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Words and delicious things

11 Oct

Reading is both indulgence and staple. If there were a life diagram akin to the food pyramid that has chocolate and milkshakes teetering on the apex and broccoli and sprout grumbling at the base, then books would be a kind of omni-watermark over it all.
The short of it is, if you don’t read, you’re a horrible person.
Agreed?
Okay.
Good.

The pleasure of discovering new writers is particularly rewarding. It’s as if the universe has been gently listening and with a crinkle of its nose, drops an author in your lap like a warm mug. A reward perhaps, for persevering through all the mangled, cynical prose of social media and fearful rage of opinion columns. Blogs included.

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So you nuzzle in to your new author, with their own strangely same but original cadence embracing you and you feel so terribly, awfully clever that the great and wise coil has honoured your commitment to looking at lots of words in order.
Cosmic reciprocity… a particularly masculine trait.

I have discovered four new writers in the last month or so, so you can imagine the glow of my ego. I am virtually a God. No. The God. The counter-punch to these discoveries is that three of these writers have been putting their thoughts into the world since way early in the 20th century. One of them, since late 19th.
New.
Yes.
Very impressive.

The newest of the writers is Etgar Keret, a short-story writer I found through This American Life, a podcast I can barely restrain myself in recommending. His story of a magical goldfish reminded me of Margo Lanagan’s sad beauty with her masterpiece, Singing my sister down. A wonderful short story is about the best thing in the world.

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Two of the other guys I think will do okay for themselves. Anton Chekhov and Kurt Vonnegut. They capture the solitude and confusion of the masculine soul with a lightness that both depresses and thrills me. Depressing because I doubt if I will ever write something so fantastic and constant, and elation at the sheer…chocolatey broccoloiness of it all.

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The last is an American essayist John McPhee. He popped out of a collection of essays I bought for six bucks at The Strand bookstore last time I was in New York. If Willy Wonka was a writer, his gold tickets would grant you access to The Strand.  I also got an old edition of Mark Twain short stories which I have little intention of reading cover to cover. It sits on my bookshelf simply because it just looks so pretty.
To McPhee, who has also been around since dot, I’ll rip his writing and let it speak for itself.  This is a passage describing his mother treating him on his twelfth birthday.

“At LaGuardia, she accompanied me to the observation deck and stood there in the icy wind for at least an hour, maybe two, while I, spellbound, watched the DC-3s coming in on final, their wings flapping in the gusts. When we at last left the observation deck, we went downstairs into the terminal, where she brought me what appeared to be a black rubber ball but on closer inspection was a pair of hollow hemispheres hinged on one side and folded together. They contained a silk parachute. Opposite the hinge, each hemisphere had a small nib. A piece of string wrapped round and round the two nibs kept the ball closed. If you threw it high into the air, the string unwound and the parachute blossomed. If you sent it up with a tennis racquet, you could put it into the clouds. Not until the development of the ten megabyte hard disk would the world know such a fabulous toy. Folded just so, the parachute never failed. Always, it floated back to you- silkily, beautifully-to start over and float back again. Even if you abused it, whacked it really hard- gracefully, lightly, it floated back to you.”

The best of a man describing the best of a boy that survives to be the best of the man.

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Chocolate and broccoli.

Things to do when not sleeping

8 Feb

Jet-lag is a brute. Each time I come to NY it seems to take longer to adjust. Each night/morning, I wake, bright as a cherry at 4am; and slowly sag to formaldehyde blue by daylight.

4am is around the  “The Hour of the Wolf.”  Sounds v.cool; like you become some indigenous super-hero transformer dude, astral travelling to the karmic realms and kicking the shit out of unicorns, but actually it’s just when your body temperature is lowest, your sleep supposedly deepest and your body at its most vulnerable. If you are going to die in your sleep, this is the most likely time.

Also, should a wolf attack, he would win.

But being unnecessarily awake also creates time. Time for stuff to be done. I tell you, if you could survive on three hours sleep a night, you’d rule….I dunno…someplace.

Some productive things I’ve done in absence of sleep:

– mispronounced genre nine different ways in my podcast.

-Lost 1.8 virtual million dollars on Facebook Poker, so played Jetman instead.

-Googled Poe and tried to commit The Raven to memory.  There’s a bird right?

-Downloaded three or four years worth of podcasts. If you like The Philosophy Zone, you may also like BigTittycast.

-Watched the nice Indian man open his donut store and wondered if it was creepy for me to be first there every morning.

– Sat silently and stared at  Leah as she slept. (Also on guard for wolves)

It’s daylight now. Sleep genie is stroking my eye-lids, but I gotta stay hard. We’re heading down to try for  Rush tickets for Spiderman: Turn off the Dark, which, I’m trusting I will love.

I mean, $60mill/ Super-hero/Musical.

Clearly I’m not the only one with ideas at 4am.

Some other things about New York…

9 Nov

Where are all the shy people?

Everywhere you go in Manhattan, people engage with you directly. There are no embarrassed mutterings or halfway greetings. It’s all a very direct, “Can I help you?”,”Yes sir, this way,” and my fave, a heartily clipped, “You’re welcome!”

If you pause on the street or  even look vaguely unsure of yourself for more than a moment, someone will approach and speak with you. This is not always welcome attention, granted, but it is always full of intent. You will be helped or you will be shaken. Voices will be quite loud regardless.

But where , I ask you, are all the shy people? The shuffling mumblers who smile and nod and move through their day with invisible economy. Many a time I’ve clocked the body language of a native I am about to engage, checked in with my own to make sure I don’t appear a maniac, only to have the confidence in their voice blow me back on my heels. The boundaries of  no-threat-body-language here is a squillion times more assertive than back home my relatively sleepy home town. Ultimately, with my mumbly Melbourne accent and looping gait,  I look like a victim waiting to happen. It’s hard for a bloke to swallow, but to appear otherwise  takes some serious macho schmacting. Better to look harmelss than insane.

It’s hard to see how this city’s social eco system can function when everybody is talking like they’re No.1. A world of alphas, silverbacks and pointy headed eastside out patients. But  it functions.  With a constant subtext of aggression yes, but it functions.

Hey, I’m WALKING HERE!

Starbucks

Pre-packaged joy.

There’s a Starbucks like, every fifty feet in this city. This is magnificent.

Yes, the entire chain is decked out in carefully positioned fetish regalia, a Willy Wonka for coffee drinkers, but it’s one of the few places you can sit without being turned and burned. That is, having your check slapped on the table and a none too subtle okay-fuck-off-now glance from the waiter the moment that last piece of apple pie has passed your lips.

Sure, it’s all *see caption*, but if you can scare up a couch by a window, it’s one of the best places for some lazy people watching. Venti Il grande venti venti per favore …etc…

To slag or not to slag.

Up in The Heights, men love to spit. Not just a discrete flint into an abandoned corner of dirt, but a full throated goober conjure and 3D snot missile at your feet. Back in winter, it all kind of dissolved into the snow, but here in Fall, it glistens on the sidewalk like a game of twister.

I think about those odd signs at Flinders St, as I remove my left hand from someone else’s lung load. “Do not Spit!” they proclaim…and the temptation is of course, to spit only on the sign. Prize winning maverick irony.

But here, it’s wall to wall.  If there ever were signs, they’d be long buried in piles of up-cough. I’m not judging…I’m not…I’m just saying it’s an exhibition of blanket masculine ignorance…

…is all.