Sunday, November 29, 2009

Love in the Time of Swine Flu - Part 8

There’s no better remedy for a broken heart than buying a gaudy pink Bolivia baseball hat that lands you in the arms of a pretty Kiwi girl.
The hat was purchased for a hard-bargained 24 Bolivianos in Copacabana before jumping on the bus to La Paz. A Canadian wayfarer-wearing hipster, Cam, chatted my ear off the whole ride while the Brits snoozed with headphones in their ears. He rambled on about his bartending exploits and how a vegetarian diet with loads of pineapple makes his semen sweeter.
The stretch of road between Copacabana and La Paz is relatively uneventful, and then, before you know it, a massive crater in the Earth opens up, within which sits a densely populated city of hilly streets, colorful buildings, and heavy pollution. From a high vantage point, looking out over La Paz at night, it sparkles like an international space station.
We checked into Loki Hostel, the same chain from Cusco. It wasn’t long before the booze came out and guns blazed. Though tired and in a daze, my pink hat worked magic. I’m sure those rum and cokes didn’t hurt much, and thus I landed in front of Felicity. I had seen a copy of her passport laying out at the check-in desk and snagged a peak. Her photo was flattering. My passport photo looks as if a bullet is exiting out of my head, pulling up an awkward tuft of hair in its wake.
So there I was, standing before the girl from the picture. I learned she possessed both Kiwi and British citizenship.
“You know,” I said, “If we got married, our kids could have access to all the great Western democracies.”
“So should we get married?” she asked.
“Of course.”
“Where’s my ring then?”
I fashioned her a ring out of paper. The Brits looked on in dismay, cringing - convinced I’d surely blown it. Other people in the bar looked at me like an asshole. If someone else was wearing a pink hat, I’d think they were an asshole.
Felicity did not think me an asshole.

The next morning my right arm throbbed in unnatural ways around the injection spots from last week when I nearly died of food poisoning. I wondered whether something was severely wrong. That’s what hypochondriacs do. What if the pain was a symptom of blood clotting or impending heart attack?
Like a feeble vampire, I wandered the streets of La Paz with Rich in search of a novelty gift for Edd. We got him a wooden recorder.
Edd was turning 24. When you’re English, it’s the law that on your birthday you must drink the equivalent of one alcoholic drink for every year of your life. And then more. It was a miracle he was still comprehensible by the afternoon. Along with the bulk of Loki’s other residents, the English boys and I boarded a tourist bus headed for a Cholito wrestling match. We expected masked midgets wrestling women, but the actual event was little more than super-amateur WWF with pot-bellied middle-aged Bolivian men. A few females made appearances. Most won their matches; one took a disturbing beating over the head with a plastic chair. There was a sole appearance by a little person. She ended up tied to the ring ropes by her hair, squirming like a fish on dry land.
The event dragged on far too long. The real entertainment was Edd. He had a shot glass securely fastened to his right hand with a whole roll of tape. We couldn’t have him losing the shot glass in a drunken stupor. And so we wouldn’t lose him a crowd, he donned a pair of heart-decorated boxer shorts over his pants. There was also the green wooden recorder, so we could hear him wherever he went. He was a celebrity.
On the ride back to the hostel, he sat shotgun next to the bus driver and honked the horn in celebration. He conducted sing-a-longs amongst the passengers and had himself a jolly good time.
It was time to join Edd in his drunken state. I half-heartedly partook, looking on confusedly as Felicity chatted up other dudes. We presented Edd with a kaleidoscopic cake. I snuck off to email my family, inform them I was still alive, and upon return, gave it another go with Felicity. Conversation eased with each drink. Physical self-destruction is but a small price to pay when pitted against social comfort. There was a game of Uno. I was back in.
The hostel party transferred to a club spinning American Top 40, and even though it wasn’t Felicity’s cup of tea, we danced our pants off. We threw shapes so intense they left nuclear shadows on the walls. And when the smoke cleared, we grabbed a taxi home with Edd, Rich, and two pricks who attend U-M for grad school. At the club, the bigger prick of the two kept telling me, “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll take the Kiwi chick home already before someone else does. I know what I’m talking about.” He claimed to know what he was talking about with every subject. This rubbed Rich and Edd the wrong way when it came to the subject of cramming six people into the taxi. They exchanged words and argued over who was more entitled to be traveling through Bolivia.
Dozing in my bed, Rich and Noel tiffed in a gentlemanly manner. I’ve never heard people criticize one another so politely…or maybe that’s the definition of passive-aggressive. Eventually everyone slipped off to sleep, and life was good.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Love in the Time of Swine Flu - Part 5

