I’m about to take the Staten Island Ferry to go to Staten Island (Duh!). It’s a beautiful day, possibly the warmest since I got here; the sky is so blue that it’s virtually purple. It’s been a long time since I travelled on water; in fact, the last time was en-route to Amsterdam 18 years ago and I puked all the way there and back. It’s like a millpond in comparison to the channel and a genuine pleasure. The view of Manhattan from here is quite imposing but I’m looking forward to getting back as Staten Island isn’t much to write home about. Brooklyn Bridge is exceptional a from here looks so beautiful, simplicity, purity and practicality in one hymn, William Morris would have shit himself with delight.
Earlier, after a shower Julian and I drove to 23rd Street and I checked into the Chelsea Hotel. Dylan Thomas lived there and died right after he left, Arthur C Clarke wrote 2001:A Space Odyssey there, Arthur Miller was resident for years and, of course, its’ the place where Sid Vicious stabbed up Nancy Spungeon. It’s a wonderful place, the lobby is full of eclectic paintings, some of them exceptional and it has an atmosphere of Bohemian decadence, rough round the edges but homely and exciting. “I suspect you’re going to love it here, this place is right up your street…” Julian said after he’d checked me in. How right he was. He put the bill on his card; I will pay him back when I see him again. We bid each other a fond farewell and I was alone again.
The guy at reception said he’d hold my luggage whilst I headed out for the day and asked me to fill out my details…name, address etc., he’s a friendly Spanish guy, early 40’s, baseball hate, goatee with a round friendly face. I asked him (foolishly) if he wanted my address in London, ‘sure’ he said, ‘so we know where to send the body’. I liked him immediately. Balls I just missed my ferry back to Manhattan because I went for a cigarette. Thirty minute wait for the next one; next stop the site of the World Trade Centre.
After a lukewarm cheeseburger purchased on board I managed to get right at the front and the middle of the ferry all the way back and watched Manhattan approach fully aware of a part of the landscape denied me. I disembarked and walked up Broadway past Trinity Church, a gothic oddity nestling in the shadow of modernity and there is was, this gaping hole, established on September the 11th. Here something unexpected occurred. I choked up, right up and had to stifle a sob. The atmosphere round here is dignified and utterly devastating, people are openly weeping, the site of the WTC is a yawning hole in the ground, some site buildings and basic foundations are nestling in the crater but nothing can ward off the impact of tangible death, a gaping maw that is nearly as unattractive as the events that unfolded that morning of September the 11th. It brought to mind Julian’s cleaner who, before the attack, had been a classroom assistant at a local junior school. She left her job unable work at there anymore because on the afternoon of September the 11th fifteen children weren’t picked up their parents.
I wandered up Broadway and happened on Murray Street purely by chance, I popped into an empty bar in the absurd hope Kim and Thurston would be in there supping some suds. Of course they weren’t but the beer is good, Bass, oddly, in pints too… I’ve just decided to head towards the Empire State building and make a final visit to CBGB after leaving here. I’m bloody shattered but feel a whole lot better than I did yesterday which was frankly squandered in the Village and Soho. Perhaps ‘squandered’ is too strong a word as I was in NYC, out and about, feeling and experiencing everything for the first time.
Actually, outside the bar having a cigarette I’ve just fallen in love with Manhattan, I’ve concluded that I’m having a killer time. The barkeep is watching two football games at once on two screens located each side of the bar. He’s a friendly chap and just offered me another beer, how could I refuse!? I having noticed, by the way, that most Americans are very insular and proud, this was deduced not just from meeting them in person and on the Internet but also from the TV commercials. For example, over here ones blood doesn’t boil dry when KFC advertise their (new) three cheese chicken ‘gravy’ wrap backed with an overtly jolly jingle and a bunch of inexplicably white-toothed female and male models in their early twenties looking gorgeous. Here, it’s as one expects.
A fat looking Richard Dreyfuss look-a-like has just walked in. The barkeep has been in the bathroom for two minutes, it’s worth noting that I’ve not paid my bill and the cash register is in easy access. Realising there was barkeep at the bar I informed Richard of his whereabouts and was asked if the kitchen was open. When the barkeep returned from the bathroom he was asked the same question, perfectly nicely…maybe Richard should lay off the food. I sort of feel sorry for him. I watched him examine the menu, his head tilting as he rejected each dish, when he finally accepted he was going to have a ‘pork sandwich’ his face lit up, then he actually laughed to himself. Bless him.
