Wednesday, May 14, 2008

New York Pictures 1

I recently spent approximately 9 hours in New York City--3 in Manhattan! In my life this qualifies as a big deal, so I am going to write all about it on my blog.

Someday I intend to write a complete history of my experiences in and emotional relations to this great city but I do not feel up to it right now, so I will simply provide a few captions for the pictures.
One of our primary objectives on this jaunt was to visit Books of Wonder on W 18th Street, which is a children's bookstore, especially famous for its collection of OZ books, as well as their involvement in re-issuing beautiful facsimile editions of the originals, with all the colorplates, which were not available when I was young. The store is not overwhelming, has all the classics, enough new books that serve to keep the tone high and balance out the (discreet) space necessarily given over to Caillou and other TV-inspired publications. The other parents looked and sounded to me more like what I fancy myself to be like than what I find where I live but my wife informed me afterwards that the ladies' clothes and handbags, and their babies' strollers, were extremely expensive--in other words, these were comparatively rich people, and their conversations that I had been so indulgently revelling in eavesdropping on concerned matters that were not pertinent to life as I lived it. The employees were of course a little shabbier, and they all probably lived in Brooklyn, though I'm sure most of them had liberal arts degrees at least. There was one very good-looking young woman who had a long thought in small cursive letters tattooed right across her chest. The only words I could make out on a quick perusal were "shining buildings". My wife's only comment was that the tattoo would make for a lovely picture when she had her first baby (I did point out that perhaps she had already had her first baby). What fun one derives from doing anything in New York, eh? Though I had been very into the Oz books as a child myself, I was hesitant to introduce the series to my own boys, as I have often thought my subsequent mental softness and general lack of ordinary aggression was in some way attributable to these books, which are often accused of being girly because the main heroine (Dorothy), the ruler (Ozma), and the most powerful magician (Glinda), are all female, and do not for the most part revel in violently subduing their enemies, but prefer to use their arts to avert violent conflict. My wife thought this idea was nonsense, attributed these deficiencies to other causes, and set about getting the children the books, which, I admit to my surprise, they have quite taken to, especially the oldest one.

This picture below of the guys looked more interesting somehow on the camera. It looks as if I am trying to say "look at my gifted and wonderful children reading!" but really, that is not the case--indeed, the second one does not actually read at all, and the older one cannot yet read a 300 page book on his own. I am not sure exactly what the purpose of any of this is. I am fascinated by the idea of us all being actually in New York, which to people who never go there but read about it every day is practically as unreal as Oz, and the people who actually live in it and contribute to the cultural life there are as awesome figures to me as Ozma or the great Jinjin-Tihittihoochoo himself.

Here we have a scene from the dining area at Books of Wonder--cupcakes are their specialty--with some authentic, educated-looking, probably cool NYC people (I think) visible in the background. The end of that afternoon's visit was drawing near at that point, however, so I was frantically trying to absorb every detail I could...
Such as the dancing cupcakes, which along with the Christmas lights, and some other pre-1960 effect in the ceiling that one felt when in the building, provided more reassurance that someone might share my peculiar sentimental fetishes.
After the bookstore we wandered three blocks over to Union Square Park and the boys played on one of the playgrounds there for a few minutes. It was Saturday afternoon. Lots of sensitive-looking people out (they must have been whimsical Brooklyn people, most of them). There was one girl sitting on one of the benches reading a Penguin twentieth-century classic with a modernist (1920s-30s) painting of a human face on the cover, yellowish background but face all white except for the black brushstrokes loosely delineating features. I wish I knew what book it was. I fancied the girl--who must have been about twenty-five--met my eyes with an intensity that I am not accustomed to receiving for several seconds, though I am certainly mistaken, for there is nothing of interest to examine in me at this point of my life. She carried herself like a European, but I am not convinced that she was one. She was brooding but she had very delicate eyes, like only a really sensitive American would have. It is hard to describe what she looked like. Obviously I found her quite strikingly beautiful, as well as of a compatible intelligence in some way, but I cannot pinpoint exactly what it is. The point is, I am in New York for three hours and I am struck by more people in more pleasing ways than happens to me in 10 years at home and would happen in probably a millenium at my job.
Here is a gratuitous picture of the Empire State Building, just to show I was really there, and this is what I saw when I stepped out of my car.

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