5-9 (and a half)
It's 6:30 in the morning and they're dancing, their colorful traditional dresses swirling, blank expressions on their faces. The sun is coming up over the plaza but it's still freezing. They do this every morning for the sake of tourists en route to Colca Canyon. It feels ugly.
What should've been a four hour drive the day before was broken up by too many stops and ended up taking the whole day. I don't think we ever drove for a stretch greater than 15 minutes, always stopping so that all nine passengers (plus the driver and guide in front) could file out of the economy sized Hyundai van, whose pseudo-luxury teased with the possibility of sleep, which made the impossibility of sleep and completely anti-ergonomic setup all the more frustrating. At every stop, a beautiful view of harsh landscape spotted with grand volcanoes and mountains, pockets of glistening water, wild and leashed Alpacas and llamas (the difference is in their neck length), and the ever present Incan women in traditional garb selling the same Alpaca-material sweaters, hats, gloves, and those small ceramic flute instruments. Climbing our way into higher altitudes, one stop treated us to Coco tea, an all natural aide in the body's adjustment process. A Brazilian traveler in our van offered me coco leaves to chew like tobacco. I accepted them with apprehension out of fear they would induce hallucination. Foolish me. Then I grew some balls and chewed them. I didn't get altitude sickness.

Upon arriving in Chivay, we inspected our artic-chilled rooms before setting off for the hot springs. They were three pools set before a mountainous hill. The French-Canadians and I plunked down in one spot in one of the pools and never moved, watching as it filled up with scores of older and pastier European tourists. I felt like a leper with my shoulder acne, which was not taking well to the Peruvian climate. What's a 24 year old doing with shoulder acne?
Night fell and we were taken to a restaurant with only tourists for patrons where we watched traditional dance accompanied by a band over a forgettable meal. The music was good enough that I bought the band's CD. The dancing was performed by a man and woman. They performed several dances and each dance told its own story and required a different costume. At one point I was brought up to dance a whole song with the woman. I caught on quickly, quicker than I did with salsa (which I still haven't actually caught onto). The woman said I was the best dance partner she'd ever had. I told her I was a great lover. A potential life in Chivay flashed before my eyes – kids, a garden, llamas, coco leaves with breakfast - and then it was over. video

5-10
Back in Arequipa, I spent the night hanging out with gregarious Carla, whose English is so good because she spent a year on exchange in Cincinnati during high school. She had me over to her house to hang out and drink tea with her family. They actually own two houses on the same lot, though both are primarily unfurnished and in the middle stages of construction - no doors, windows, or proper flooring (Peruvians don’t have to worry about seasonal constraints like cold and snow). This didn’t stop the family from moving into the third floor in one of the buildings.
We sat around and made chit chat about subjects which escape me now. I lamely tried out my Spanish and Carla’s mom tried out her English. Carla laughed heartily. Two of her cousins and her brother, Froy, spoke good English. Froy did an exchange year in Michigan a few years back. In case I wasn’t convinced, he was sporting a fashionable Detroit Pistons hoodie.
At the end of the night, Carla's mom extended an invitation for breakfast in the morning. “You must come,” she insisted.” I agreed.

