On the Way Home

denver airport
denver airport
I’m in the Denver airport, back in Mountain Time, waiting for the last of my three airplanes home, and, as you can perhaps tell from the picture, the sun is shining, which, after several cold and drizzly days in New York, is most welcome. Many people — including many in the East and even some in Wyoming — think I’m crazy for living where I do, and perhaps I am, but I do know this: where I live, it is almost always sunny. I used to have some sort of sunlight therapy lamp, and I sat dutifully in its light, but it simply doesn’t compare to actual sunshine — the sort that streams through the windows and dapples the hills and nearly blinds you when you walk outside. I love the sunshine, and I love the stars at night, and I love the expanse of the sky, and while there are things that would make me give those up, they are few, and none of them have yet come forward.

Yesterday I did in fact visit the Fluevog store and I emerged victorious! Well, it was a victory if you consider handing over large sums of cash for well-made boots that you love and that fit you a victory, which I do, particularly when I’ve been wanting some boots of this sort practically forever. I plan to wear them for at least that long. The craziest part of the thing, though, was not finding boots that fit my oddly long and narrow feet, although that is rare. But the woman who sold them to me? Is from Wyoming. From Lander, specifically, and we knew a handful of the same people in common. It was an excellent Wyoming/New York City moment. Tomorrow I’ll wear my boots to church and, when my friend comments on them, I will say, “Thanks. . . and just guess who sold them to me.” It will be a fine, fine thing.

SoHo was as disappointing as I expected. I first went there in 1990, when I suppose real New Yorkers would tell you it was already going to the dogs, or at any rate the chain stores, but it was not nearly as bad as it is now. I made a quick escape back to the Lower East Side, gathered the rest of my stuff from Jenna’s apartment, had dinner at the Angelina Cafe, and headed to the Radical Reference Google Books shindig, which I’ll write up for my library blog at some point. I haven’t seen any of my RadRef cohort since ALA in 2006, and many of them I’ve never met, so it was great to do so. I only wish I had a teleporter, so I could live all the lives I want to in all the places I want to be.

Brooklyn (No Sleep till, Last Train to, A Tree Grows in)

laptop cat
laptop cat
My father grew up in Brooklyn, but I haven’t really been here since before he died, and I don’t really remember those visits except for one little movie — just a few frames of a ride on a Coney Island rollercoaster in my mind. I haven’t really seen much of it this trip. Today has been a lazy day. So far, I have gotten up, read, talked to a couple of people, snacked, and napped. So it has been a good day. Tonight is the Radical Reference Salon on the Google Books settlement, which I’ll be attending. Before that, I have vague plans about visitng the Fluevog store, which will, I suspect, be an exercise in disappointment about shoe sizes and the gentrification of SoHo, but you never know.

Yesterday I went to visit the Darien Library. I’ll write more about it on lis.dom at some point, but in the meantime, you can see my photos. Many thanks to John for the tour. It was great to see Kate and to meet everyone else and to get a sense of the physical place. I have done a lot more library tourism here than I normally do on vacations — but then, I’m around a lot more libraries than I often am when on vacation.

It has been funny to be in New York in general. I have never lived in the city, but I have been coming here since I was fourteen, when my best friend and I took the train from Iowa to her godparents’ in New Jersey, where she was staying that summer. I spent a week there before leaving for camp, and we went into the city every day. We did the same thing the next summer (except that year we took the bus, which I don’t really recommend, but it was cheap), and then there was a lapse of some years until I came to college and then another lapse between when I last came out (during graduate school, round one, in 2002) and now. I know that I don’t actually know my way around nearly as well as I’d like to think I do, and on this trip, particularly, I know I’ve spent a lot of time looking around in a non-native sort of way. But I look around for a reason. I am always looking for the little bits of the city that I think of as mine — certain subway stops and street corners, and places where things used to be, and new places that might be added to that particular mental movie.

If you live here, I suppose, you have a different sort of movie, a movie that, perhaps, I might someday want. But for now I love the one that runs in my head, rough cut as it is.

Other Boroughs, Other ‘Burbs

window, light, books
window, light, books

I spent most of yesterday in the Bronx and most of today in Poughkeepsie. Po-town is not what I would call a suburb, but the alliteration/allusion combination was too good to pass up.

My friend Felicia works at SUNY Maritime, which is this weird combination of the State University of New York and a Maritime college in the Throggs Neck area of the Bronx. Felicia told me all about the history, but I am afraid I was a little too distracted by the slight cold I seem to have picked up to remember much of it. But it is kind of cool. Their library is in a fort! Like a real fort. Well, not a real fort now, but a real fort guarding the confluence of the East River and Long Island Sound back during the Revolution. I’m not much for military stuff in general, but I get excited about old stuff, particularly when you get to wander around in it. And I’m a sucker for old-school looking libraries.

