The New Yorxpedition: Day One

The Fox and the Crepes, mere steps from my temporary lodgings. Pictured: Lifesaving coffee. Not pictured: Lifesaving crepes.

Off the plane by a little after 7AM, bleary eyed stumbling through JFK, onto a waiting train to a waiting train to a wrong train to a right train to Brooklyn, where my host whisks me away to brunch almost as soon as my bags hit the floor. We’re diving back down into the metro and I completely lose track of where we are until we resurface and suddenly we’re in the guts of Chinatown, wandering past slabs of fresh fish on ice and noodle houses by the dozen. We walk until we find the intended restaurant is backed up out the door, his Toronto friends that have joined us recommend a nearby taco shop and before long I’m putting away banana-leaf-wrapped flank steak tacos and tall cups of coffee and staggering back to catch three extra hours of sleep before the evenings adventures begin. When they do, we’re navigating a construction-wracked warren of train transfers until we arrive at the Harlem apartment of one of my hosts classmates. It’s an exposed-brick sixth floor artist’s nest with books and scripts scattered across almost every available surface, the walls lined with hand drawn portraits of famous dead men (her “harem,” with King Charles, Kafka and Aaron Burr among her favourites.) Everyone there is sociable and welcoming, the conversation ranging wildly from the historical (did you know Aaron Burr tried to declare himself Emperor of Mexico?) to the bizarre (toilet paper versus paper towels, the ultimate showdown.) By the time the wine bottles are emptied and the guacamole consumed it’s nearing one AM, and the various train delays and long stretches spent wandering the platform waiting for an errant F train to materialize drag the journey out until it’s well after 3:30 in the morning by the time I stagger back and hit the couch like an astronaut suddenly becoming very reacquainted with gravity.
First impressions? I like it. I like it a hell of a lot.
More to follow once I get some coffee in me.


The New Yorxpedition: Prologue

The Cheesecake Factory is full to bursting, ravenous young diners sparking cigarettes outside or huddling into seats in the waiting area as they pore over menus and down cocktails, killing time until their hockey-puck pager starts rattling like a fault line dwelling and they get a proper table. The place was recommended to me by the late-teen cell phone jockey who set up my phone with Stateside service for the duration of my visit, but I suspect I only would have managed a few bites there if I’d arrived on an earlier bus. Maybe yesterday’s. Instead I wander the streets for a short span until the Daily Grill stretches out on the street corner, and that’s where I’m writing this while I tuck back a Dark and Stormy and wait for the chefs to throw together a chicken pot pie.
Washington State is beautiful, as far as I’ve seen from the Greyhound bus windows that have been my main viewpoint for the lion’s share of the afternoon. Halfway to Seattle, we passed through the town where my mother spend most of her youth, and she commented that the West Coast must simply be in our blood, through and through. I couldn’t disagree; between the tiny towns lining the highway after the border crossing, I was fixed upon the scenery so much I almost forgot to watch the new Sorkin film I’d made sure to download for the trip (Good, but the Social Network still reigns supreme.)
The alcohol is starting to works it’s wonderful magic now as the stresses I was feeling earlier today begin to dissipate like a morning mist getting burnt off before noon. I woke up with a belly full of fire and my heart in my throat like it was ready to stay there, an obstinate occupier, for the rest of the week. I’ve been getting better at managing my neuroses, though not enough to avoid doubling back to check to see if I’d locked the door behind me after I’d left (I had).
When they bring me the chicken pot pie I ordered, the damn thing is bigger than my face.
Welcome to America.


Out West

I told you I was going out West to make things right
Said don’t worry, they said the land
has enough for everyone, we just
have to shake it out.
We cracked her open like an egg and then
for good measure
we cracked the whole carton
because what good’s the yolk in the shell, you know?

I told you I was going out West to make things right
Sent you back everything you’d ever need
No hungry lullabies, no rent-cheque bruises
We were never going to wait in the Wednesday line again,
never have to bum a dart, never have to let go.
And your mom, god, how her face turned
when we took all she ever said about me
fed it right back to her.
“He’s done good,” you said,
“He’s done so good.”

I told you I was going out West to make things right
and I made things right, kept my nose
cleaner than your kitchen counters,
never missed a day,
never crossed those lines we talked about
and then
they all called us into the big room,
gave us the news in asphalt tones,
some fellas started crying.
Never seen a fella so big
cry so hard.

We go any further West,
we might fall into the Pacific.
So what now?
So where next?