Friday, May 27, 2011

Day Four: We do the tourist thing

We’re in a cab racing down 5th avenue, after paying $40 for admission to the Metropolitan museum but the nice people at the counter didn’t tell us that the museum was closing in 30 minutes, so anyway we’re in the cab and Donna shouts, look there’s ted dancing in the street, and I thought, who the hell is ted and who gives a damn if he’s dancing in the street, and the cab driver says, that was him alright. I liked him in Cheers. Oh, that Ted Danson.

So we finally weaken and take the gorky bus tour to see neighborhoods we don’t normally visit and maybe go for a walk there later. The tour guide keeps saying things like “there’s Macy’s department store, yeah, heh heh heh, and “that’s where Madonna sang Happy Birthday Mr. President, yeah, heh heh heh”. But I really started questioning her training when she says that we can’t get lost in NYC because the streets are numbered, and they’re alphanumerically ordered. This tidbit excited a torrent of Spanish in the back row where a painfully touristic extended family is looking mostly grim, for some reason a lot of touristy families look like they’ve been fighting in the hotel room and are in a reluctant truce on the street. Then, the tour guide says, “if you take a look to my right, you’ll see a building built by the architect Arthur Deco who was very popular in the 30s.”

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Day Three: Taking a Walk

Our daughter called us from Montreal this morning and asked me why I left my wallet on the desk in our living room, don’t I need it in NYC she asked. I assured her that experienced travelers always always left their wallets at home as a precaution against theft and it’s a great way to save money while travelling.

Later that day, I didn’t suspect a thing when Donna said she had tickets to a great Broadway show, but that it was a surprise. It was starting to occur to me that surprises are almost always nasty, when we turn the corner of Broadway and 42nd street and there’s a marquee screaming Mary Poppins. I said forget it, watching this would deplete whatever meager supplies of testosterone I have left but one look at her face and I marched in with all the other guys with pasted-on desperate smiles on their faces. It was even worse than the bloody movie. Anyway, afterwards we stood in Times Square with 3 million other tourists and, well we stood there. There’s really nothing to do in that damn square, though Donna liked the naked cowboy playing the guitar except that he wasn’t really naked because he had on a g-string and a rolled up sock. So we went in search of sushi and the first place we found had an Aztec behind the sushi bar and the place smelled like my Uncle Sebastian’s basement toilet after he forgot about his poor cat that time. So we skedaddled and started walking behind a lady in unfortunately tight black slacks walking with her pierced daughter, oh, and a threaded needle stuck to her butt. Now it’s a little distracting to see a jiggling bum needle just a couple feet away so I took out my camera and took a picture. Some of you may know that a man shouldn’t do this when walking with his wife so this little walk swiftly went all to hell .

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Day One Redux: First night interruptus

On this trip, we decided that we couldn’t afford the Marriott where we’ve stayed during previous visits so we booked a room at a charming art deco hotel off Times Square. The charm began to wear off as we made our way down the hall to our room and neither of us could identify the odor emanating from the carpet though I had a vivid vision of the crawl space beneath an abattoir. Hopes that our room would prove better were dashed when we couldn’t identify the stains on the walls and there didn’t at first glance appear to be any windows. It went downhill from there and Donna went dangerously quiet. It didn’t help matters that I noticed my wallet was missing and all that jostling in Times Square might not have been entirely innocent. I was trying to explain to Donna that I didn’t really need credit cards and ID when she interrupted to tell me that the bathroom looked like a little torture chamber. Now we have the kind of relationship that if one complains about something, the other automatically says “it’s not so bad”. That kind of pre-programmed banter either eventually drives you crazy, or, well, there is no ‘or’. It’s one of the reasons why people who’ve been married a long time are always a little crazy. So I said, “It’s not so bad, it’s really pretty standard for NYC” but Donna didn’t answer and I knew there was little use to unpack the bags.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Day One in NYC: Why I Hate Trains

