Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sunday papers: Henry Miller

"It isn't the oceans which cut us off from the world--it's the American way of looking at things"

On the turntable: Joe Jackson, "Look Sharp!"
On the nighttable: Seta Jeter Naslund, "Ahab's Wife"

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sunday papers: Bruce Chatwin

"Religion is a travel guide for settlers."

On the turntable: Yo Yo Ma, "Classic Yo Yo"
On the nighttable: Elizabeth Gilbert, "Eat, Love, Pray"

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Ca et La

Friday morning, I pointed the nose of my car north and followed it. It was a dreary day, less like rain and more like driving thru slow moving water. The first few hours were dull, moving along roads hemmed in by trees and the low clouds like a lid on top of it all. Around noon, I finally reached the Acadia Peninsula, which branches off from Miramichi, a city with a Japanese sounding name and supposedly good fly fishing. I stopped in a small diner for lunch. Inside, the old timers were speaking French and an equal number of younger men in muddy boots spoke an English that was so thickly Canadian that it was almost a parody. The waitresses flowed freely between both. I read a few of the French flyers by the door, then moved on. Signs in French began growing in prominence until out by Caraquet where English was badly outnumbered. As I followed the coast, the sky cleared just enough to reveal the high peaks of the Gaspe Peninsula out across the bay. I crossed into Quebec and cut across the peninsula, finding myself suddenly in an Alaskan landscape of thick wooded hills and rushing streams. The only distinct "back east" touches were the centuries old wooden bridges that spanned them. I was literally driving into fall. Down in Maine, the maples were still yellow, and the orange leaves didn't appear until the Bay of Fundy. Up here, the birch trees had already shed their colors to take on a light gray. From a distance, a mountainscape seemed streaked in a way that resembled the alarming recent changes of my chin stubble. In Quebec, I'd gained an hour, but this far east, not any daylight, so at the coast I called it a night. I stayed in Matane, a town I liked for its Japanese pun of a name. As I ate pasta laced with the region's famous shrimp, the winds coming off the St. Lawrence River shook the restaurant. I barely felt it, my body still vibrating from an 11-hour drive.

I set off the next morning before dawn, driving away from a sun just rising. The streets were empty and none of the houses had any lights on. I played connect the dots with the small beach towns out this way, then crested a foggy which is the last of the Gaspe mountains. On the far side the hills dropped to parallel the shoreline, creating a long flat valley containing a chain of beautiful little farm towns. The rain stopped for awhile, bringing a sliver of blue to the sky which added color to an otherwise black and white day. Unfortunately it didn't last. I followed the farms to Quebec City, where I crossed over the north shore of the St. Lawrence. The sky dropped again and erased the view. I followed the highway toward Montreal.

Once in town, I contacted my friend Yvon, who directed me to his house in the northern part of the city. I'd met Yvon at PRYT training back in June, he being the only male besides me. When the rest of the group commented on our bravery, we two males venturing into areas more familiar to women, I countered that Yvon was the truly brave one. I'd been sipping the spiritual waters since university, yet he'd been a CEO of a successful company until the day he'd had an epiphany which led him to gradually shed 50 years of conditioning. He was currently working to bring yoga into the boardroom where he felt it was most needed. This weekend he was out at his country house, but I had free reign of his place in the city. I dropped off my stuff, then walked over to Outremont, following the streets around. The rain had stopped and the weather was perfect for a stroll. High brownstones lined the sidestreets, many with bicycles on the metal fire escapes. The main avenues were a mix of New England town and Paris boulevard, bizarrely perfect in their balance. A few streets over, the neighborhood grew rougher and hints of immigrant populations began to appear, in the form of Greek delis and Lebanese restaurants. Orthodox Jewish children walked in front of one of the three sushi bars on this street. I had dinner in a bistro specializing in mussels, then finished off with coffee at Second Cup, across from a movie theatre which screens French films. In both places, the staff approached me in French, then switched easily to a nearly unaccented English. I sat awhile reading in the front window table until it grew dark. I'd driven eighteen hours in two days and was exhausted.