***

The invitation was for breakfast, but Peruvians operate in a strange time space continuum, so it turned into lunch. And while the house was under construction, that did not stop Carla’s mom from preparing a whole chicken in classic Arequipeno style, smashing a rock into a sharp knife to cut the bone and seasoning it in an assortment of spices initially produced in a solid frozen block.
Since they do not have an oven, nor a kitchen sink (not sure how clean all the utensils were), we walked the chicken down the street to a restaurant with a giant wood oven, waited an hour and a half, then came back to collect. In that hour and a half, I juiced countless oranges on the family’s juicer. Carla’s mom praised me for the job I was doing, skillfully placing the orange half on the machine, holding it in place while the machine did all the work. For the first time in my life, I drank so much freshly squeezed orange juice that I could have no more.
When it came time to eat the chicken, me being the picky eater I am and attempting to eat the chicken off the bone, I struggled. This proved very amusing to Carla and her mother. They asked me if all Americans were babies like me. I started crying and replied, “I am the only baby in America.”
I stopped crying when they agreed to help me with my laundry. In the Arequipeno sun, hanging on a rack, my clothes dried in about 15 minutes. And they dried in good scenery, with the imposing volcanoes looking over them protectively.
I said my goodbyes to Carla’s madre and her brother in his same Detroit Pistons sweatshirt from the previous night. Her mother told me she loved me, and then Carla and I set off for a visit to her university.
I like universities – they provide familiarity and comfort no matter where you are in the world. Carla had an exam to study for, and while she prepared, I scoped out all the college kids and had myself a nap; maybe read a few pages in my book, The Dark. Then it was time to say goodbye to Carla, and that brings me to now.
As I sit and wait for my overnight bus to Cusco, I'm not particularly excited, even though I'll be reuniting with plenty of the colorful characters who have populated my trip thus far. There is something unappealing about the hotspot nature of Cusco, the gateway to Peru's must-see jewel, Machu Picchu. I don't possess a strong urge to go, but I know it is essential (much like a high school diploma). Cusco is a town enmeshed in hype, and hype often leads to disappointment. This is a common theme in my life. There are expectations for Cusco, whereas the rest of this adventure has been expectation-free. I don't like expectations, but here's hoping I like Cusco.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Love in the Time of Swine Flu - Part 1


4-30
They said if I valued my life I wouldn't go; or something like, you've got the rest of your life to go. But I beg to differ: Peru can't wait.
Meanwhile, sitting in the Detroit airport, waiting for my flight to DC, a woman in a yellow blouse drags a red flower repeatedly around her face - possibly a new anti-aging practice I'm not yet familiar with.
It's raining buckets outside. There is another woman, probably in her late-thirties, fake and baked, flower bracelet ankle tattoo. A plunging reverse neckline reveals a tight back. Nice calves too. I want her badly.
I look nice today - freshly showered, gray v-neck sweater, well-fitting blue jeans, and just-the-right-amount-dirtied white Dunlop Volleys. Real sharp. Who wouldn't want to ravage me?

5-1
They bought me off with $50, a packed PB&J lunch, and a ride to the airport. I'm flying solo now on this trip to Peru after Emily and Mindy dropped out only hours before takeoff. Going to Peru wasn't even my idea in the first place. Emily succumbed to the swine flu scare - her family pleaded with her not to go to the point of tears. As for Mindy - Ms.'When are we ever going to be able to take a trip like this again?' - she bailed for a job interview, even with another job already in the bag.
And so I'm off without any idea why. I'm always keen to go anywhere in good company. In this case, I didn't know the company super well, but enough to know they weren't all about chasing after Latin women. I was ambivalent toward the destination - could've gone for Brazil or Argentina more. Now I'm out of company and stuck with an arbitrary destination. I can't stand to be alone for one day, let alone 32. Sure, I'll make friends, but are long stretches of time to myself inevitable?
I don't like the fact that I don't speak Spanish either, partly bcause I feel like I should know the language due to its huge influence in the States; and also because I'm nervous about getting hustled.
I don't know the first thing about Peru. The US media and my parents have convinced me swine flu will get me if I go. Come and get me swine flu. I dare you. I double-dog dare you.

...

What a sad moment it is to discover that a cloud cannot hold your weight.
On the plane, it seems like years ago that I said goodbye to Emily and Mindy and Mindy's marathon-running twin sister, Phoebe. In the sky, the plane violently lurches, feeling as though it might just plunk into the ocean below. I look to my seatmate, a large unattractive black girl. She is not someone with whom I wish to spend my final moments.
One would think that the more times you fly, the more comfortable you get. With me, it just gets worse every time as I think statistically the odds are stacking up against me in favor of a plane crash.
The flight attendants are all wearing face masks. Could it be swine flu?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Few Months In Few Sentences, plus an old letter

