Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A Tale of One City

As I walked up 9th Avenue in the late afternoon of a lazy, sunny Sunday. As I walked up and the bodegas and shuttered-up stores. A woman stood before me on the corner and wandered a little ways into the street.

"What are you doing?" she said, shaking her head at the traffic coming across 37th Street. "What? What are you doing?"

I looked to my left. She was talking to a car. A car, there, rolling slowly through the intersection and toward the southeast corner. A little like a listing ship.

"What?" she said at it, again. "What, what are you doing?"

The car very slowly and gradually came to a stop. Right there in the intersection, pretty much, still. Its shadowy occupants seemed to me to be wide-eyed and at a loss. But then again.

The woman, young woman, handed to the person in the passenger seat a neatly folded pair of pants.

Blue jeans.

And this transaction I spied over my shoulder as I made my way across the street.

I was looking for a grocery store.

Then I crossed 9th Avenue, an achievement of some inspiration and ingenuity.

Moments later a puzzled and fearful man. Faced me from across the sidewalk. And gazed upon me with wide, uncomprehending eyes, and he was walking right at me, quite deliberately, though his body betrayed some strange and stiff reluctance.

Out from behind him sprang Eevin. She'd been pushing him in my direction. Him, her fiancé, Carl.

We all said some things for a while. Then I asked her if there was a grocery store nearby. She said go to the Food Emporium on 42nd Street. She said this as though she were saying, "Go to Yellowstone" or "Go to the Guggenheim Bilbao."

So I went to the Food Emporium on 42nd Street, where for some unnamed but doubtless catastrophic reason the freezer section was entirely denuded of ice cream, leaving a cluster of
the forlorn to mill about and murmur perplexedly.

I got my things and got out.

Taking Eev's advice I walked back on Dyer. Dyer's a half-avenue, half-exit ramp that leads right up to my window from where I hear trucks roar at night from outta the Lincoln Tunnel, delivering foodstuffs and other goods of every imaginable variety into Manhattan and don't kid
yourself, it's a greedy city.

I walked down the narrow sidewalk and it disappeared; I had to make my way along the undemarcated and perilous path between the traffic and the street's edge.

There was a lot of pigeon shit and I didn't know why. I mean, I knew why, but I didn't really know why. You know?

The street narrowed and wound around a concrete-walled bend. I wasn't sure I was supposed to be here.

Traffic coming into the city was at a crawl and some folks were nice enough to let me through.

I stepped on and off that narrow concrete lip between the lanes of the tunnel exit ramp, traversing that strange space that's not meant for human beings.

The springtime sun in all its glory beat down upon the concrete walls and cement pavement that form this valley and keep for a minute longer the city out of reach of the grasping hands of
intruding interlopers – tourists, merchants, thrill-seekers and hedonists – courtesy of Robert Moses.

I was lost for days and nights and days and nights and then was found, the end.