I awoke early again, and walked through the silent streets past huge homes until I found a series of hiking trails up Mont Royal. A series of switchbacks gave way to a side trail which led into the Catholic cemetery. Looking around I realized that I was surrounded by the graves of children, each stone fronted by stuffed animals or toy cars. Why today of all days? On this date five years before, I'd lost my own son. I gave myself over to grief and cried for a good long time. I wandered the graves awhile, passing rows of markers of those who'd died in the 1950s. Spouses were buried together, and I couldn't fathom how it would feel to outlive your spouse by decades. Other graves were separated by ethnic group. The Chinese had the best spot, up at the top of the hill with a view of the Olympic Park to the west. Nearby I found a narrow path over to Mont Royal itself, with the main part of Montreal spread before me. I wandered down to the gothic stone spires of McGill College, then into the city itself. Down on Rue St. Catherine, I noticed three Natives laughing as they looked into a shop selling Inuit goods. Wearing backpacks and clad as hunters, they looked out of a cliched film about simple natives set loose in the big city, surrounded by well-classed tourists in this ritzy part of town. I followed this street until it began to resemble every other North American city with their chain shops and boutiques. I followed the side roads down toward Vieux Montreal and the waterfront.

Crossing into old town was like crossing the street between New York and Paris. The streets narrowed and became cobblestone. There were horse-drawn carriages down here, carrying tourists with blankets across their knees. In one lane, a pigeon feasted on the grain-flecked horse dung left behind. Down another cobblestone lane, one ballsy guy actually rollerbladed. I navigated these streets on a mission to find poutine, that artery hardening pile of gravy coated cheese fries. Ducking in and out of bistros and sandwich shops. I noticed that the latter were all run by Chinese. I finally found poutine in a cafe near Norte Dame, where I later stopped to light a votive candle for Ken-chan. I spent the rest of the morning down here, popping into shops and walking the lanes. On the waterfront, young couples strolled arm-in-arm or stole kisses down alleys. Seeing them made me miss the other half of my own couple, made me really long to waste away a lazy Sunday with her in some romantic setting like this.

A few more turns brought me to Chinatown, its one lane packed with people. Up the hill further was the trendy Latin Quarter, and the nearby Plateau. Down the old hippie haunts of Rue Prince-Arthur into Square St. Louis, where the hippie's offsprung still smoked dope in front of elaborately decorated Victorians. Up Boulevard St. Laurant now, stopping to read and write over coffee at the hip Cafe Popolo. Further up the street I had dinner with a now returned Yvon and his wife, talking Yoga and Zen over Indian curries served up by fussy waiters....

On the turntable: "Bach Meets Cape Breton"
On the nighttable: Tim O'Brien, "Tomcat in Love"

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Eastern Edges

Halifax. My friend Marcin, (who you may remember from our Kyoto adventures) was living here now, teaching at the local university. The morning after I arrived, we had breakfast at the hip Blower's Paper Chase cafe, then walked around the city and along the waterfront. After beers at Garrison brewery, we had lunch at the old Henry House, then drove out to Peggy Cove to hop along the huge granite stones of the shoreline. The sea beyond was teeming. The heads of seals bobbed just offshore, sharing their meal with the seabirds who would dive into the frigid water from great heights. Further out were the fountains of spray of a pod of whales migrating south along the coast. Incredible. Back in town, we chilled out a bit at Cabin Coffee amidst the lounge music and powerful scent of maple. That night was band practice. I met the other three members of the group--all Japanese. Within seconds my body language and style of speaking changed. It is amazing how at home I am in Japanese culture, and how it, not my native North American culture surrounding it, dictates how I act. Rehearsal was fun, watching them run thru some pieces with flute, taiko, and voice. The last hour or so I joined in for a jam session. Later were the obligatory beers.

The next day I was solo. I had a quick swim in a waterfront pool open this late in the year due to the warm weather. I spent most of my day zigzagging up and down the hills of Halifax, looking around the Khyber Gallery and the Art School, hanging out at various coffee shops like the Paper Chase and Just Us!, and tripping over the piles of used books in the bookshops. I probably walked every square meter of the city's sidewalk, seeing the same people again and again. Halifax seems to have an overabundance of the dreadlocked and the homeless. My favorite character was this happy-go-lucky guy that seemed like a drifter with his big fuzzy Abbie Hoffman head of hair, who I most often saw begging change, though I once saw him walking with great purpose down a steep hill toward the waterfront. (To buy a beavertail maybe?) That night Marcin and I met up with the Japanese again to go see the performance Drum! The music was terrific, but the message of harmony through music was a tad overdone and somewhat naive. (Ask the indigenous people their opinion, if you can find any.) Later we all went up to Rogue's Roost for Pub Quiz. Walking home past a centuries old graveyard, I couldn't help but think that the hard work of the dead lying there had a direct correlation in my day.

