will yours.) Once he tried to explain to his grandfather about musicians and the life they live so that they can make their music. Seth's grandfather is one of those power people that I was surrounded by in DC. Seth's grandfather found the concept of sacrificing your material position in this world for your art to be totally incomprehensible. Seeing those kids in Penn Station making music was the perfect antidote to that mind set. Those kids were more my kind of people. I'm glad that Seth has seen that there is as much value in making art as there is in making money. Too bad that, more often then not, money and art seem to be mutually exclusive.
Well, that's the end of this day and for the first time this trip I'm caught up with this journal. I'll have to do something about that later.