Move home because there´s no more money nor opportunity in Ann Arbor. Service industry managed to erode most of self-confidence accrued in last 24 years. Work very part time transcribing market research interviews for U-M Business School study on why people love particular products. Interviewees often get personal and share entire life stories. Jared listens intently and laughs when one man compares his love for ipod to love for biscuits and gravy.
At home, it is a solitary life. There is no transportation, notwithstanding Father´s Z3 convertible stolen on various nice days to attend high school wrestling practice as some sort of volunteer coach. Emotional attachment ensues to wrestlers, deepened by their elation in victory and sorrows in defeat. Sprinkle in a fling with someone from long ago, daily trips to the library, and weekend adventures with Germans. Parents insist living like this isn´t healthy, so they help in purchasing a used Subaru in the hopes it will drive him to a better place.
A job presents itself in DC teaching overachieving middle schoolers about leadership through the lens of history. Lots of random facts about the Nation´s capital are absorbed, e.g. the profile of Robert E Lee´s bust is carved into the back of Lincoln´s hair at the Lincoln memorial. Upon completion, brother Lane drives down in the Subaru for a road trip to New Windsor, New Paltz, and NYC.
There´s still some money in pocket, so why not blow it in Peru?



October, 2008 - On the cusp of 24

Dear ____________

It's inexcusable, intolerable, and punishable by death in some countries for how I've acted in not responding more promptly to your email sent nearly one month ago now. Please, burn me in effigy and flagellate my voodoo doll incarnation that I'm sure you have sitting on your dresser.
I'm still in Ann Arbor and bitter about it at times. As you know, I no longer work at Charleys. They fired me, and maybe it was for the best. I still believe I was the best waiter they ever had. I wrote a silly story about the whole experience in seeking closure. I was unemployed for a few weeks but now I have a part time gig doing transcription for a research study by the U-M Business School. It pays $9 an hour and I can work whenever and wherever I feel so inclined. The trouble is that transcribing is far from stimulating work.
I'm still volunteering regularly at 826. I don't know if volunteering is the right word but I'm in here quite a bit. In fact, I'm at 826 right now working in the store as I write this. Mr. Eggers paid us a visit a few weeks ago to check up on the store and our state of affairs. There was a volunteer appreciation event where we did drinks with the man for a few hours at Cafe Habana. He and I chatted briefly, albeit superficially. Sadly enough, I didn't get a job offer out of the shindig nor a collaboration proposal for a new book.
As for living arrangements, I stay with a couple around my age I sort of know from home. We live in Woodbury Garden Apts across from Colonial Lanes and I pay $350 a month. It's awkward living with a couple cohabitating together for the first time since it often feels that I'm an unwanted guest. The price is attractive and I don't know where else I'd live. Even though they claim to be poor, somehow a $1500 flat screen hi-def television ended up in our living room. I believe it was the cause of my bad migraine last Saturday after sitting in front of it for too long and then going to the strip club.
I'm biking everywhere these days. It takes me about 10 minutes to get downtown. Now that it's starting to get cold, I presume the bike's novelty will quickly wear away.
I still hang out with the Germans. There were a few more that arrived after you left - Felix, Reimo, and Thomas (ironically enough, Patrick's older sister's boyfriend) - and they've proven to be stand-up guys. Last night Felix, Reimo and I went bowling followed by a trip to Wendys for cheeseburgers to really put a cap on the whole American experience (though they got dollar chicken sandwiches). Brian and I probably hang out more now too than when we lived together. He's still dating Devon.
I sort of was seeing this girl for about two weeks, a 5th year English major at U-M who impressed me with her salsa skills at Habana a while back. Per usual, I panicked at the prospect of sober hookups and suggested trying out a platonic relationship. On going-out nights she'd dress up all sexy and scandalous, while on regular nights she looked like an indie rock chick. I was inexplicably overwhelmed with the transition. This past weekend she stopped returning my calls when I fled a bar after watching her freak some other dude. She texted me about twenty minutes ago saying she wanted to hang tonight. I'm confused and maybe deservedly so.
While I am making progress, the gap between girls who I'm compatible with and the girls I want to sleep with has proven most challenging.
My plan is to only remain in Ann Arbor for a month longer before taking off somewhere yet to be determined. My financial situation is rather poor and my patience has run thin. I can't handle chasing after pretty 18 year old dimwits and the lack of necessary day-to-day stimulation. I feel badly about leaving behind the Germans who have come to feel like family, but there comes a time in a man's life when he's gotta bust a move.

