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Wednesday March 21, 2001, 23:52

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of umbrellas strewn about the city, casualties of the "movie rain" that was blowing about today. You know the type, where the wind is blowing so hard that the rain goes sideways, and the streets are filled with people walking against it, umbrellas held up in front of them keeping only their heads dry, cabs rushing past through puddles splashing pedestrians. It was this wind that I encountered as I stepped out of the subway. As I put up my umbrella (free and folding) to ward of rain that seemed to indicate that winter, not spring, was just around the corner, the wind picked up and proceeded to invert most of the umbrellas that had joined mine in their rain deflecting duty.

As I struggled to collapse my umbrella back into its neat, hand-held size (realizing, of course, that it would be easier to get wet than to struggle with what was now essentially a sail), I noticed the final resting place of no fewer than a dozen umbrellas, all victims of the the same fate as mine, though to a much greater degree. The trash barrels were filled to overflowing, the sidewalks a sea of colored fabric.

And now the city is calm. The rain has stopped and the wind has calmed to a gentle breeze. Outside my window the branches of the tree bounce gently where hours before they were dancing wildly, threatening to snap, but never bending quite enough. The fringe of the awning to the crepe restaurant across the way fluttering ever so gently.

And that's it. NPR is on the radio. My hands ache from climbing and typing too poorly. I long for my own apartment, and I often wish that it was dark all the time. I like to be awake during the day, but prefer working during the night. And I can not seem to reconcile these two opposing scenarios. It seems to make sense that I would sleep in the evenings and wake in the night, to work through the darkness and light. But then again, that seems like far too much work-time, without the benefit of sleep in between, so once again I am stuck.

So I spent this past weekend down in D.C. Why? Because I could. Because I am still only semi-employed, and I had two tickets remaining for the Delta Shuttle, a hold-over from back when I was fully employed in a different city, a different time, a different life. And these two tickets, while not slated for expiration for several months yet, have been sitting in my bag for the past several months for just such an occasion. And when the opportunity to flee the city and attend a party and sleep on couches arose, I jumped, as I have not been really out of the city for quite some time, and the traveling shoes, they were itching to move.

So I did. And I caught a glimpse of all those tourist spots that I once visited with my parents when we did a vacation where we saw all of the monuments and the Smithsonian and such. And I proceeded straight to a house where I would spend most of the remainder of the weekend watching movies, eating, playing on the computer, and talking.

I hung out.

And it was, again, the first time in a while that I had done that. Now I have a theory that might be completely off-base, but I suspect that people in New York don't do as much hanging out as they do in other places. This is because people in New York are either busy all the time or would like to perpetuate the image of being busy all the time and if they are not busy all the time then they are worried that they are not doing it right, whatever the great "it" that is living in the city happens to be. So everything is built around this image of busy, including social activity. Lunches are planned, dinners are planned, getting drunk is planned.

I once had a conversation with someone who could not eat a full lunch because she was going drinking that evening and had to plan for all of the beer calories that she was to imbibe that evening. While there is something to be said for planning ahead and if watching ones weight is something that one does, then one should most definitely factor it into ones daily schedule. That said, it did strike me as a bit odd.

Now this is not to say that the end goal is to have an unplanned lifestyle, but rather to have open the possibility of not doing something, but rather, simply doing nothing. Or perhaps the problem is that apartments in New York are simply too small to allow for much hanging out in the first place. Or perhaps it's because people are all lazy and do not want to do anything beyond work and sleep, with the occasional food and drink intervention.

I think I am grumpy because I am cold and lonely and because I know that I will be sick tomorrow because the rain ate my umbrella.

Damn you rain!

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