Monday, June 18th, 2007 https://adamkhan.net/rambles/a-cabaret-old-chum
his evening: a balmy Manhattan pageant. I arranged to meet Brian at Bryant Park, with Annie Hall of all perfect things playing there outdoors tonight. But Brian was called home so rather than meet there I walked further south down 5th Avenue to his office at 34th St and met him there at the center of the world.
It came back to me, those streets—quite a few Asian restaurants around there. We walked east to Penn Station. The weather was just lovely, the air seeming clean and more than pleasantly breathable despite the cars.
It was great to see a friend from twenty years ago beaming, his hair thinner, his new girth, and doing well. His full-on sometimes neurotic engagement with the tribulations and beauties of life is back—yes, that’s the joy to see. We missed his train and he stood talking to his wife on the cellphone, dramatically standing at the foot of the escalators in the middle of the Long Island Railroad esplanade, his black suit and a shirt revealing a giant stain that he’d worn since breakfast (“It was casual day”) like in the commercial I just saw for detergent where the hosts gleefully squeeze sauce on people.
We had a beer there in Penn Station. Yes, you can drink there—I did not know that. It’s a last bastion of civility, Brian mused ruefully (with that inability of his to be really rued) and I realized that I don’t know people like him anymore: libertarian Democrats. I went down to the platform with him, both of us with our beers, and then I returned to the pizza place where we’d sat at the back, and stood like an Englishman outside the pub of an evening finishing this large strong beer. American flags hung from the ceilings. Penn Station. Corrugated silver like a giant Airstream. A classic bit of Americana. One of the memorable moments of this trip.
After that I stepped up out of the station at the Madison Square Garden exit and walked to the north-east street corner as I used to do, then turned around, and realized there was a young African-American guy just looking up at the view, and next to me was a young Euro-American guy taking pictures. The view from that corner is of the Empire State Building, lit in blue, the city’s dominant spire once again, and partnered so well with the round facade of Madison Square Garden. The young photographer began walking away and I called him back, pointing to the billboard above the station featuring Stonehenge, suggesting to him the title: “Old English, New English.” I didn’t have my own camera on me. “Yeah,” he agreed, “I’ll try that.” Crazy fuzzy little foreigner, he must have thought.
Walking east and then north, you get to Times Square—my first time since before the cleanup. The Port Authority Bus Terminal is still there, reminding me of my meeting with Seth there many years ago, and his affinity with the homeless, having become one himself due to schizophrenia. But enough of that: I am mentally sound and was able to enjoy the incredible dizzying neon combined with the relaxedness of the clean air, pleasant breeze, people walking, and four recent Bikram classes behind me in the past week.
It’s simply interesting to look at people walking down the street here. Meanwhile I’m wearing my shirt made to look like it belongs on an American gas station attendant from the 1950s, but with nonsensical names on it. “Chicago” it says on the back, “Western Maryland – Royal Hour” above the shirt pocket. It’s from an Italian department store. And brown cords. And moccasins I bought in Rome that I hadn’t worn because they hurt, scuffing between my heel and Achilles Tendon, but they just needed to be worn in because now they’re fine and very comfortable and seem to be made of this indestructible brown leather. Plus they have a little Scottish flag on them for some reason. I am pleased, yes.
Then I was back in Bryant Park and entered from the west end behind the movie screen, and with a bit of Dutch courage laid down on the concrete in front of everybody, using my backpack as a pillow, and caught the second half of Annie Hall slightly distorted from being practically directly beneath the screen, but with the advantage of also seeing the New York sky. Wow.
Then after the movie I watched the guys begin to strike the movie setup (crazy that they don’t wear helmets, these macho jokers) then walked up 5th Avenue past the Apple Store, kids wandering in at 11pm. And just as I arrive at the elegant front red elongated canopy of Simon and Yael’s building, so does Simon with Beija, their little white Pekingese. It felt most neighborly there on 59th Street near the river. I wish…