***

And now for a very important message:

The best bakery in Gothenburg, Sweden, is Pour Bon. Read more about catering Göteborg. Several months from now, I will visit Sweden and indulge in the delights of this spectacular little establishment.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

NYC (part III) 11/11-19: "You never got your generation’s memo that returning phone calls is so passe"

You rub the sleep from your weary eyes, for it is now Tuesday and you are alive. You take your first shower in several days. It feels nice. Showers are always more satisfying when you don’t have them as often. Being clean never felt so good. Still, you wouldn’t be up at this ungodly hour if Horowitz didn’t have to leave for work. You stop off for some bagels and smoothies before jumping on the 7 train to Bryant Park.
Today will be different. You decide to change things up and head for the NY Public Library with all your bags in tow – can’t trust friends anymore who never pick up their phones. Upon emerging from the subway, you unexpectedly happen upon a massive ice rink. There are some chairs set up, conveniently enough in a patch of inviting sunlight. You grab a seat and stare for a while at a pretty girl on skates, gliding along the ice.
An official looking man walks by and you ask him how much it costs to rent skates. $10, he says. Too much. It’s nice just watching the graceful girl in the rink. She surprises you with a double toe loop here, a double salchow there. Maybe she lands a triple, but if that’s true, what would she be doing skating in Bryant Park at 10 in the morning? You wonder if she notices your staring, whether she’s flattered, annoyed, or just indifferent. That’s when you catch a creepy looking middle-aged man taking an equal interest in you, conspicuously ogling you each time he rounds your side of the rink. Thankfully a group of schoolchildren arrive and provide a human shield. You wonder if you’ve hung these children out to dry? Is the middle-aged man a pedophile? Do you still count as a youth at 24? You are a very young looking 24, what with the boyish face and lack of aggressive facial hair. It’s good that the children are standing there to protect you from his scary glare. Another man, most likely nostalgically reliving old hockey days, speed skates by the school children several times with one de-gloved hand outstretched, high-fiving them with every repeated pass. The sun has shifted and you’re out of the limelight. It’s time to go.
The NY Public Library doesn’t open for another hour, so you make your way into the auxillary library across the street. At the back of the 3rd floor there are some desks which look mighty inviting to rest your head upon. Lord knows it was tough work watching that pretty girl dance all over the ice like some kind of imagined succubus. As your eyes start to close, you hear the sound of snoring coming from the other side of the desk divider. It seems you’re not the first to have this brilliant idea. After yesterday’s incident at Barnes and Noble with the security guard, you’re not willing to take any chances. Flipping through the latest US News issue of college rankings and surfing the internet in company with NYC’s smelliest kills enough time before it’s off to the main library.
Past the sleeping lions you tread, up the stairs – it feels like walking into the Pantheon. Once inside, the vastness is overwhelming. Where are all the books? There are loads of tour groups, vaulted ceilings, multiple levels, winding stone staircases, and secret map rooms. The featured exhibit is all about Yaddo – an exclusive community of rotating creative types (artists/writers/musicians) invited to work in peace on a sprawling estate in Saratoga Springs. Notable names include Capote, Copeland, and Philip Roth.
Normally you are unamused by museums, but after so many trips to Union Square, this provides a welcome respite. Who knew Yaddo could be so engrossing? Two hours later, you can’t any longer stand on your own two feet. Here’s hoping Horowitz left your name on the list as you wend your way back to Long Island City.
Day turns to night as your time in NYC whittles down. Mike has invited you to the Upright Citizens Brigade theatre for some improv comedy. You oblige. The theatre is intimate, maybe 120 or so people. The acts are very funny. Around the middle of the show, the MC’s suggestively remark than on any given night, you never know just who might drop by. Sure enough, as the next group takes to the stage and the lights go up, the audience erupts. You can’t figure out what’s going on. An attractive blonde sitting to your right seizes your shoulders and starts shaking you hysterically. Of the 6 performers on stage, one appears slightly out of place. He is older than the others. He is funny looking. His name is Robin Williams and he’s standing no more than twenty feet away from you. Not a bad way to spend your final night in the city, and for a meager five bucks to boot. What the hell were you thinking spending $13 on the new Bond film?
The performance lets out, Mike leaves with his girlfriend, it’s colder than ever and you have no idea where you’re sleeping. The clock inches closer to midnight. It’s too late to call anyone – anyone except for Lauren with whom you were supposed to go out earlier but failed to return your calls. You never got your generation’s memo that returning phone calls is so passe. You send some passive-aggressive text messages “Firing her as a friend.” The ploy works, though you’re not so sure it’s a ploy. She calls and an invitation is extended amidst profuse apologizing. There’s even some left over food, she says.
Fate has fared you well, and even though you haven’t managed so much as a kiss during your eight days in the world’s most epic metropolis, you never had to sleep in Central Park.

