Friday night: I stopped counting at 10. I know, I know--I'm such a bad Irishman. A good Irishman would have lost count around #7. But it was a long week, and there were regulars at the bar, and I was writing like a possessed fiend until my right hand gave out and I had to soak it in a couple of tequila shots, after which it wrote everything in Spanish. Upshot of all this: I showed up at 8, filled six notebook pages with actually legible scribbling, drank maybe a dozen pints of Guinness, didn't make a fool of myself that I know of, got home at 3:45--and got up four hours later because Saturday was:
Saturday: Don't talk to him, he's reading an actual book. So: up at 7:30, showered and out the door by 8, coffee shop breakfast between 8 and 9, and a train to Midtown Comics on 40th Street where I was the 23rd
Saturday & Sunday: Hot as a bad Josh Hartnett movie.
Wait--is there a good Josh Hartnett movie?
Saturday: It's not the same when it's not Norwood Ave. Some people get depressed on their birthday. Some people get all reminiscent and shit on New Year's Eve. Me, I get misty-eyed on Derby Day. Back during the last century, my friend Tom used to host an annual Derby Day party in his apartment in Newton, MA, during which he would make mint juleps from scratch, and we would all try to remember who won last year's race while we picked horses for this year's race, and met Bob Hassey's latest girlfriend, and just talked (and talked) (and talked), usually while watching pre-pubescent girls do floor gymnastics with giant red balls and streamers on the TV. (This was back before the Derby pre-show became a day-long event, and the network used to broadcast counter-programming before the race started, which shows you how long ago those good old days were.) Derby Day is also special to me because (if I remember correctly) on that day in May in 1982, which would have been about six weeks before I moved to New York, Tom ran out of Bourbon and needed someone to make a run to the packy and get a new bottle. I volunteered, and what made the trip memorable was that my soon-to-be-30-year-old ass got carded when it was my turn to pay. Which is such a great treat when you're about to be ancient, which is what 30 is when you're 29. Bonus points because you're also five or six years older than the chick at the cash register. I can still remember her double take when she read my birthdate. And me going back to Norwood Ave and crowing for the rest of the weekend about how I got carded. So yeah: to this day, I cannot see a field of three-year-olds churning up a track without looking around to see where Tom is or wondering who Sue is rooting for or raising my mint julep to clink it with Hassey's mint julep and say, "Good times."
Good times indeed.
Saturday & Sunday: Mayday! Mayday! New York City's first post-9/11 car bomb was discovered on Saturday thanks to a sidewalk vendor who noticed a smoking SUV on 45th Street, which is kind of ironic, because street vendors are those quality-of-life nuisances whom our social-engineering Mayor is determined to clean off the streets before he finishes his tenth term as King of New York. (Not that I have anything against Bloomberg Rex, mind you. Although I do have to wonder what he's going to ban next in his quest to make Manhattan more and more like Disneyland. Public cursing? Public midriff-baring? Tattoos?)
Thanks to pure dumb luck, the bomb did not go boom. This time. Not to get too fatalistic, but it is indeed only a matter of time before one does go boom, with horrific consequences. And joking aside, if it goes off on a weekend in Times Square, it's going to take out more tourists than locals, because nobody who lives in this city goes anywhere near Times Square on the weekends unless they absolutely have to. Weekdays is another story. We're all here on weekdays. So we're all potential victims.
To be honest, I don't know how I feel about that. Mostly because it's beyond my comprehension. I have just as much belief in my own personal immortality as any normal human being--it's that little voice inside me that says: "I'm the exception; I'm gonna live forever"--but there is no comparable voice in me that says either "I'm maybe possibly not going to be here some day" or "There's an outside chance that a Ford full of fertilizer will blow me to smithereens some morning." Both of which are much more likely than me outliving Bernard Shaw. So does that mean I'm out of touch with reality? Because frankly, my version of reality includes the demise of everyone else on earth but me. It's like Michael Herr says in Dispatches: the one dead body I know I won't be able to stomach is the one I'll never get to see.
Incredibly selfish, right? But I think--in my selfish way--that it's a necessary selfishness. This is, after all, a city in which I could get taken out by exploding manhole covers, falling cornices, and flustered old ladies who hit the gas instead of the brake. I don't think about those, either. I think about what I'm going to write tonight when I get home, or do tomorrow when I see a friend. I think about what I'm going to get Liz for her birthday, and whether I'm going to be able to swing a trip to Virginia for Amanda's graduation party. I think about when I'm going to give Bill that Greil Marcus book to read, and I think about the Carole Lombard movies I watched last night, and how it's a damn shame she wasn't given the time to make any more. And I think about the time I've wasted, and the time I have ahead of me that I hope I will not waste, and wonder if I will be given enough of it to do all the things I want to do. (And I won't. None of us are. We all get kicked out of this party with a half-finished drink in our hands.)
So where does that leave me? It leaves me thinking about what exactly the words "wasting time" mean in this particular context. And to me, today, it means worrying about things over which I have no control--like exploding manhole covers, and falling cornices, and car bombs. Because if you want to know the truth, it's those fucking old ladies who hit the gas instead of the brake who scare me to death. There's a goddamn army of them out there, all of them ready to "hit the brakes" when they see me crossing the street. Them I worry about.