Another cemetery closed out my visit. I'd been to the Maritime Museum the day before and was surprised to find that many of the Titanic's dead had been brought here since Halifax was the closest port to the site of the wreck. On the outskirts of town I found them, about half lying in graves unmarked for nearly a century. The taller stones told tales of valor and duty that no longer exists, which is perhaps just as well since it led to so many fatalities. Heading back to the waterfront, I looked out into the rainy mist and imagine the Titanic rescue ships coming in, bearing horrors yet unknown to the people watching from the shore.

On the turntable: Prem Joshua, "Water down the Ganges"
On the nighttable: Richard Ford, "Women with Men"

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Narrow Road to the Great White North

Autumn came on slow. The sky has been clear, blue, flawless, and the sun comes down and keeps the temperature high. It's been the perfect weather for driving in, passing from shadow to shadow of the trees doing their annual magic act.

One afternoon, my aunt and I drove around northwest Connecticut. As we passed certain lakes and towns, she told me the part these places played in the family history. After a nice lunch outside, we dropped by a farm to get pumpkins and fruit. The hills beyond rolled away toward Canada. So the next day I followed them. A straight line northeast, into a Massachusetts looking more worn than the rest of New England. The larger towns seemed overwhelmed by a changing world where history no longer mattered. Many of their churches seemed in the throes of desperation, with signboards bearing weird slogans like "October 14th, 30 hour famine," or "The ten commandments aren't multiple choice." By contrast, further out in the country, the churches were still holding the centers of smaller villages, the town green extending toward the obligatory single street lined with old wooden shops. Between these villages were large swathes of forest hiding immense houses with immense lawns, and lakes to maintain the color.

By late afternoon, I had made it to Portland, Maine. I had lunch in the waterfront, with trendy shops and galleries where tourists could walk off the meals had in old taverns and converted restaurants long tied to a historical fishing industry. I followed the back alleys down the piers lined with stacked lobster traps and boats finished for the season. The smaller streets were still paved with brick, which made me think a little of Seattle. I got back to my car and realized that I had forgot to put money in the meter, but even after an hour I hadn't been ticketed. Lucky. I drove east. I went through Freeport, crowded with people on pilgrimage to LL Bean, which has made autumn into a lifestyle. Further out, the towns grew more spaced and the rivers wider, more wild. Crossing one, I looked back to see the sun touching the hilltops out west. Turning back to the road, I saw a group of cottages lining the Sheepscot River. Again, luck was with me as I could get one for the night cheaply. Mine was a small cottage, and much bigger the the apartment of my friend back in NY. The living room and the bed both had views of the sun setting over the sailboats tied up in the bay. I went down to the water's edge watching the tide swirl the kelp until it grew too dark to see anymore.

The next morning I set off early. I stopped for an hour or so in Searsport, a small village which used to have quite a large shipbuilding industry. The maritime museum was a small lane containing seven buildings and a church. I walked around, drawn to the old oil paintings of seascapes and tall masted ships. I thought of the different faces travel has taken in different times. Whereas in the old days a person would be drawn to the sea, to months and years away from home, while a person of the same character today might set out today on a roadtrip, or an extended backpacking jaunt across a continent. Kindred spirits, though admittedly with different risks. Today the town was having some kind of festival, with elaborately decorated pumpkins and scarecrows, and horse-drawn carriage rides. I pulled out just as the police closed the main road for the parade. A couple hours later I was in Bar Harbor. A cruise ship was in port and the town, normally sleepy this time of year was crawling with Brits. Parking was surprisingly easy to find since everyone came by sea. Had Paul Revere repeated his wild ride last night, calling out to Robert Newman to hang two lanterns from the town church? I had lunch at the waterfront, wandered town a bit, then drove toward Acadia Park. It dawned on me that as a boy I'd seen this place in an old photo book and had been floored by the scenery. Dense, dense forests tangled in a mess of wind weathered trunks opened to give glimpses of perfectly shaped bays of shimmering sun and sailboats. I was almost a cliche in its magic. Around every turn a view that topped the last. After a couple hours, I was spent so went back up to Bar Harbor to sit in the village square and read in the grass. My friend Jen finished working late afternoon, so I drove out to her place in the woods. It was a small house unseen by the main road and surrounded by more of that thick density of trees. Her dogs needed a walk, so we took them through the woods toward the beach. They'd been in the house all day and simply tore through the trees at high speed, nipping at each others face and ears in play. They darted on and off the trail at high speed, one time even passing through my legs as I jumped up, my feet connecting with their backs so that for a moment, I was dog surfing. Jen and I had met in Vermont in June but hadn't talked since then. We caught up, walking the stones and stepping over tree trunks. A bald eagle landed in a tree across the bay. She told me how humbling she finds these woods and is happy to have put down roots here. Me, ever wandering, envy this. We had dinner later, but she'd made plans she couldn't escape, which made me dogsitter for the night. The first rain began to fall, but I sat warm inside, with tea at my side, dogs at my feet, and trees absolutely everywhere. My sleep was dreamless, filled with shadow...