After touring a bit of the campus, we had lunch with a friend of hers at The Wicked Wolf, and I had linguine with mussels in red sauce because hey, I am by large bodies of water! I can eat water-dwelling creatures! It was quite good. We then went to what her friend called the skeeziest bar in the Bronx (it did not seem very skeezy — just a good local hangout) and drank hard cider on tap, and then Fel and I went to see Good Hair.

It may seem sort of nuts to go to the movies in New York, where it costs $10.50 (the theatre in Cody charges $6.50, I believe). But I love going to the movies (I would much, much rather see a movie in a theatre than at home), and let’s face it, the chances of a documentary — even a documentary with Chris Rock — about black women and their hair coming to Wyoming are pretty much nil. It is a fascinating yet frustrating film — fascinating because other than “I know it takes special styling/cutting skills and requires particular products,” I knew diddley squat about black hair before this movie; frustrating because, while it’s billed as a documentary, it doesn’t really go into the kind of depth I would like in a documentary. Chris Rock starts out by talking about the day one of his small daughters asked him why she didn’t have “good hair,” and then he goes out to interview black women about their hair. . . except most of the people he talks to are movie stars, singers, and entertainers of other sorts. Oh, sure, Toni Morrison and Al Sharpton show up, and he does talk to people in beauty shops and barber shops, but none of the regular people get the same kind of respectful, talking head treatment that the celebrities do. I was hoping for something more like a feature-length version of A Girl Like Me, which Mitali Perkins showed at the preconference she did at the Wyoming Library Association conference just a couple of weeks ago. Seriously, if you haven’t seen this, forget this post and go watch it now.

Still, Good Hair was worthwhile as a glimpse, albeit (I suspect) a limited glimpse. And we watched it at the Coop City theatre complex, which made me feel happy as it meant I’d visited another place in the They Might Be Giants song.

Today I took the train up to Poughkeepsie, which was once a center of IBM activity and is still the home of Vassar College, where I went to school. Like most of the people I’ve met who went to expensive, fancy colleges, I tend to avoid trying to say where I went to school. If you ask, I’m liable to say I went to school in “upstate New York” or “north of the City.” I avoid being specific becasue, I suppose, I don’t want to be judged to be rich and snobby. I do come from people with plenty of money, and I should be willing to admit that. I hope that I don’t seem too snobby, although I’m sure I fail at that regularly. Anyway. My mother has quoted my father to me on the subject of college my whole life. He said of where you go to school that “it’s so important it doesn’t matter.” He meant, I think, simply that the experiences you have at that time are so crucial to defining you that you can’t really have them anywhere but where you go. Of course, now that I say that, it comes out sounding just the kind of snobby that I don’t want to sound. So I’ll stop with that and just say that while I don’t think going to a fancy college is all that, or is even necessary, I loved my particular experience at my particular college.

It was a perfect autumn day today, cool but not cold, and the leaves were just beginning to change. People in Wyoming tell me they love fall because of the color of the leaves, and all I can think is that they have never been in a deciduous forest. In Wyoming the aspen and cottonwood leaves just turn yellow and then fall off and turn brown. I was so glad to see red and orange and every other shade of the warm spectrum against the still green leaves and the blue and white and gray sky. The whole campus was so beautiful and so full of memories that I wished I could pack it up and put it in my pocket to take home. Look, there is the bench where I talked to Kate that night, and there is the table where Meribeth wrote her thesis and I wrote my history term paper, and there is the path that always made me think of Maine, and even though the Brooklyn Bridge isn’t there any more, there’s where it used to hang. I could not fit it all in, so I took a lot of pictures. Too many probably, but not nearly enough to convey it all. I also had lunch with my old adviser, Rachel Kitzinger. I can’t quite believe it’s been over a decade since I was there — and I know that a decade isn’t even very long. But it is still a long time for me, at age 33.

At some point I’ll write up my adventures in transportation and how I got free tiramisu (or perhaps, in all honesty, I won’t), but for now, it’s time to go to bed, lest my cold get worse instead of better.

A Long Short Trip

breakfast in new york city
breakfast in new york city

It might be said that I have two kinds of friends: those who take pictures and those who do not. That’s not quite accurate — all my friends take photos on occasion, but some of them photograph everything, and others . . . don’t. And I am such a conformist that I take pictures with the picture taking people and don’t when in non-picture taking company. And that is all by way of explaining why I don’t have many new photos to add today.