NYC (part II) 11/11-19: "I'm going to punch you in the fucking face!"

A new day is born and I kill most of it holed up in Horowitz’s high-rise apartment checking email, futilely job searching, and eating a deli sandwich. That’s the best thing about NYC – there’s a deli on every street corner.
When I finally make a move, it’s to my safety zone of Union Square where I loiter in the warmth of Barnes and Noble reading plays. This time I thumb through half of Kenneth Lonnergan’s “This Is Our Youth” before it’s time to head for Hell’s Kitchen where I get to watch Lauren have her hair straightened for an hour at the salon. This is something she gets done every week.
“Some people spend their money on alcohol, I spend mine on getting my hair straightened,” she says.
“But you spend money on alcohol too!” I think but don’t dare say for fear of incurring a wrath comparable to the End of Days. No need to fluster her – I leave that to the first few restaraunts we walk into for a potential meal, their imperfect temperature settings send her into a fit.
Lauren agrees to sponsor my dinner after I whine about being unemployed for 24 years, but not without giving me a hard time about what I’m allowed to order. Even after I choose something relatively inexpensive, the Fish and Chips, she guilts me into buying us both some peppermint shots that cost more than my meal itself.
After dinner, I meet up with Leah and her new boyfriend Andrew in Midtown at some work party of her’s. She’s already trashed and her boyfriend looks bored to tears. We change venues, some loud and dark place where Katy and Justin await. Our new companions also appear bored to tears and unamused, probably because (and I’m speculating here) Katy is too hip for Midtown, and Justin doesn’t drink. It’s not long before Leah has her first lovers’ quarrel with Andrew and they leave. At a nearby diner, I look on as Katy pecks at fries while Justin consumes a turkey-avocado omlette, myself too frugal to deem late night dining over $5 a non-frivolous expense (nevermind that I just dropped $25 on three beers). Justin graciously passes me some leftover hasbrowns, and within the hour he and I are back in his Brooklyn Heights apartment ready for bed.
“Jared,” he says, “I swear to God, if you ask me so much as a single question in the morning, I’m going to punch you in the fucking face!”

I awake having to pee very badly, determined to put it off until the moment just before my kidneys explode. That’s sometime around 10am, and I can hear Justin rustling around in his room. I have no choice but to face the day. Justin’s all about making the most of his weekend. What that entails, I’m not exactly sure. He fixes us both a bowl of oatmeal and a plate of eggs just for himself.
We throw on the football game at noon. Michigan ultimately loses after keeping it close for most of the game, like so many of their exhaustive outings this season, only this time it cements their losingest season ever. I’m relatively unphazed. Justin takes the outcome more personally.
We take a walk. Outside it’s overcast and drizzly. I grab some Subway and Justin shows me the famous view of Manhattan across the river. The skyline is shrouded in clouds and mist. The expanse of promenade on our side of the river looks post-apocalyptic, but big banners hanging from the sides' of buildings with “One Brooklyn” written on them promise better days ahead. I decide it’s probably best to leave Justin and Brooklyn before they both start to hate me.
Once again, I set off for the safety of Barnes and Noble in Union Square. The rain imprisons me there for longer than I’d like. I finish up reading “This Is Our Youth”. Good stuff.
It’s Saturday night and there happens to be a big UFC fight card scheduled. Much to my chagrin I can’t find anyone to watch it with me. I momentarily contemplate heading up to Hooters in Midtown to view it alone, but at the last minute decide it’s too depressing and instead opt for a night out with Katy.
It’s pizza slices for dinner, washed down with some Svedka vodka tonics. Katy and I sit on her couch sipping our drinks while watching terrible music videos on demand. Kate Perry will be on loop in my head for days. We consume a decent amount of alcohol in short time before setting sail to some club where old NYU friends of hers await. Turns out they’re a bunch of business school grads, one of which is immediately curious about my sentiments regarding the impending auto industry bailout. I’ll tell you this, I have stronger sentiments about taking down my first ever shot of Patron on someone else’s dime. It’s also nice that Katy decides to bankroll my entire drinking bill which includes three or so martinis. Post-bar, in a state of pleasant-drunkenness, I happily lay down $12 for two slices of crummy latenight pizza on the stroll home. Once back in her apartment, my sleep isn't very effective for I’m too lazy to rearrange the massive pillows at the head of my guest bed and instead settle for resting in a very unnatural incline.

