Sometimes, from beyond the skyscrapers, the cry of a tugboat finds you in your insomnia, and you remember that this desert of iron and cement is an island.
One drawback to not attending the reunion is that (1) I won’t meet up with G, a native New Yorker and (2) her friend P, who sells art for a living by going up and down the avenues, chatting up his business associates of many years, and (3) meeting up with my friend M, from California. We’ve had some very good trips to New York (as well as other places) in the past and it’s been many years since we were there – 2001 was the last time: we were at the twin towers a week to the day to the hour before the attacks on the World Trade Center.
That might be three reasons but in my mind they’re all connected, therefore one reason.
But I have no great desire to visit the city. I have neither the desire nor the money to attend a Broadway show, or off-Broadway, or off-off-Broadway. There are restaurants, of course, but I’ve learned that above a certain level of taste and presentation, fine dining is lost on me. Today Deb and I ate lunch at the little cafe on the corner, where Maria Luisa was gracious as always, as appreciative of my bringing someone new to her cafe as always, where the business is her life – not a job, where there are no critics for her to please but her customers, and where the pride she has in what she’s done is everywhere but in her demeanor. BC walked by, we waved, he came back and the three of us chatted. He went on his way. We ordered. The food came: flautas and enchiladas artfully arranged on the plates, complimentary glasses of agua de naranja appeared. The sun and clouds were bright and cumulus as we sat outdoors and watched the changing of the school sessions as one set of uniforms marched toward home while another set of uniforms marched to school, one group louder than the other. The white dog used the crosswalk to go back and forth between restaurants on opposite sides of the street. Hours went by and finally Deb and I had to ask for the bill. The afternoon was a masterpiece, its details etched somewhere among the synapses.
There are masterpieces in the NYC museums, of course, but in some ways museums for me are a way to kill time while traveling. As I go from room to room I often forget what I’ve seen in previous rooms. So unless something is so totally striking – and when masterpieces are surrounded by masterpieces, what makes one totally striking? – so striking that it’s imprint remains with me from room to room it becomes a blur. I feel exhausted and my brain overwhelmed after just a short time.
So the city would be a very expensive prop for seeing people whom I cherish.
There is a difference in my experienced masterpiece and those in museums: while I may appreciate those found in museums, they are not mine. They are simply two-dimensional, with great artistry to be sure, but they are not sound, and taste, and smell, the laughter, the recounting of stories of people known in common, and the motion of all these things rolling through the continuum of time. As magnificent as those museum works are, they are not the little cafe on the corner on an afternoon in April spent with Deb.