Last night I made black beans charros, rice, and curried corn for my current hosts and a couple other friends, and then I headed up and over to the other side of the island (mostly up) for a party at my college friend Sarah’s for a housewarming party. Getting there was quite an adventure. Normally it would just be a matter of taking the A train, but this weekend, the A train wasn’t running past 168th Street, so when you got there, you had to take a shuttle bus. I was down with all that. . . and then my train stopped at 145th St. I got to the party eventually, some blocks walk and two buses later. It was a sort of adventure, and a good reminder that I’m not really not quite as savvy as I’d like to think. It amuses me to no end, too, that an 11 mile trip can take an hour and half. I could, in otherwards, get from my house to Cody and back — with some time to spare — in the time it took me to get home last night.

Today I have mostly been lounging and reading and generally trying to ward off the cold that hasn’t quite started but seems like it wants to. Tonight I’m going to eat dedacdent mac and cheese with a friend from the computer and his family. And tomorrow — well, who knows what tomorrow holds?

Everyone’s Your Friend in New York City

lower east side street
lower east side street

My trip to New York City started, as most of my trips do, with an early morning drive to Cody to catch the flight to Denver. You can fly to two places from Cody: Denver on a United affiliate or Salt Lake City on an American Airlines affiliate. I try to go to Denver because a) the Denver airport has free wifi and b) if I get stuck there, I can stay with my godparents, and they will take me out for sushi, which is extremely nice of them, especially since I’m prone to giving them a hard time for being Republicans.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

When I woke up yesterday at 5, I looked out the window to see 3 or 4 inches of snow on the ground. This was vaguely irksome largely because I’ve somehow misplaced the snow brush I use to get the snow off my car, but it was no great matter. I fed the cats, ate breakfast, got the cats some extra water, chucked my bags in the car, and headed out. A couple of minutes later, I was on the highway, where I suddenly realized that it was still snowing — and then further realized that I couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of me. Between Cody and Meeteetse there is nothing — a couple of ranch and county roads, an oilfield, and a lot of big land empty of everything but sagebrush and cows. It does not inspire confidence to think about driving the thirty miles in a blizzard. I thought, “There is no way that planes are taking off in this,” and so I turned around and went back to town to doublecheck on the flight. The internet said flights from Cody were still departing. On time. It seemed highly unlikely to me that i was going to make it on time while going 15 miles an hour, but I thought perhaps they’d delay the flight and I’d make it after all, so I set out again.

This time, luck was with me, and I got in behind a snow plow and a truck, and I was able to follow them and thus see (sort of) where I was going. I’d have taken a picture of it for you all, but my camera was buried in my suitcase, and I had a deathgrip on the wheel. So just imagine darkness, millions of tiny swirling snowflakes, and two sets of taillights. The snow plow turned off a little before the halfway point, but I was able to follow the truck the rest of the way (seriously, if you were driving an F250 to Cody yesterday morning, early, and there was a Honda Civic on your tail the whole way, get in touch and I will buy you dozens of drinks).

I made it in time, miraculously, and aside from the racist guy I behind me in line at the security check point, the rest of the trip — two planes, a bus, a subway, and some walking — was uneventful. Just as well. I’d had about all the eventfulness I could take.

I am staying here at my friend Jenna’s on the Lower East Side. My house in Wyoming is about four times the size of this apartment, and I would guess that I pay a quarter of the rent that Jenna does, but then she is in New York City and I am in the sticks, and although we joke about trading lives for a few months, I doubt either of us would have it any other way. Anyway, it was weird to hear voices coming up from the street when I went to bed last night after midnight, but weird in a good way. I slept well and woke up and thought, “I am in New York City and I can do anything I want!”

What I wanted, today, was a little meander around the Lower East Side. After breakfast, I walked over to Bluestockings, which is a bookstore/cafe/zine store. I took a picture of one of their t-shirts, and now I am wondering when/if someone will flag it as inappropriate content on Flickr. I spent a ton of money on books and zines and (I already own alternative menstrual products). The cashier asked if I was from out of town, and I explained that yes, I was visiting from Wyoming, but that I’ve spent a lot of time in the city. (I always feel like I have to point that out to people — I’m not just a tourist! Really!) She was asking, it turns out, because Eileen Myles and Rebecca Solnit are both appearing at the store in the next couple of months, and I’d bought books by both of them. Ah well.

Then I headed over to the Essex Street Market, where I got most of the stuff for dinner tonight for about $9. I meant to take pictures inside, but it was crazy crowded, so I didn’t. I picked up the handful of other things I needed at another small market on the way back and then came back here to quick soak beans (Jenna, her partner Eric, and a couple other friends are coming for dinner — I like to cook for people when I visit them), eat some lunch, upload photos, and finish writing up this entry.

Oh yeah, last night we went to a wake. Pictures and more details are on Flickr.