First Annoyingly Bloggy Post

I give in. This is my first “bloggy” blog post. I have not quite sunk to the level of, “I am cutting my toe nails while talking on the phone to Philipa about The Sopranos” / “my daily post-prandial poo had a nice consistency”, but I’m getting close.

Writers’ delaying tactics have manifested as multi-tasking (i.e., watching The September Issue on Netflix while eating french bread and shop-bought humus (no chance that I would have cooked it: since moving to NYC, my store cupboard has been old Mother Hubbarding, and the fridge, with its unidentified secretions and green stains from dead vegetables, hasn’t been the most attractive place to put food. Solution? Spend around 10$ at lunch for expensive posh sambo and coffee, and 10$ to 15$ to dine alone at Dojo at Washington Square, on yakisoba, another 10$ for two pints of Japanese beer – it has to be done.) – so: eating humus at my desk with a cup of coffee; pausing film to check FBk, emails, blog stats, and if there were any other networks, pulse flickrs or twitters, I’d be checking them. All the while listening to Grant Hart of Hüsker Dü fame.

(“Why don’t we put it on Facetube?” I heard Irish poet Gerald Dawe say at the Patrick Kavanagh weekend in November 2008; an ironic twitter went through the technophiles in the audience, and panel members. Someone pulled out their Iphone and put it on twitter.) Since 1 p.m., a coolly-sinister breeze has been blowing, within, or threading through, the carpet of dirty humidity that has held over the city the last two days, rain and heat in equal measure at this late date in “autumn”: fall failing to materialise. I have just checked, and verified a comment overheard from the balcony – “yo! We got a Taw-nay-do comin’, bro!” “No shit, Anthony? You fuckin’ with me.” (I’m exaggerating – they weren’t mafioso.) – “AN ISOLATED TORNADO IS STILL NOT OUT OF THE QUESTION. A TORNADO WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 6 PM.” according to

In the shops of Ditmas avenue, Jewish women in headscarves who looked like cancer patients – due to shaved heads – were conscientiously shopping for vege, and saying “Doris, we got a big taw-nay-do comin’; how much is dat? Oh, I tawt it was .99 cents?”; the daily scene of Hassids brushing shoulders with Mesopotanian, totally-burka-ed women; in the hardware store, someone was talking Brooklynese to the shop owner, while two ferociously-bearded Orthodox men in black wearing what looked like brown, furred lamp-shades from my 1970s Balinteer Dublin suburban childhood stood by, waiting, talking together cautiously, maintaining their conscious separation via the low tone of conversation (idea: perhaps Bin Laden is hiding in plain view, as an Orthodox Jew?)

I was (1) bringing 2 weeks’ worth of laundry to Laundrymania!, a 30-washing machine operation run by Latin American women under pictures and shrines of the Virgin of Guadalupe, clashing with broadcasts of corny, breast implant soap-operas from Colombia and Mexico. I left my 16 pounds of dirty socks and jocks with them, went to various 1$ shops to buy Woolite (because the laundry ladies shrink anything they possibly can with their high power dryers), bleach (because the fruit flies, according to Katie, are breeding down the sink again), and various cleaning items to do, some day, the big clean on the general manky-ness of the public spaces in the apartment. (I had intended to get up early to write, and then do the clean, but since I woke via the snooze button at 1 p.m., the clean must go by the wayside in favour of delaying-to-write.) I also braved the crush of “Grannies of all nations”, the united front of all forms of headscarves (from the Silk Road to Asia Minor to the Near East and indeed Middle East) in the vege shops -“the ubiquity of sparrows” is what one learns most from travelling, wonderful U.S. poet Craig Arnold has noted; I notice the ubiquity of the Pushy Granny. In Spain, France and in the boroughs, the guild has mutual respect and, per capita, more influence and power than the white-vest wearing Yakusa. Shoppers, particularly men, from outside the guild, are invisible, and can be gone over like tank fodder: ethnic grannies as a form of subtle tank.

So, I returned an hour ago loaded down with vege and fly-bleach; and after I finish this post, I’m going to delay a little longer, and then write. Finally. After pouring another cup of coffee, and watching another 10 minutes, no, 15, of the film. The sky’s clearing now. Looks as if the potential tornado is dissipating.

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.