Monthly Archives: March 2008

NYC polaroids 2

Once it reaches 42nd St, your morning E train becomes an exercise in diplomacy and impinged personal space. The unlucky commuters on the platform give up and step back to wait for the next service, but a few always try to force their way into the sliding-door space. From your position in the middle of the jammed bodies, you watch the nearest doors clunk shut and wait to be on your way. Tense moments pass.

The doors grind open again; one of the other carriages can’t close its doors. The driver is urging something indistinct and frustrated on the tannoy. The doors clunk shut.

And open. The collective tension is palpable; there is no-one at whom anger can be directed. Clunk. Open. Clunk. Open, again.

From the driver, something that sounds like, “get your freakin’ body parts inside the train.” Then – clunk – the train finally pulls away and expressions ease.

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You step into Billy’s Bakery to pick up some pineapple cake. As usual the hipster bakers outnumber the customers by five to one. As you take in the scene a woman barges past you in a thief’s dash for the door and disappears. A moment passes. You reconstruct her image in your mind: gaunt, weathered, one hand immediately to her mouth urgently cramming in chocolate cake, crumbs scattering. On the counter, the ‘free samples’ plate is now empty. The staff take little notice. One way to get a meal.

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From the 38th floor of your skyscraper, only police sirens are audible, weaving their lament around the skyscrapers. A choir of cat-demons and banshees, fighting and wailing. The cops are bored of the standard scream and blip-bloop the siren switch to create their own mixes; amateur DJs. A creative outlet.

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After the storms, you emerge from work into the muggy evening air on Lexington. The streets are awash with dead umbrellas; enormous segmented jellyfish. Stepping over and between their beached, dropleted, crumpled forms, through wraiths of subway steam.

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On the crowded subway home the older woman on the other side of the steel pole is looking at the floor, blinking rapidly. You hold on, hand at shoulder level against the jolting of the train. Minutes pass. Jostling and rocking, you notice her hand clasping the pole below yours. After 53rd and 7th she leans, closer. Her eyes are now a forced nonchalance, directed unblinking at the window, as she slowly closes the gap and gently rests her cheek against the back of your hand.

NYC polaroids 1

The Pearl Oyster Bar on a winter evening, bright and unadorned. At the bar, patrons wait for a table. Malcolm McLaren sips something cold and makes no conversation with his Asian companion.

The writer for The Sopranos wrote this restaurant specifically into the script. The main character, Tony emerges from a coma craving their ‘lobster roll’. After taking your table, it’s easy to take his recommendation.
The dish arrives swiftly, an unpretentious sandwich overgrown with shoestring fries, a tangle of crispy filaments. The lobster is cubed and shell-less, cold fleshy chunks slick with mayo, clean and weighty, in a sickly-sweet hotdog bun.

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You duck out of pouring rain into the Church of St Paul the Apostle. Grand architecture, warm oranges and purples, far vaulted ceilings bearing projected lights for the occasion. Rows of wooden pews face the large raised stage.

The orchestra takes their place; you applaud. John Adams’ Christian Zeal and Activity is surprisingly caustic and irreverent. You wonder if any pious patrons are disgruntled.

The bench is too hard. You shift uncomfortably as they move into the next piece, Gavin Bryars’ hypnotic but over-long Sinking of the Titanic. The notion is that the music reflects sinking into the ocean with the ship as the band continues to play. Waves of green and blue lights wash cleverly over the scene, convincing and calming.

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The Empire State building welcomes you home again. The pattern of lights change every day or two. Perhaps it is signalling to its fellow buildings; a slow Close Encounters morse. The glacial language of skyscrapers; creaks and whispers on multi-storey winds.