Saturday, August 22, 2009


August has started behaving like August in the last week, serving up a procession of the hot humid days we've been inevitably waiting for through the cooler, rainier early summer. Consequently I'm in an air-conditioned coffee shop with one of the Large Iced Coffees I've been scrupulously avoiding all summer on account of the benjamins involved. (At approximately 0.03 benjamins each, they add up!) Lack of writing hasn't been because of the heat, but because of being in NYC last weekend and having various social goings-on in the evenings. Otherwise the month has been a matter of shifting some significant relationship strife out of the front of my mind (I'm not going to get into it now) and orchestrating the sort of mild improvements in daily routine and spending habits that feature heavily in every new year's resolution but don't bear extended talking about. And work has lulled into a single tedious copyedit (clean chapters, so all the work is in notes and bibliography) that has me casting wistful looks at my deskside window in the afternoon, even after I've closed the blinds to keep the temperature down.

Incidentally, speaking of the weather, my first thought when I heard about Hurricane Bill last weekend was "Oh yeah, it's hurricane season; I hope Pete will be OK in Miami." And on Tuesday I heard it was coming up north, and I thought "What the hell? Why isn't this thing aiming for Florida like hurricanes are supposed to?" Sorry, Pete: I'm hoping for the best for your safety, but not if it's at my expense. (You've got your Republican governor looking out for you, anyway.) Bill, of course, has swung well east of here.

My college friend Dan was visiting two weeks ago, and it was great to have a few days to hang out with him. He's the musicologist PhD candidate, so he was in town deciphering some Ivesian scribbles over in the manuscript library. Every time we hang out, I re-evaluate whether or not I should be getting a PhD in musicology, but the answer is always "no." You may recall Dan as my Boggle nemesis, and he beat me again the one time we played, something like 85 to 70 over ten rounds. I hold the edge in Wii tennis and Dr. Mario, but that's basically because Dan doesn't play Wii as much. Other evening activities: pizza at Pepe's; watching the new Apatow "Funny People," which is well worth a screening; cooking a veggie/pasta dinner with farmer's market materials; chatting, catching up, talking animatedly about various classical music topics, listening to the entire Henry Brant orchestration of Ives's Concord Sonata on CD in the living room. (You can read Kyle Gann's rave description of that recording from a couple years back, by the way, and see if you can resist immediately ordering a copy of the disc.) Having Dan around to talk about music with is a great thing.

Dan and I were both down in NYC afterwards, both of us staying with Mandy and Mandy's girlfriend Tabitha up in Washington Heights on Saturday and Sunday night. Much of the weekend I spent in various parks: Fort Tryon, the marvelous hillside park by the Cloisters and the Hudson, for a Shabbat picnic with Mandy and one of her friends (soon to depart NYC, sad for Mandy; but with a boyfriend who just moved down the block from me in New Haven, happy for me); the recently opened High Line park down in Chelsea, extending like a noncommercial boardwalk over an abandoned elevated train line for twelve streets; Riverside Park, up near Columbia, to hear my friend Andy conduct the summer incarnation of the Columbia wind band in a sprawling, enjoyable, old-fashioned kind of program (marches, light classics, Gershwin, South Pacific, etc.) fortunately located someplace where there was some shade. Dan and I lucked into lotteried rush tickets to West Side Story on Broadway on Saturday night, which was tremendous fun; Monday night we caught John Adams conducting the International Contemporary Ensemble up at Lincoln Center, which was also tremendous fun.

Sunday evening, after the High Line wandering, we had the strange experience of hearing someone shot on the next block; we'd sat down on the large elevated patio of the Maritime Hotel on 9th Avenue, which houses a not unreasonably priced Italian restaurant. (I'd discovered this a week and a half prior while meeting my friend Blair for a midweek NYC evening that featured just about the same agenda: wander up and down the High Line towards dusk, then eat pasta on 9th Ave.) Anyway, in front of one of the Robert S. Fulton Houses' buildings on the next block there was a firecracker burst of automatic gunfire (there were enough people in the area to tell from street-level reactions that it was in fact gunfire); we couldn't see anything from the patio, but within a couple of minutes the cop cars arrived, the ambulance within a couple of minutes after that. This was in basically broad daylight around 6 pm, by the way. We saw the guy being wheeled and lifted into the ambulance, but had no news till the next day's tabloids; surprisingly he wasn't killed, considering the 6 or 7 shots, but was in either stable or critical condition (depending on the tabloid) at St. Vincent's nearby. The altercation was sudden and unexplained, apparently. I don't know what else we'll hear about him; no more shots are going to be fired and I doubt it's really "news" whether he lives or dies now. Dinner had a pall over it at first, then a pall mixed with weird vibes from the surrounding tables who had much quicker gotten over their pall and back to enjoying their conversations. I had the gnocchi.

It's a strange feeling to be still remote but less literally remote from violent housing-project crime. We walked down the block afterwards, where the police had taped things off and a medium-sized crowd of residents had collected around; there was a small bloody pile of clothing they'd cut off the guy there, a backpack, a Yankees hat, like the man had been violently evaporated.

Sunday night I browsed the Strand with Dan and stayed up late-ish to catch the new Paul Giamatti film "Cold Souls" up at Lincoln Plaza; the New Yorker had run an intriguing review of it last week, but it is a boring film, especially after 10:30. Monday I spent most of the day hanging out with a bagel and/or coffee and reading, around getting lunch with Lisa and drinks later with Andy (they're engaged now). Andy and I had a long conversation about wind band music, with a disturbing digression into the crime-of-passion murder-suicide that claimed a couple of community band members in the spring (an act by a trombonist's boyfriend; I'd been acquainted with the trombonist, but not known her well); some memorial donations to the summer band in her name are allowing Andy to take it nonprofit. Strange world we live in, after all.

Sometime during my drinks with Andy the Strand bag containing my book was snatched from under the bar. I hope whoever stole it has a decent literary sensibility; I'd only finished the first third of Paul Auster's "New York Trilogy," finding it excellently readable and high-concept, suitably so for postmodern detective fiction. That deluxe paperback edition isn't available on Amazon, so it seems gone gone gone: enjoy it, unknown bar thief.

I hadn't spent a whole weekend in New York for several months, maybe even a year. Resolved: to do this more often. Probably after the heat subsides again.


Blogger Pete said...

I gave Mom a copy of the New York Trilogy for Cold Solstice a few years ago; she can probably loan it to you so you can finish it (though the first book is by far the best).

8/24/2009 1:33 PM  

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