brooklyn thoughts

This afternoon I made my way to the Brooklyn Book Festival, which was completely worth it. The highlight for me was seeing Melvin Van Peebles — who is still wonderfully wry and witty after all these years — on stage, especially when he said, “trouble ain’t nothing but opportunity in work clothes.” So very true, methinks.

After the book festival wound down, I decided to walk across the Manhattan Bridge back into Chinatown. I’d like to walk cross as many of the bridges into Manhattan as possible during this trip. I had a choice between the Brooklyn and the Manhattan, but since I don’t know if I’ll get to them all before I leave, and I’ve already walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, I chose the latter. And it was amazing — almost abandoned, and I could see the Brooklyn Bridge (and the children playing & picnickers spread out in DUMBO) in its entirety. From there I walked into Chinatown and onto Pell St., where I had vegetarian dim sum at, uh, Vegetarian Dim Sum (24 Pell St.). It was fabulous, and my total bill — for mock shrimp dumplings, spring rolls, and mock BBQ pork buns — was a whopping $8.

I decided to walk until I found a subway station, which was in retrospect probably not the best idea. By the time I got back to Hell’s Kitchen (where I’m staying with my friends Jake and Rose), I believe I’d walked for about 3.5 to 4 hours today… including climbing several flights of stairs earlier in the day with luggage weighing about 75 pounds. But anyhow… back to Chinatown. I happened by the East Broadway Mall, where some sort of violence (maybe a stabbing, as someone in the crowd suggested) caused a ruckus, including an ambulance and five squad cars, ending in an arrest. I wandered around for what seemed forever, thinking that I was in the REAL Chinatown, with Chinese medicine practitioners and live crabs crawling around and the smell of fish permeating everything — this isn’t the Chinatown of knock-off bags and sandalwood soaps and I (Heart) NY t-shirts. No sirree. But it was an educational experience, and by the time I happened upon the East Broadway subway stop of the F train, I was somewhat sad my journey had ended.

I’m not quite sure yet what I’m doing tomorrow, but it largely depends on my energy level — I know I’ll be taking Quinn, Jake and Rose’s lovely dog, to the dog park. I may also rent a bike and ride it from Pier 81 down to Battery City Park, where I can then walk over to Ground Zero and see what progress has been made on the World Trade Center site since I was last there in 2006. It was humbling and almost spiritual the last time I was there, a visceral reminder of the scope of the damage. When it’s on television, and you’re not aware of the geography of space involved, it’s easy to minimize the impact the attacks had on NYC. Or at least it’s easy to think of them abstractly. Being at the site, in person, and seeing the magnitude of the destruction? It’s entirely different,

There are other things, too, I’d like to do while I’m here, but mostly I’m trying to see how I feel each day when I wake up and make every day a whim day. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be unemployed, and if a job comes up I may not have a chance for a vacation like this one for some time.

And, oh! I saw No Impact Man at the Angelika on Friday… and as a result I’ve decided to sell my car. It doesn’t hurt, though, that I can use the money for my upcoming tuition payment. Seriously, though… life is good, and Melvin Van Peebles was right. So right that I might just have that tattooed somewhere on my body.