Wednesday, August 05, 2009

EXCURSION--New York, New York (1998--Eugene O'Neill Edition)

This is an unusual circumstance of back-to-back retro-excursions. I do not anticipate this becoming more than an occasional feature. Most of my trips to New York unfortunately have not yielded very much in the way of stories or even coherent, felt experiences. As I noted once in the very early days of this site, and once planned an essay on, I have not managed my times in that city well, not connected with its powerful currents of life in any meaningful way (as I have not in Paris either), and therefore I have a strong sense of lingering dissatisfaction where it is concerned. 1. Before I became successful, breakfast was often a humble affair for me, especially when visiting places like New York.

2. Eugene O'Neill, a true child of the theater--his parents were both actors, and his father at least was a very famous one--was born in a hotel on the corner of Broadway and 43rd Street where they were living at the time. Above is the site as it looked in 1998. According to the Internet, a Starbucks occupies the spot now, though the plaque commerating Eugene O'Neill is apparently still up. This is right in Times Square of course. I put this picture in because I like the effect of the crowd juxtaposed against my less natural self. You can get a little feel for something like the activity of the city.

3. This is for anyone who wants to read the plaque. I think you should be able to.

4. Another view of Times Square, circa 1998. Look at that 2 Big Macs for $2 deal. Wow! I tell you, those were the days, my friend, those were the days.

5. Getting ready for a night on the town back at a hipster apartment in Brooklyn. Friend of my wife's, of course. She has hipster friends in Brooklyn without even wanting them. Among whom I mainly expose myself to ridiculous photo opportunities.

I did meet a guy on this particular evening who claimed to have been hanging out with Thomas Pynchon within the previous two weeks. This was during the period, you may recall, when Pynchon was a declared fan of the band Lotion. This person I spoke to had attended one of this band's shows in a club in the city; I imagine it as being someplace unlike the Knitting Factory, which I have actually been to myself, for what occasion I forget, though it probably was (I have always pictured the scene taking place, rather improbably, in a 1950s automat sort of setting). Anyway this person was seated at a table in the club with some other people who had some 'in' with the group. One of these other people was, my interlocutor said, a non-descript white guy around sixty dressed in a t-shirt who was introduced to him as "Tom". While waiting for the entertainment to begin, either in order to kill time, look busy, send a misguided social signal, or whatever other reason people whip out books in situations where reading them with any degree of comprehension would be impossible, the narrator broke his current reading out of the satchel he carried around with him and laid it on the table--whether it was The Crying of Lot 49 or Gravity's Rainbow I don't remember, but it was one of those two--upon which the man identified as "Tom", who had been sitting quietly and observing people up to that time, snatched up the volume from the table and said, "Hey, who's reading my book?" eliciting some knowing laughter from the people he had come with. Apparently this was the extent of the supposed Thomas Pynchon's conversation on the occasion. I think the story is pretty dubious, of course, but, I don't have much else that I remember from that visit to tell.

6. My Wife Making a Rare Appearance in Gotham. Note the double bolts on the door. Like people smoking indoors, it strikes me as strange now, but still seemed completely normal at the time, though by 1998 the famous NY crime wave of the 1965-95 period was already receding precipitously.

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