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Friday July 13, 2001, 02:20

I am just about down from my earlier high and feel that it is time to put (what is ostensibly) pen to paper (though it's been far too long since I've been able to write anything longhand for any length of time without cramping and all that, not to mention the fact that my hand just does not want to write quickly or legibly enough for my brain, which forces my brain to slow down and miss all of the important parts to telling a good, or even moderately interesting, if not slightly compelling story, which is what this is all comes down to anyway).

In fact, she even said to me, when she called me on the phone earlier this evening, that I sounded like I was on ecstasy. Not that I would know. Which is something that I've always sort of wondered about. I mean, these drugs of which everyone speaks. There must be something to them. I have never tried them. Any of them. And I feel like I am missing out on something quite exciting. You know? Well, not you, because you've obviously tried them. So perhaps we can see whether this makes any sense. I was wandering around the streets of this city trying to be everybody's friend. I honestly felt this love radiating out of me and wanted it to be reciprocated. The evening was cool, but not uncomfortably so. Thursday night (being the New Friday night) had descended upon us and the masses were out and about, with no thought or care of work to come the following morning. There was an energy bubbling about as I walked home, and I wanted to say "Hi" to everyone that I encountered. But I didn't. But I maintained my giddiness.

To start earlier in the day we will cover a lot of ground in a very little time by mentioning, in chronological order, lunch with my parents at a Turkish restaurant where I ate more meat than I am accustomed to, followed by a walk through Times Square, past TRL ("we love you Carson!") and various theatres and tourists (which never ceases to dazzle me with the realization that this city is, in fact, a destination for many, many people's vacations) followed by an uninspired afternoon of work.

But what to do this evening? A book reading was in my schedule but quickly was replaced with another which sounded far more interesting, offering me both the opportunity to support both an independent bookseller and an independent publisher. Never (or at the very least, not often) one to pass up opportunities to support things un-corporate I headed (further) downtown to a little hole-in-the-wall independent collective women's bookstore/cafe where I sat and read my tattered copy of Franny and Zooey as I waited for the reading to begin.

Many of the books on my bookshelf (and, I might add, that it is wholly satisfying to finally have a bookshelf of my own, having managed for a year with a little four-shelfer that was sufficient for my dictionary and the miniscule collection that I had picked up while living in Boston) are old. Very old. Forty years old. The paper is yellowing and the coves are cracking and they have labels on the covers reading "50 cents." Books don't cost that any more. But these books have stories. How, for example, did that book of Ibsen find its way to the trash on Seventh Avenue? How did this copy of Franny and Zooey end up with that water stain? I have never found myself looking at a CD thinking "I wonder when it got that scratch on it?" Books have a life cycle quite unlike anything in my life right now. Except, perhaps, the furniture on which I am sitting, which is probably about as old as most of my books. But even still, the parts of my with which I am so intimately involved, such as these words here, have no tangible representation. Nothing to prove that they actually exist. It's frightening how long the printed word can survive, long after its author has passed on. Print out this web page and bury it in the backyard in a Zip Lock bag. It'll be fun.

I sat there reading my book, the corner of which fell off the other day, and waited for the reading to begin. The reading itself was an enjoyable mix of reading and acoustic guitar act, complete with a self-declared "girlie" cover of AC/DC's Hells Bells, about which I will make no comment at all. Post reading I shared a moment on line1 with a fellow patron who, like me, was reaching for his wallet to see, like I was, whether he had any cash and checked, like I was doing, whether the bookstore accepted credit cards. It did. And we sounded a collective sigh of relief. Credit cards, like Monopoly money, are play money, and they make it much easier to justify the act of spending.

I brought my book to the author to ask for an autograph and to inform her that her book had just then taken the place of a pair of pants that I had just returned to the GAP the day before which meant that I had the money to spend on the book. Which isn't the actual truth, but it served as an ice-breaker/thing to write in the front cover of my book, which is always fun. I did, in fact, return a pair of pants (silver) to the GAP, and I did feel justified in spending the money that I had spent on the pants on this book. But I would have had the money anyway, even if I had not returned the pants. But it gave the conversation much more of an air of legitimacy.

So I found myself standing outside of the bookstore not at all wanting to go home. What to do? I wondered, silently, in my head, to myself. I turned to walk away when a voice behind me called out "Hey! Do you want to go to a show? Hey! You!" I turned. She stood there, tank top and skirt, gesturing back towards the bookstore. "There's a show. It's about to start. Do you want to go? We need people in the audience." Realizing that there was nothing better to do this evening and realizing that she had just said "those people are in the show" while gesturing to the cluster of attractive young people standing on the sidewalk, I agreed, and followed her up the stairs hearing her call out "I got one! I got one!"

