I have days when I could swear I own this city.
Going to Coney Island!
Taking the F train, the B, the C!
Using my metrocard and sticking it in the right way the very first time!
Shopping at Bloomingdales and getting a sweater the saleswoman said was perfect on me!
Eavesdropping, ogling, walking everywhere!
Eating Chinese-Indian fusion!
Learning what BNT means (bridge and tunnel — i.e., the non-Manhattan crowd)!
Going to a play about Iraqi veterans, a talk by two well-known writers at the 92nd Street Y, a lecture on Henry Hudson’s voyage!
Yeah, high-voltage, lightning-fast days.
But then, there are the other days. Like today, for example. Good grief, why doesn’t somebody call the paramedics and evacuate me to a rest home? I am pummeled, sore, exhausted, thick-headed, slow-witted, lead-footed. My plan for the afternoon is to curl up on the couch and take a long nap. I might as well be living in Outer Mongolia in a yurt for all the culture I’m going to imbibe today. I’m a waste of space and oxygen. Somebody should shoot me.
Maybe it’s not surprising, given the past few days. Saturday, we had 3 p.m. tickets to “Aftermath,” a documentary-style play about Iraqi refugees in Jordan (a provocative, heartbreaking show that infuriated me all over again about the senseless, cavalier, but calculated way this country invaded Iraq. If there is a hell, it should be Donald Rumsfeld’s fate to watch this performance for eternity, feeling the pain of those whose lives he’s ruined).
I’d planned how to get there, to the East Village, going to an Internet site that staked out our subway route. What time and day will you be traveling? the site asked. None of your business, I thought, leaving the default time of Wednesday at 6 p.m.
What do you know? That turned out to be a big mistake. I stood in the subway with the printed-out instructions, feeling very in control, assuring my husband I had it all mapped out. After all, wasn’t I the person who was always early to performances? The one who hated the shameless latecomers who skulked inside after the curtain had been raised? What cretins!
“We’re supposed to catch the B,” I told my husband. Every time a non-B train passed, my confidence dribbled away. We waited 30 minutes, hopped another train, got off at a stop a mile from the theater, walked, hailed a taxi, which got stuck in traffic, got out, walked some more till we got to the theater, panting and late. I felt like apologizing to everyone except for Donald Fucking Rumsfeld. (As it happens, the B train has a different schedule on the weekend.)
The next day, we were similarly, pathetically late meeting a friend for dim sum, jumping from subway to sidewalk to taxi. Late twice in 24 hours. I wanted to die, convinced the friend we were meeting would have already left in a huff. (“Don’t you have his cell number?” my husband asked. “I always get people’s cells when I’m meeting them.” I pretended to be temporarily deaf.)
Yesterday, we started out two hours early to see “God of Carnage.” No way on earth am I ever going to be late again. Especially not to this play — which was simply wonderful. All-star cast, with Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini and Marsha Gay Harden, incredible acting, perfect pacing and dialogue. I’d go back to see it three more times this week if prices weren’t so high.
So we walked home the 35-plus blocks, talking about the play. Our neck of Amsterdam was brightly lit when we got home, since some Paramount movie was being filmed here. “Drew Barrymore is in it,” one of the crew members assured us.
I stayed outside and watched workmen douse the street with water and listened to two anonymous actresses talk. “I’m the kind of person who sees the good in everyone,” one of them said. “But I can’t stand Lindsay Lohan.” The second sighed and said she was worried she badly needed a new headshot for her career to really take off.
They didn’t ask me what I thought, which was: Good lord, this is the second movie they’ve shot in this neighborhood since we moved in four weeks ago. Like Lily Tomlin in “The Late Show,” I’ve already done the whole star trip. Enough of the brightly lit glamour.
No wonder I’m tired.
(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)
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