I leave really early into the gloomy morning. Getting coffee in a small village on the south of the island, I saw one woman looking at the flyers in the window of a real estate office. I know that feeling well, of falling in love with a place so deeply that you begin to fantasize about moving in. A street over, a local with a screwed up Popeye face scrutinized me with one eye as I move past. I drove the perimeter of the island, eventually joining highway 1 again, which I followed east for most of the morning, sometimes taking smaller roads in an attempt to stay with the coastline. The day began to clear, but the wind stayed strong, making this the first true first day of fall. I moved ever east. The number of cars grew thin as the road led toward the border. Houses gave way to trees and those occasional moose crossing signs disappeared altogether. I image the woods are thick with them up here. But it felt like I was alone as I counted off the miles to Canada. I love this feeling, this 'fin-de-seicle' of geography, of moving toward a point that is an extreme. Near Lubec, it is just that, being the easternmost point in the US. The grass at that corner of the yard is worn thin by the feet of visitors. I too stand there, take my photos, then move on. In Lubec itself, I find a village deserted this Sunday, all these buildings stand empty, the Canadian winds blowing from across the river have made their blue-grey paint go almost turquoise. I stand and look across, but then get in the car and drive up to the crossing at Calais.

It's a breeze going across, but I still get that weird guilt and worry even though I have nothing to hide. At the border, I'm thrilled to find a moneychanger, since this is Sunday and I completely spaced out those logistics. Worse still, I think that tomorrow may be Canadian Thanksgiving and banks may not be open, hotels may be full. The first thing I see in Canada is a group of right to lifers picketing some place. Behind them is a grocery store called "Choice." This seems to have turned some tumblers in my head. I can't explain it, but I feel really confused for the next first half hour or so. I'm often overwhelmed at new cultures and countries but this is Canada, for godssake. I calm down and then realize that my speedometer doesn't have the markings for kilometers. A minute later I decide to think in multiples of six and after that, I'm fine. On to Saint John.

I arrive to find a city completely devoid of people. I mean no one, no cars, no people. I'm still not sure if tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and a moment ago I passed a clock that was an hour ahead of my watch. I can see myself running the Saint John streets like Jimmy Stewart, shaking people as asking, "What day is this?", "What time is it?" But there is no one to be seen, and I make a leap from "It's a Wonderful Life" to "28 Days Later." I walk the empty streets awhile, then sit in the sun in an ancient graveyard. The stone nearest to me is for an 8 month old child who died in 1825. Unbelievably, someone has left a single yellow rose. I'm sick of Saint John already and want to go. I've said many times that a city's beauty depends on whether it has embraced it's waterfront. A few blocks south, the city just ends at a fenced in lot. The sea is about 30 meters beyond. On the way back to my car, I decide to get a cup of coffee at Tim Horton's, which appears to be a chain shop. Inside, I talk with my first Canadian. The conversation goes:
"One medium French Vanilla coffee and that (pointing) chocolate glazed."
"You want a donut?"
The million Canadian jokes I've heard (or told) simultaneously rush into my head.

A short drive brings me to St. Martin, which is the most beautiful place I've seen in NB so far. As feared, one B&B turns me away because they are full--of family. The smell of turkey coming from the door behind this sweet old woman is killing me. Luckily, I find a place nearby, in a large pretentious house on a hill. The room is large, but there are far too many flowers on the wallpaper. Here too, I get a turkey dinner, and I sit happily wondering what it is that Canadians have to be thankful for. It's a happiness steeped in confusion since my watch, room clock, and clock over the dining room all show different times. I know it's not important, I'll merely eat, then read, then sleep, but having absolutely no idea what time it is is unbelievably disorienting. Is this why we look at the clock first thing if we awaken in the middle of the night, even if it is full dark?

