What a Day

Can you believe Michael Jackson died ???

Self heard the news on her way home from the Village.  She was with Drew.  He got a call from a friend, and in the middle of the call he suddenly turned to self and said, “Michael Jackson just died!”

And self said, No, that’s some kind of joke!

And Drew said, No joke.

His friend had gotten 10th row seats to Jackson’s upcoming concert in London.  The tickets were a thousand each.  Drew’s friend was pretty upset.

Then, just behind us, a group of people started talking about it.  We heard one man go, “Michael Jackson just died!”

“How?” self asked Drew.  “Was it suicide?”  (Why did that thought first occur to self?  She knows not the reason, dear blog reader)

Drew said, “No, some kind of heart attack.”

Then, we passed a group of tweens, somewhere on 3rd Avenue, and they were chanting, at everyone passing, “Michael Jackson just died!  He flat-lined in the hospital!  They couldn’t revive him!”  The girls were smiling, practically giddy with excitement.  How strange was that? Only in New York, etc etc

Self parted with Drew around Astor Place.  She was walking towards St. Marks Bookshop.  Then she remembered, she used to live here.  It was 30 years ago.  She sub-let an apartment from a New York City Opera singer.  The location was 8th and 1st.  Self somehow remembered the street as being somewhat “grunge,” she remembers stepping over the prostrate bodies of drunks passed out on the sidewalk.  There was a dentist who lived on the floor below hers, but she only saw him with a patient once.  The patient was seated in an ordinary wooden chair, and the dentist had tilted it back so that he could look straight into the patient’s mouth.  There were youths with green spikey hair and safety pins in their noses draped around the cube on Astor Place.

Now, 8th street is one sushi joint after another.  Self stepped into a beauty salon to inquire how much they charged for haircuts, and they said, $50.  How the street has changed!

Self was glad she went to the reading, for aside from the fact that Wells Tower has a real knack for describing gross-out scenes, she got to listen to a writer whose work she is unfamiliar with, Fiona Maazel.  And that writer just bowled her over.  Her piece was from a novel-in-progress, and the whole thing involved gerontophilia and even a mention of self’s beloved Spock (as in “Hello, I am Spock, I have no human feelings!” end quote.  Can you believe the coincidence, dear blog readers?  Spock is everywhere!  Self even expected Zach Quinto to pop up in the audience!)

After the reading, self hailed a cab and went directly home.  To prepare for yet another day of exciting and improbable occurrences.

Stay tuned.

Nostalgia for a Lost New York: The Economist Review of Richard Price’s LUSH LIFE

From The Economist of week March 22- 28 (Self still catching up on her reading, after all!)

The Lower East Side of New York has long been a gateway for sweaty, dreamy immigrants. Its narrow streets feature the residue of older struggles, its tenements and synagogues inhabited by earlier boatloads.

But the pickle shops and leather outlets now share space with fancy French bistros and sleek, glassy condominiums. Chinese immigrants crammed 20 to a room toil alongside young, white artists sporting ironic tattoos and writerly goatees. It is a “Candyland of a neighborhood,” writes Richard Price in Lush Life, his gripping eighth novel, a murder-mystery set in the area. With gritty, rhythmic prose, full of interrogating cops, wry bartenders and street-wise kids, Mr. Price captures the complex jumble of race and class in this “checkerboard of demolition and rehabilitation.”

New York has long lived in self’s imagination as her own personal mecca. Was it those pictures of Dearest Mum at 14, playing in Carnegie Hall? Or Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall,” which self saw three times?

But self no longer loves New York. She thinks she stopped loving the City (which isn’t even referred to as “The Big Apple” any longer — or, if it is, only by those who are too old to be considered “cool”) when she saw her first Starbucks in the upper East Side. She had called an aunt who played the piano for American Ballet Theatre. Imagine her consternation when aunt suggested meeting at Starbucks, just around the corner from her brother-in-law’s Park Avenue apartment. (Why on earth would self want to meet her New York aunt in Starbucks? There are no less than three Starbucks within a mile of self’s abode in California!)

Self thinks one of the reasons she loved Tel Aviv so much was that there was not a single Starbucks anywhere in the city. AND there was great, great coffee everywhere, even in chain bakery/coffee shops like Rolodin.

Last summer, when self was spending a sultry August in the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and getting to know so many fascinating East Coast artists, a number of whom were from New York City, she overheard them discussing at breakfast the opening of a — Heaven Forbid! — KMart in, of all places, her beloved Astor Place on the Lower East Side. That was when self knew that, without a doubt, Manhattan was no longer the Manhattan of her dreams.

And, for heaven’s sake, there is a Whole Foods on 14th street which beggars the Whole Foods in Palo Alto. And self’s brother-in-law was so gaga over Whole Foods when it first opened that he could not stop talking about it.

And, furthermore, Madison Avenue now looks like the Stanford Shopping Center, for two of the biggest stores are these:

    Banana Republic
    Williams Sonoma

And the old FAO Schwarz store on Fifth Avenue is now an Apple Store.

Self is just waiting for the first Jamba Juice to open.

(And, oops, dear blog reader: Self just did a google search and found that the aforementioned KMart had opened, but not, thankfully in Astor Place: on One Pennsylvania Plaza).

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

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