The train ride to New York began badly when we misread the departure time and got to the train station 2 hours earlier than necessary. No matter, the porter was a capitalist and accepted a very generous tip to place us on the train before everybody else which turned out to be a little creepy, sitting in a dark train alone for 2 hours. It was a crowded ride but everyone behaved except the unidentified person with digestive problems. We were just past Albany when 6:00 pm rolled up and as everyone knows, the end of the world was expected. I looked around but nobody seemed concerned so I started shouting “OMG,OMG, I feel it happening, I’m rapturing and all you people are now officially LEFT BEHIND. But it hurts, why does it hurt so bad? OMG, He’s leaving parts of me behind! The parts that sinned! Parts that I’m fond of!” Well, Donna wasn’t amused, and since most of the train couldn’t speak a word of English or French, they thought I was having some kind of fit and starting offering me weird food. Because of delays, it was a 13-hour ride and this ain’t Euro-standard train travel, this is Amtrak medieval class. There appears to be a direct relation between the degree of rocking and the cleanliness of the toilet, and we rocked like a ship in a storm.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Maybe It's the Weather

It must be the crazy season, too much rain and recession. People come into the store and call out a single word, words like trains or hockey. What’s that about? I’ve never gone to the grocery store and stood in the isle shouting bananas or eggs. Well, I answer them with a monosyllabic ‘no’ and they usually slump in relief and walk right out because they’d only spoken in panic upon discovering that they’d stumbled into a bookstore. But some reply with withering things like are you telling me you have nothing on trains? That kind of pressure makes me a little crazy so I make things up like: Oh, I had a huge collection of that stuff, hard to find stuff, vintage stuff, a lot of leather bindings, but I sold the whole lot to some fellow last week for $20, just to get rid of it. You know.

One of our cultural oddities is that people think a used bookstore is an open marketplace for the free exchange of ideas. The oddity is that these same people have very strong and strange views on things that you must agree with. But nothing prepared me for the bear wrestler. He came in with his Fu-Manchu mustache and his main squeeze and asked me if I had any books by some guy with no vowels in his name. You know, he says, it’s about the 15,000 year old manuscripts they recently found in Mesopotamia with secrets that THEY don’t want us to know about. Now, booksellers have an instinct about these things and the word ‘THEY’ usually has us reaching for the panic button or the shot-gun under the counter, but it was 3:00 pm and the vodka was kicking in so I said that kind of crap is down there with Von Daniken and the space aliens. Fu-Manchu man gave me a hard look and gave me his card. He said: go to this web site. We’ll talk again and walked out of the store. I snorted at him after he was safely out of the store, but, OK, OK, I went to the web site. But so would you! The site showed a video of Fu-Manchu man wrestling a bear in a boxing ring, and the bear trainer shouting ‘be good Poo bear, roll, roll’ and Fu-Manchu man looked very grim rolling with the bear so I hope he doesn’t come back to the store any time soon.

Then this very elderly lady comes in and tells me she’s moving into the neighborhood here soon because the Africans in her apartment are trying to seduce her into their harem and she’s tired of the harassment. I laugh nervously and she leaves grumbling I’m too old for this shit. I find myself hoping she doesn’t move too close.

So these bachelor weekends don’t work for everybody. Nestor’s brother recently revealed that his wife was in Europe for a week and he was going to live like a 20-year old while she’s gone. I said, is that a good idea at your age, you’re what, 48? 49? He said yeah, yeah, whatever, you got any more of that Newfie rum? So we drank Screech for a few hours, and how was I supposed to know that he’s already drunk a bottle of cheap red wine and eaten a large all-dress pizza with extra bacon and had spent the afternoon watching Borat. But these things have a way of coming out, and in this case, coming out everywhere so I hustled him out of the store while he screamed in a previously undiscovered language and called him a cab but after what happened outside I realized I should have called an ambulance and I hope I don’t get sued because that was not my fault.