The next morning, the roads leading out of town are deserted, and I have the Bay of Fundy drive all to myself. I stop at the various turnoffs, take photos, hike around a little. The ground here is moist, the moss-covered trails almost squishy. Here too, the woods are dense and thick, a far cry from the overgroomed forests of Japan. I continue on to the national park itself. I am running dangerously low on gas, but luckily, the last few kilometers into Alma are steep hills. I fill up, then walk the beach, listening to the local fishermen talk in a dialect I've never heard. At nearby Hopewell, I hike to the rocks, but the tide is high and I can't get down to the beach. I keep driving. It's a beautiful fall day, and I'm giddy. New Brunswick is a truly bilingual province, and I read the French words out loud in the voice of Cajun Man, from that old SNL skit. I follow the bay as it funnels toward Moncton. The tide is falling now, and each bridge I cross looks down on multiple shades of brown left high by the receding water. The tide differences here in the Bay of Fundy are the highest in the world, and I image that mud must play a large part in the lives of the people here.

Outside Moncton, I find Magnetic Hill, a weird place where your car, if left in neutral, will roll backwards uphill. I wonder how my brainwaves are affected, as I cross into Nova Scotia...

On the turntable: Robert Mirabal, "Taos Tales"
On the nighttable: W. Somerset Maugham, "Far Eastern Tales"

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Sunday papers: Whit Stillman

"Passion is the hare, conformity the tortoise."

On the turntable: White Stripes, "De Stijl"
On the nighttable: James Welch, The Indian Lawyer"

Friday, October 05, 2007

No Sleep 'Til...

Brooklyn. I'd never been out here before. Monday morning I found myself in Park Slope, walking Flatbush Avenue, a name I knew from a lousy Stallone film. I was out to here to visit Shivani, a friend I'd met up in Vermont at PRYT training last June. After practice, she and I could often be found at the Bobcat, drinking beers and swapping India war stories. In the yoga world, it is a delight to find those who 'keep it real." We spent the day wandering her 'hood, down the old streets lined with brownstones, up the Avenues lined with trendy cafes and used bookstores. Whereas nearby Williamsburg is better known as an artistic enclave, Park Slope is where the more moneyed set went to escape rising Manhattan rents. There is a cool vibe here too, but it costs more. A nice exception is the Tea Lounge, where I spent most of my time. It's the sort of hipster cafe where you sip your Italian coffee not behind a well-thumbed paperback, but in front of your laptop. A silver MacBook seems to be the black beret of the current decade. I felt anachronistic in reading my novel. The bathroom here was filled with graffiti of a political theme and next to one bit about the British responsibility in creating the Palestine mess, someone had written the Boddhisattva vow. MCA perhaps?

Mid-afternoon, I arrived back in Connecticut. Literally five minutes off the train, I suddenly felt exhausted. While in the city, had I been 'girding' myself against potential harm? Here in the safety of the countryside, could I finally let go? It's bizarre, especially since I had felt no danger at all. There were a couple sketchy looking characters on the train, but I never for a minute felt in harm's way. New York is a far safer place than I remember. I was reminded of a friend telling me how after he returned home from years in Japan, he found himself scared of black people and felt guilty about it. I can understand, but after giving it more thought I realized it was something else. One of the major benefits of martial arts study is the ability to recognize (and avoid) potential threats. I found that my instances of fear were rooted more in a reaction to how a person presented themselves, that way which screams, "Don't even think about fucking with me!" I found that I was reacting to the body language, not to the skin color. On this particular trip, the most intimidated I felt was when approaching a group of four tall white dudes done up in baggy hip hop style and walking down the dark street in that loose-jointed way that Tom Wolfe so brilliantly dubbed the "pimp roll."
There's nothing wrong with a little caution. As the proverb says, "Trust in Allah, but tie your camel to the post."

On the turntable: Kronos Quartet, "Performs Phillip Glass"
On the nighttable: Peter Moore, "The Wrong Way Home"

Thursday, October 04, 2007

In the City

Hopped a southbound train in Waterbury, CT. The tracks were covered with the first fallen leaves of the season, and as the train passed, it seemed to be trying to blow the leaves back up into the trees. At Grand Central, I took the subway to the East Village, making my way toward Life Cafe, heavily featured in the musical "Rent," though I found that out later. I had come here to meet Michael, whose blog I had somehow found about a year ago. Back in the 90's, he'd lived in Japan, and his writing often reflects back to that influence. More recently, Michael has been documenting the changes happening around the east village, the area where his father was born, exactly 100 years ago. This immigrant neighborhood and its low rents eventually gave rise to an artist/hipster culture which has slowly been eroding due to rising rents and rich types filling (or expediting) the void. The center cannot hold, and Michael has been photo-documenting the loss of a neighborhood's soul. Over two days I followed him as his eye and his camera led him around. As expected, he knows most of the more colorful characters.

