Bright Lights, Big City, Very Sleepy
I had been looking forward to this trip for a long time but the whole experience has been anticlimactic in every way. I have been extremely exhausted and not feeling well since arriving in the Big Apple Saturday night, and now that it is Tuesday morning and time to leave I am just starting to feel better. I finally managed to get a full eight hours of uninterupted sleep last night and I am a little more lucid of mind and can now talk without slurring my words. This may be overstating things a bit, but the truth is that I came to New York with a little bit of a cold to begin with and the excitement of being here--not to mention that it's Christmas--has made me feel like a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay who is being tortured with sleep deprivation. What follows is an account of my mostly sleepless visit to New York:
The long train ride from upstate New York (delayed for two hours thanks to Amtrak's expedient service) tired me out Saturday evening, and after hanging out at SoHo house with my brothers upon arriving at midnight I didn't end up falling asleep until 5am Sunday morning. After this long night you might think I would want to sleep in the next day--and believe me, I did--but I was up before 10 and my bro and I were out the door before noon. What followed was a tiring day of shopping in Union Square and a night at the cinemas to see The Good Shepherd which starred Matt Damon. I did manage to get a little bit of relaxation time in-between the shopping and the movie, but I was still tired out of my mind the whole day and by 10pm all I could do was bitch about wanting to go home and go to bed (I wonder if the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay get to do that?).
Another night of not sleeping well (slept for 4 hours before being woken up by Jamaican music in the street at 4am. Got another 2 hours after that) and it was Christmas day. The city was a ghost town except for tourists who were mostly Asian. My brother gave me a three hour tour of lower Manhattan which included a stroll through SoHo (we saw Patti Smith's house! Yeah!) and the financial district. Walking down Wall Street felt like being in one of those episodes of the Twilight Zone when some guy wakes up and discovers that he is the last person left on the planet. I wanted to shout, "Hello!" really loud to add to the effect but my tiredness prevented me.
Christmas night was spent with my brothers, a sister in-law and my parents here at 27th St. in the apartment of my brother's girlfriend who is in England. Some of my sister-in-law's friends who live uptown visited in the evening with their adorable twin, infant daughters. I got to feel what it was like to be a father for about an hour as I talked baby-talk to them and held and played with them. Until yesterday I was always the type of person who was terrified of holding tiny children in my arms. This fear had to do with my inability to believe that I could successfully hold onto a baby without it inexplicably slipping though my hands, landing on its head and ending up with permanant brain damage. Yesterday, however, as I sat on the couch watching basketball with a baby asleep on my stomach I felt like I would make a good father someday, and now I can't wait for the next opportunity to play with somebody else's small children as if they were my own.
The tiredness seemed to come and go Christmas evening and when it came it was unforgiving to my need to have a relaxing and memorable night (it's not every year that I get to spend Christmas in New York City y'know). The worst part of the evening was when I told my brother in very sober words that I was literally "scared" as I had been tired going on days and there seemed to be no way to turn it off. He told me to lie down and he made me some warm milk--which I didn't drink because I didn't want to feel even more tired--and I asked him to sit by my bed while I tried to fall asleep. Aaaaawwwww! I know, but I was scared as shit. I had this frightening feeling that I was going to succumb to the exhaustion and not be able to breathe or something. Fuck!
Luckily this wave of feeling drained beyond capacity passed over me and I was able to enjoy another hour of social time before I fell asleep for good. I slept like a baby from 11:30pm until 7ish and it felt so fucking sweet. I could go for another three or four hours right now but all the medical wisdom says not to do that. Just go to bed at a regular time tonight and get up at a regular time tomorrow.
So here I am, a bit more lucid of mind and wishing I had had a better trip. But what can I do? I saw a good portion of Manhattan even though sometimes I was so tired it felt like I was in a dream. I even experienced a veritable New York moment when my brother hailed a cab only to have another cabbie pull up and steal us away from the cab my brother hailed. When the incident was over, the cab driver who was robbed of his fair yelled, "Fuck you, black!" to the cabbie who got away with me and my brother. My brother and I will no doubt share many laughs for years to come when we recall this scene. "Fuck you, black!"
And fret though I may, I can't forget all of the Christmas gifts I received. I got an iPod to replace my old iPod which I accidentally washed along with my jacket about a month ago. I have enough books now to keep me reading for the next few months. Some of the books I got for Christmas include books of poems by Pablo Neruda, Matthew Zapruder and Ben Lerner. I also got Dylan's Chronicles (Yeah!) which I had been wanting to read for a while. My dad also got me a Barnes & Noble gift card which I will most likely use to purchase Jonathan Safren Foer's Everything is Illuminated. My brother's girlfriend is his agent and there are copies of his two books all over her apartment--neither of which I have read--and a check he wrote to her for $1,000,000,000 as a joke. I have read Man Walks Into A Room by his wife, Nicole Kraus, and parts of The History of Love, but I have yet to read anything by Foer. He is younger than me by one year and it will be weird to read a published author who I could have actually beaten up at one time.
As you can see, this trip wasn't all slow-brained, slurred speech, feeling-like-my-boots-were-made-of-cement exhaustion. It had its highs along with the lows. I am most taken aback by the enormity of New York and the surrounding buroughs. All of my previous visits here have been limited to brief tours of the various neighborhoods my brother has lived in which did not give me an accurate sense of just how truly large this city is. They say that every 20 blocks is a mile and the blocks just seem to go on and on. Whew! I will need rollerblades the next time I come down here, and it might not be a bad idea to bring some cold medicine too.