Yesterday . . . [UPDATED]

being a New Yorker was such an easy game to play.  Today it gets real.

  • Where is the nearest laundromat?  (It used to be across the street**.  Yesterday I was so blissed out I didn’t notice if it still is.  There was another one 3 blocks away.)
  • How to feed cats spoiled cats without attracting roaches? In the past, we helplessly attracted them and then fought them with nontoxic sticky traps and mint-oil sprays, and lost.  This time I’m looking at prevention.  I’ve already bought a bugproof dry-food bin. But, duh, the cats can’t eat from it.
  • What to do about the all-day-long rushing, roaring noise* from the restaurant ventilation system that was built right over my head on the roof shortly before we left, with a shaft to the ground floor right between my windows and another shaft partially blocking my skylight? (Lucky me, I don’t mind the smell of garlic that accompanies the noise.  It’s Thai, I think.  Or it was 5 years ago.  I didn’t even look yesterday.)  It’s like living under a giant white-noise machine or an artificial Niagara Falls.  The answer to “What to do?” is probably:  Nothing.  I studied up on it.  After three complaints and seven or eight months, the landlord might be mildly fined.  The other route is to stop paying rent, go to court, and hope the judge likes you. Expensive and exhausting.
  • My subtenant left the apartment bare, but dirty.  Oh well.  I left it far worse upon my frantic 2006 getaway with Jacques.  (I wish she hadn’t disappeared the box of old records I asked to leave here, though. But maybe I should be grateful for any inadvertent divestiture.)  It’s going to be a day of scrubbing, though.  I’ll need that Laundromat.  It’s not easy to clean a place that’s both old and partially, dirt-cheaply renovated. More to the point, it’s not easy to keep it clean.  I am not good at keeping the kind of vows and resolutions I’m presently making.  Can I change my spots?

Et cetera.  I won’t bore you more with more.  I’d forgotten, but it’s really a kind of frontier life, living in NYC without a lot of money.  If anything could keep you young! — Or age you prematurely.  Right now I can see myself, 4 or 5 years hence, moving straight into some immaculate senior community complete with housekeeping.  (The truth is, I can’t see myself at all — the next 4 or 5 years are a complete unknown.  I mean, I know what I’ll be doing but I haven’t a clue where it will lead.  I like this feeling.)

Yesterday . . .

Friday was a hard day of driving — six hours, a little too much for one sleep-deprived person alone.  The low point was being lured off the highway at Fredericksburg, MD, by a Starbucks logo, only to find myself in a vast-mall-and-six-lane-rush-hour hell that rivaled anything  Hieronymous Bosch ever imagined.  Something Dantean could be written about Washington and its encircling suburbs.  I settled for gas-station coffee and got back on the comparatively bucolic I-95, quick.

But that left only three hours on Saturday, and they were familiar hours.  Especially once I got on the Joysey Toynpike I could almost give the car its head, like a horse to the barn.  I could have taken exit 14C, Holland Tunnel, with my eyes closed.  But good thing they weren’t, because — I had completely forgotten — you’re driving through this toxic Jersey hell of chemical tanks and electrical transformers, and there’s a bend of ramp you come around near the geodesic sphere of the Liberty Science Center, and as you make the turn the the city rises in front of you, like the sun.  I cried!  (It only now occurs to me to wonder if some unsung hero of highway architecture deliberately designed that effect.)  The only thing it’s comparable to is driving across western Nebraska and eastern Colorado and seeing the Rockies rise out of the high plains.

I was surprised to find it so beautiful, and its energy so head-clearing.  It’s chaotic the way the floor of a climax forest is chaotic:  everything takes root wherever it can, and then strives and contends for its particular nutrients — be they the sunlight of fame or the slime of decomposition or the kill of the sale or human prey or just the hydroponic air — and the sum total is orchestrated by the forces of striving and accommodation into an inextricable harmony.  It strikes me that it’s the closest thing to a natural ecosystem that human beings have ever created.  And I adapted to it.  “If you can make it here you can make it anywhere.”

What fun to find myself driving with deadpan adeptness up Tenth Avenue (to turn in the rented car) like one more fish in the river of shark-like taxis.

**It is still across the street.

*Here’s what to do about the noise:

It’s already stopped bothering me.

The noise seems less noisy, the dirt less dirty — I’m home!

UPDATE:  After some hours of struggling to cling to a tiny dot of signal from one not-too-nearby unprotected network, I asked my next-door neighbor for her wireless network’s password until I get my own.  She said, “Why would you want to get your own, if this works?”  I said, “Well, I’ll be glad to share the freight.”  She said, “Get settled and then we’ll discuss it.”

I love New York.

Read This Book!

[My Amazon review:]

Anyone who thinks strong men are unemotional and invulnerable — and any young person who wants to live a life of passion and meaning rather than one of ennui, entertainment, and “whatever” — should read this book. Nathan Ligo is a throwback to the Romantics, and his story of pain, adventure, and inspiration in the service of the budo karate ideal he reveres is the absolute opposite of bored “cool.”

Full disclosure: I was this book’s editor. That means I had to read it over and over again, and I became engrossed every time, won over by the author’s uncommon honesty, willingness to expose his soul, and gifts as a stirring and sometimes hilarious storyteller.

Nathan Ligo wants to bring the budo karate ideal to American culture, even if it kills him. And in this book, as you’ll see, it nearly did, out on the edge where the best stories are won.


Me and my new running buddy Martha Strawn, an accomplished art and documentary photographer.  What we have in common, besides vintage (with bubbles), is her son and my karate friend Nathan Ligo, whose dojo had just won Triangle Community Foundation’s What Matters award.  More on the karate dojo’s doings and winnings here (pictures, including a bunch from our February trip to Japan, are linked in the right sidebar).