Bolivar Arellano's studio was closing that Sunday. His final exhibition was a series of 9/11 photos taken by local photographers. Many of these were too graphic to be shown in the mainstream media. Heavy, heavy stuff. While I was looking around I heard Michael and a Canadian journalist talking about that day, and the eerie days that followed where birds and cicadas could be heard due to the absence of planes in the air. (Interestingly, this contrasts exactly with an impression of my own. On that late 2003 US trip where I was looking for the pulse of the country, I was walking up Madison to the Whitney Museum, hoping the Hoppers would shed some light on the dark side of the American dream. Suddenly a plane flew over, and everyone on the sidewalk literally stopped and looked up. Very, very odd.) Michael has an interesting post of the story of Bolivar here.

We popped into WAGA to talk with Oueni. This shop sells African art, clothes, and musical instruments. The entire time we were there, his stunningly gorgeous girlfriend danced in front of a mirror, sexily gyrating to the Afro-pop coming though the speakers.

We met Urgyen, a Tibetan who has a shop nearby. He told us a comedic incident involving a rather zealous woman friend who happens to be Soka Gakkai. Chenrezig give him strength.

We passed some time with his good friend, Jim "Mosaic Man" Power, a long-time local legend. I had a small part in his latest art piece, documented by Michael here. Jim's backstory here.

Along the way there were acrobats and waitresses, street musicians and homeless, dancers and punk bands. Plus basketball games, free microbrewed beer, late night tea at Teeny, Saturday night outer-borough punters, kids eating ice cream, know-it-all Cubans in wife-beaters, sunlit pumpkins, uptight lapdog pamperers, Physical Graffiti facades, basement Taoists, gay newlyweds, Hare Krishnas, urban bicycle cowboys, a massive owl, and a woman dining alone with Lonely Planet on her sidewalk tabletop.

Getting the picture? There are more here. Wander awhile.

Late Sunday, Michael dropped me off at the Chelsea Hotel, my digs for the evening. I stayed in room 702, and I wonder who else did. I dropped my bags and made my way down a staircase framed in art all the way. I walked uptown. Passed a cafe where the conversation at each table was in a different language. A cop jaywalked on 7th Avenue. A Latin guy repaired a window in a sports bar (the Mets dropped out of the pennant race that afternoon).

I found Times Square, absolutely overrun with people toting cameras. A Hasid stepped out of the crowd and wished me a happy Sukkot. My face must have shown surprise, so he asked me if I was Jewish. I smiled and shook my head and headed down 44th to Angus McIndoe's for a stout and a swordfish. To establish the night's Monty Python theme, I was sure to eat "more bread pudding" before crossing the street to see "Spamalot" which I'd missed two years ago. Brilliant. Then walked back out to Times Square, now done up in neon like a frenetic Shibuya. I tried to hide the fact that I was just another annoying tourist, but I too was mesmerized into blocking the sidewalk and slackjawed gawking. As I walked away, I wondered exactly when New York became a brand, with the obsequious "NYC" this and "NYC" that. Was this a post 9/11 thing, a light, Disneyesque attempt to lure tourist dollars back to a still-reeling city? Despite this logo, I found New York to be the most European of American cities (though I've never been to New Orleans), the effect being that while I was here, I began to really long for Europe.

Back at the Chelsea. I took a bath with a book and a beer. The label said something like, "We share in the rousing company of good spirits," so I raised a toast to any who might be lingering around, as the clock in the other room ticked closer to the month of Halloween.

I awoke early with a mild headache, caused perhaps by 123 years of cigarette smoke leaching from the walls. In the lobby, European bohos wrote on their laptops. These days, is it art if no one sees you do it? Once out on the streets I found myself walking the walk, directed by a map of New York as known by the Beats. It was a wonderful way to spend the first morning of October. A series of right angles led me past the former flats of late-1940s poets and painters. I saw where Kerouac worked on "On the Road," where Ginsberg fought his inevitability. I too wasn't insusceptible to the muse:

Near Ginsberg's old 15th St pad,
Two actors sit on the stoop
Rehearsing a scene

I passed Warhol's Factory, bought juice in Union Square market, looked at the photos of old ships at Chelsea Docks. I was born in this neighborhood, at St. Vincents Hospital, so I closed a 40 year circle. On the front steps, I marvelled that from this vantage point I'd first seen the outdoors.
My own journey had begun here.

On the turntable: Gomez, "In Our Gun"
On the nighttable: Ursula Hegi, "Salt Dancers"