I walked through China Town and Little Italy to get back to Bowery. Speaking of ‘little’, I’m like giant in Chinatown, actually on the whole I’ve noticed New Yorkers are shorter than Londoners. Then I walked uptown until I got to 313, it was almost as if I was on autopilot. This was the last afternoon preceding the last ever night of CBGB, after tonight, kaput, gone, nada, zip.
Shit, I’ve just realised that I’m in a gay bar (Gay bar! Gay bar! Etc.,) I hope some one doesn’t want to put something in me… Drink the Bud and leave asap…Shit, Bud! Earlier in CBGB I met Caroline a forty something school teacher from Brooklyn who taught in a tough school in Harlem. We got talking about Bush, punk, real estate in our respective countries and of course CBGB. She was nice and I think she was gently hitting on me. We chatted over a beer and were soon joined by Luther, a Thurston Moore look-a-like with a gut and glasses. Luther had worked at CBGB for four years in the 90’s. He told me that the real reason the club was closing is because Hilly’s ex-wife, who was present eating pizza at the bar, held the liquor licence and Hilly and his sons cheated her out of it, or something, all very iffey. Hilly has lung cancer and according to Luther there was no reason it was closing outside of sheer hostility and sibling rivalry. Basically Hilly didn’t want the place to survive after he’d gone. The information was passed in hushed tones but I liked the guy and took his card so I can contact him again.
After another beer I went outside to catch a cab. The media circus had arrived in droves, ABC, Channel 7 were there along with all the other big names, reporters stood on boxes or wandered through the throng asking questions. It was all very sad and depressing so I caught a cab and went to the Chelsea. The staircase is amazing, wrought iron balustrade with worn white marble steps. It’s over 100 years old so as far as Manhattan is concerned, ancient history. I dumped my stuff in my room after picking it up from reception. It’s simple, clean and like the hotel, rough round the edges and went straight off to find a bar, the one I’m in now, the gay one.
After draining a beer at lightening speed I got a bottle of wine (I have to select the best I can with a screw cap which is surprisingly easy these days) and decided to Dylan-Thomas-out back in my room.
The hotel is located just off 7th Avenue a la Simon and Garfunkel song, but I didn’t see any whores to my knowledge. I’m now sat on my bed watching TV. I just saw a leader on NYC News about CBGB, never know, might see myself passing by. It’s very noisy outside incidentally, it sounds like one would expect New York to sound like, beeps, sirens and the occasion ‘hey buddy!’ It feels oddly familiar.
I’ve changed my mind about the room being ‘clean’ it sort of is but there is some water damage over the two French window lintels, the skirting boards and walls have just been painted over (not recently) the years so the texture is, for want of a wider vocabulary, totally fucked up. I opened the shutters, Parisian in style, they look great and managed to force one of the French windows open so I can smoke on balcony. I tied a red ribbon on the wrought iron outside to remember my stay here and for the all the artists that lived and died here. I’m pissed by the way.
Annoyingly I can’t see the street from up here as there is, much needed I should imagine, reconstruction work going on. I’m spending the night drinking wine and channel hopping. American TV is beyond shit, the CGBG feature lasted less than thirty fucking seconds. Moronic. But not as moronic as watching three fake-titted blonde Playboy dimwits talking about Halloween. They’ve just done an offensive feature on the Black Dahlia murder. They found the site where this poor women was found and lay giggling in the very spot. Oh the irony.
It’s been on for thirty minutes now and it’s so bad it’s compulsive viewing. I’m going to do the rest of the wine, smoke on the balcony and hit the bed. Tomorrow I leave, I’m ready to go home but just as I’m getting used to New York my feelings are mixed. I’ve spent so much time alone here, to write and find ‘Jamie’. Indeed, I’ve learnt a lot.
I’m just outside on the balcony, it smells of fried meat round here. I’ve also realised that New Yorkers must spend a lot of time observing one another, not just from the multitude of fast food joints that look directly out on to the street but from apartments where you can see hundreds of windows. It gives literal credence to my purported view that Americans are essentially inward looking creatures. Last night I saw a party from Julian’s apartment and they must have seen me watching them. One is never alone here though one can be totally lost and lonely. I guess that goes for most cities…not that I’m feeling lost or lonely. That Playboy show is still on, that Hugh Hefner is a right cunt, I hope his knob drops off.
The radiator in here is a big silver painted thing, when it warms up it sounds like a man hitting a steel bar with a hammer. Weirdly the sound is thrown so it appears as if noise of the same pitch is coming from both outside and within at once. For a few minutes until I figured out the source of this noise I was quite concerned. The traffic noise outside is monumental; it’s like trying to sleep on a building site.