I suddenly felt like a sucker.

A sucker who was all of a sudden face-to-face with a pair of nipples peering out from behind a black, shiny tank top and a face set off with eyeliner and a ponytail pulled high and back on her head. "Would you like a drink?" Ah yes, the bar that had been mentioned in the earlier sidewalk pitch that had brought me to this place. "Just a glass of water, please," as I watched her ass wiggle across the room to the gentleman who had just walked it. I was not expecting anything, having not even gotten the name of the performance I was about to watch/participate in (for this was also supposed to be some sort of interactive performance, according to the afore mentioned pitch). Truth be told, I was waiting for it to suck.

As it turned out, this piece of environmental theatre, set in the very theatre/bar in which we, the audience members, were sitting, was particularly well-written, well-acted and overall well-constructed. In this city where everyone you meet is either an actor or a director, the odds are that the bulk of the creative spirit will be spent on ventures that would be better off left unexplored. Much to my surprise, this piece took an evening in a bar, with a couple of minor plots, a dozen or so very self-involved yet lovable characters and presented them in a sometimes humorous and sometimes heart-wrenching light. The dorky studio engineer who wants to get laid is a clown at his best, and that guy you just want to make fun of at his very best. The junkie just wants to talk to her son, but can't get over her pill addiction and the mute girl just wants to dance with a sock. It was that kind of show in the very sense that it wasn't. It was nowhere near as over-the-top as the director could have made it, which was a very good thing. While it had the potential to get very stupid very quickly, it managed to stay grounded in some kind of theatrical reality where scenes get spotlighted, flashback scenes actually occur, and one of the characters vomits in the middle of the dance floor. All in good taste, of course2.

Leaving the theatre, however, I was struck with the previously mentioned sense of overwhelming love for the rest of the people in the world. After having just attended two very intimate, very real performances (the reading was from a particularly non-fiction novel in which the author has just described to us, the audience members sitting on all manner of chairs in this cramped bookstore, what it is like to get artificially inseminated, and then there is this performance in which we, the audience members were in fact part of the play, part of the scene, part of the story) I was ready to just be friends with everyone. Having been some personal and vaguely real situations, I was left with the uncomfortable and incorrect idea that I was in fact part of the lives of the people I had just encountered. My mind was just not ready to accept the fact that I had been attending performances of one kind or another.

Which is why, when I passed by the woman standing on the street who had just performed in the play I had just attended, I walked quickly by without making eye contact. I reached the corner and I stopped. I realized that I needed to complete, needed to interact to finish my evening. So I walked back down the block, and without the slightest hesitation or nervousness, I opened my mouth. "Were you just in Mono?" I asked. She had been. And so I proceeded to tell her what a wonderful time I'd had and what a wonderful performance she'd put on. And this was nothing less than the truth, for, as I've noted, I've seen a lot of shit theatre in this city, and this was not it. We spoke briefly. I found out a bit more about the concept of the piece. I introduced myself, we shook hands, and I left. My heart had maintained a normal rhythm throughout the encounter and I had not once tried to talk myself out of it. It was exhilarating.

So to continue my winning streak, I decided to hit another bookstore. I wandered through the aisles, packed tight with books ranging from "Left Wing" to "Math" spending most of my time in "Literature" until I saw it, perched high up on the top shelf. I reached up and grabbed it, a first edition hard cover copy of White Teeth, a book that I had not been willing to spend money on not three days prior at a reading now found itself clutched in my hands hoping that the price marked inside the front cover was accurate. I wanted no one else to know of this find, which I had seen two days ago as I had passed through. It had been sitting on the counter then, unmarked and not for sale. "Come back in a couple of days," the clerk had told me, and I'd feared that it was going to be gone by the time I returned. I was all ready to simply check the book out of the library. Not one for my collection I had told myself. This was, of course, before I had found this particular bargain, and rather than seeing myself spending ten dollars on a book, I fully convinced myself that what I was actually doing was saving fifteen off of the full price. I am so gullible sometimes.

And now I am home, two new literary purchases on my coffee table, the cool air settling in around me as I look out at the city (or at least my particular view of it). While part of me wishes that every day could be as special as this one, I am also grateful that they only come around every so often. It's just enough to keep the magic alive around here.

1. Ask yourself where you are from. Then fill in the blank: "If there is a queue at the bank, people are standing [blank] line." If you said "on line," then you are from the New York Tri-State area. Otherwise, you are not. You can play this game with your friends.

2. The show is called Mono and it's running Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm at Surf Reality at 172 Allen Street on the second floor in New York City. Don't tell them I sent you, because they'll have no idea who I am. But you should definitely check it out. If only because all of the actors are hot. Let me know. I might even be willing to go to see it again.

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