Boots, contd. (and: Causing Stress for Others)

Went to buy boots. Liked, in theory, the Frye style (no, I’m not talking about the English actor / comedian); in practice, I didn’t like the narrow toe, the leather soles, the “styled” aspect of them: the way it felt like they were walking me, and would take an age to break in. So I went back to Shoe Mania on Broadway, near Lafayette, and tried on a pair of brown oxblood leather mid-calf length slip-on Doc Martens engineer boots, and bought them. Rubber soles. Going back to my ’80s roots, when the Central Bank forecourt in pre-gentrified Temple Bar in Dublin was a gaggle of goths, punks, skin heads, New Wave mod-spin offs: different tribes, all wearing variations on the single European currency of the Doctor Marten air cushioned sole.

Out onto the street again. Five o’clock. (Emm, why am I shopping during rush hour?) Funny how everyone in Manhattan dresses as if they’ve been styled: as if they’ve pre-thought every eventuality. (Even the guy selling the equivalent of the Big Issues has big aviator sunglasses on, transforming him into potential cyborg pimp / porn star, gang leader from The Warriors, or messianic character from Blade Runner; Buddhist technologist.) It’s actually slightly tiresome, even though it immediately makes me want to go out and “shop!” – as I have been doing. (There must be just one more accessory out there that’s essential to my latent identity, that will transform me into my future self.)

A car is right in the “cross walk”. People flow around it (truly, here, the pedestrian is prince, queen and king). Passive aggression and mischief dictate what I do next: I stop in front of the car, point to the walking man (which replaced the “Walk / Don’t Walk” some time ago), while I look in at the driver, a business man in a silver Lexus fighting his way uptown in 5 pm rush hour traffic. He immediately starts throwing himself around inside the cockpit, thrashing with Jewish / Italian-influenced New Yorker arms waving violently into the air. I throw up my arms in, “what are you going to do?” fashion, and cross, my heart rate raised by mutual venting. It feels disturbingly good. Maybe after he’s gone a few blocks he’ll think, “that asshole,” and smile to himself. Though, the smile isn’t all that likely.

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To Connecticut Through the Bronx, Acrostically (circa 1984)

This was where we passed through on the way to leafy, unreal Connecticut.

Hell, parts of it seemed, in the bad ’80s: whole blocks levelled; and we nibbled

Edam cheese in the back seat as Dad pushed down the automatic locking, and

Broke through amber lights so as never to stop, where pirates in wheel chairs

Rolled manically to the traffic lights, muddying the wind screen with dirty cloths.

On arrival, half an hour from The Bronx, Darien seemed a different country.

No one of other colours; big houses among the trees they’d stolen from the howling city.

Xanadu? Reagan’s paradise, of private roads and non-Jewish country clubs. Many wasps. Very few Irish.

Ultimate Subway Attention Seeker (and The People of the Book)

7th September, 2010

Earlier, there was an African-American kid with a pink-orange dyed mohican (just that haircut alone would have qualified him as an attention-seeker) with a white domesticated rat, kissing it, loving it with his lips, letting it crawl half into his mouth (the rats that had been crawling under the tracks among the trash down on the lines of the F just before the train came into West 4th Street station flashed into my head. Their survival instinct keeps them from the third column of the electrified third rail). People were taking pictures with their phones, others laughed as they recoiled down the carriage to get away from him.

All that time, a man in a black suit and black skull cap was reading a Hebraic text. He’s to my left, and is clean-shaven; so does that mean he’s not Orthodox? He is, in every appearance except for the lack of a crazily exuberant beard. To my right in olive garb, a man who might be from the Horn of Africa is reading what could be the Qu ‘ aran: hardback, as ink-black as the Black Stone of Mecca, with gold calligraphy on the cover. Curious. As I write this from left to right, he and the Jewish man from Asia Minor are reading right to left. I am sitting in between. I wouldn’t say, “equidistant.” I just happen to be. And, as an agnostic / lapsed Catholic-by-tradition, do I qualify as belonging to the People of the Book? Does that claim cut any ice among the Believers, the separatist religious tribalists of this world of now, where the extremes dictate, and the “middle ground” of all traditions is reviled?

I –  don’t – Think –  so.

An Asian woman in a grey vest and light purple shorts sits opposite me, looking anxious, holding a notebook in which she’s been writing in Chinese script. The man from Africa is writing, in pencil, the most beautiful, light-touch glosses and annotations that look more like a breeze on the water than writing. Or a flowing Cubism, something that is pure representation with no images, as if herons or cranes were lightly printing the page. Now he’s rubbing a cologne onto his hands, wrists and neck that smells something like Tea Tree oil, or some mysterious, refreshing smell. I enjoy observing the deliberate ascetic refinement with which he does everything. It belongs to a different world. It reminds me of the smell of the “Mosque” section of E.M. Forster’s Passage to India. It could be the odour of tolerance.

I enjoy the way they read. There’s such an air of peace and containment about it in the subterranean world.