Thursday, July 10, 2008

Vacation Diary

July 10. Long involved dream, but I only remember the end of it, when I ask Cheryl Peyton if we’re seeing the new Superman movie tonight. She shakes her head no, she can’t get away from her husband. I make a mental note to see it on my own and then act surprised when I eventually see it with her. But I’m seeing it tonight.

I walk home through Chinatown. At one of the bookstores I usually go to, I find a copy of a Rafael Sabatini novel I’ve been looking for since I don’t know when (The Devil In The Details). When I pay for it, the Chinese guy behind the counter asks me if I want a dragon too. “We have six of them,” he says. I say sure, and he goes in back and comes out with a dragon which has been petrified into a small jade statue. It comes with an instruction book about how to turn it into a real dragon, and what to feed it, and how to turn it back into jade. On the way past the Mercury Lounge, I see a line of people waiting to buy a dragon, and a guy in front explaining that they’re all out, they didn’t get their shipment in today, but there may be a few for sale at the merch table during the 9 PM Human Sexual Response Reunion Tour show.

From Houston, I cut through the Columbia campus to my apartment in Hell’s Kitchen. Of the two elevators, the left-hand one is broken and getting repaired. The right-hand one works, and it opens when I push the button. I get in and push 6, then see the landlord coming. I hold the door for him, let it go, see a bare-chested guy in jeans coming, and hold it for him too. The bare-chested guy tells the landlord that all the bathroom work he’s doing on the sixth floor is flooding the apartment on the eighth floor. Without him saying any more than that, I know it’s my sixth-floor apartment he’s talking about, and that it’s the one across the hall that needs the bathroom work, not mine.

When the elevator stops on the sixth floor and the door opens, the bare-chested guy doesn’t move. He’s standing right in front of me and he doesn’t move when I say excuse me, so I say it a little louder, and when he still doesn’t move, I shout it at him: “EXCUSE ME! I’M GETTING OFF HERE.” He turns and looks at me like I’m the asshole for yelling, and pushes the side of the elevator, which swings away like a barroom door. I feel like an idiot for forgetting that this is how the elevators work in my apartment building, but I’m also still livid when I get out and walk through the open door of my apartment with a huge chip on my shoulder to find the place full of people building furniture and bookcases. That’s right--I remember now--my daughter is coming in from Boston to go to NYU, and she’s going to be staying with me for a couple of weeks until she gets a place of her own.

The workers all approach me to show me what they’re working on and get my approval. A tall brunette with her hair up and wearing a calf-length dress like an extra in a Forties film noir movie shows me a desk/chair combination that looks like one of those grammar school chair/desks, only the desk area on this one is ten feet long and tilts up at a 45-degree angle. I nod; good, Becky will like that. Another woman is building a mountain bike out of stray pipes and tires; she’s arguing with a young man about the way the chain drapes between the pedals and the back tire.

I check the bathroom. Yes, it’s leaking down to the eighth floor, I can see the puddle on the ceiling. As I come out of the bathroom, a balding guy with a moustache asks me about pepper spray. “She’s not here yet?” he asks, referring to my daughter. “No,” I say, “but she will be.” “When she runs away,” he asks, “does she waddle a little?” She does, actually, but I hesitate before telling him he’s correct. “You can be honest,” he says, and I say, “Yeah, actually, she does, a little.” “No problem,” he says, “we have three types of spray, the slow wide spray,” and he presses down the nozzle to release a thin wide cloud of mist. “The slightly more directed spray,” he presses the nozzle of a second can and it comes out like a shower nozzle spitting water, but it doesn’t reach as far as the wide spray. “And this,” he says, and presses the nozzle of a third can to release a steady hose of liquid, which splashes against the opposite wall. “Which do you think would be best?” he asks, and I wake up.

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