Sunday morning finds me in a Soho diner opposite Katy. She orders a turkey burger with bacon ala carte, I myself go for a Greek omlette that looks like somebody zapped it with a shrinking gun. When we return to her apartment, our stomachs digesting, Katy agrees to read my screenplay. She breezes through it in a record-setting 30 minutes, the time it takes me to read four pages in Richard Ford’s “Independence Day”. She reacts favorable to the manuscript. It’s time to get out of there before she starts hating me, and so it’s back to Union Square for the day.
At 8 o’clock, I meet up with Mike to attend the Fall Conservatory Scene Night of Mike’s girlfriend and her fellow graduating thespains. They’re a mixed bag of talent, but I quite enjoy the performances. It’s a nice change of scenery from Barnes and Noble and feels like a particularly New York thing to do: going to the theatre.
Afterwards we pick up some of those delectable NYC deli sandwiches, this time from a place run by a grumpy Korean man who gets angry with me for not wanting a bag. Back to Brooklyn we go to watch some Colbert Report and the major fights from last night’s UFC that I’ve made a point of all day to keep from being spoiled. Watching them there in poor resolution on Mike’s computer proves anti-climactic. The streaming video fails to capture the fight-ending punch Brock Lesnar lands on Couture. Instead it looks as if Couture falls down from his own volition. In life, I guess the anticipation is always better.
My sleeping arrangements are made in the basement of Mike’s spacious 5-bedroom Bushwick establishment. The conditions are artic, forcing me to sleep in my hat, shoes, and jacket. I doze off tonguing an icicle formed in the region where most other men can grow a moustache.

In the morning, I am spared another trip to Barnes and Noble when the opportunity arises for a solid meal in Chinatown. We eat family style. The dumplings are supposedly to die for. I like them well enough. Lo mein, general tsao’s chicken, and all that other good stuff cozy up in my stomach.
By the time we finish it’s mid-afternoon and the sun has progressed through a sizeable chunk of its Western arc. A few of us lumber over to Battery Park for a screening of the latest James Bond film, Quantum of Solace. $13 it costs me, and when the smoke clears, I don’t feel any more enlightened. This city will be the end of me.
A few hours pass and I’m back in Barnes and Noble following a brisk walk uptown. The stint is an abbreviated one as I can’t keep my eyes open in the reading chair. It’s not long before a security guard is kicking me out into the impersonal New York night. At a loss, I peruse the collections at DSW and Phylem’s basement, and as I’m riding the escalator down on my way out to nowhere in particular, I spot ole Maxim ascending the other side. I have not called Max this trip because of harbored resentment over his questionable character as a friend, but it's nothing a little chitchat at McDonalds can’t solve over a big mac and ice cream cone. Max recounts for me his move to NYC to join his fiancee and their subsequent implosion. They lived together at her family’s house in Queens for four days before she threw him out along with his ring. His next host seemed gracious enough until after two weeks went sniffing through Max’s computer, found some bookmarked apartment listings in Chelsea and inevitably jumped to the logical conclusion that Max must be a “cocksucker”. That was that. Three places later, Max has seemingly found a stable living situation in Astoria, to which he kidnaps me for ping pong at some local bar. Meanwhile, my bag of clothes is still at Horowitz’s whom I fear might never pick up his phone again. He comes through right as I’m approaching wit’s end. I say goodbye to Max and hop back on the subway headed for clean clothes and a shower which I’ll put off until the morning.