Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Friday, October 01, 2004

"What Time Is It?"

I don't know what time it is. I have no idea. It's not that late, I know, because the club next door - Jack Rabbit Slim's it's called, I shit you not - is stil going strong, pounding shite dance music with fat bass beats that make the mirror on the wall buzz with vibrations. It's late enough that Claire and Ollie and Mags and Ange have all headed off to their beds, sated with the sheer poundage of Chinese food that we ate while watching Kerry and Bush scratch at the issues in their piss-poor mockery of a showdown. But it's not late enough that I'm tired, not late enough that I don't roll another cigarette and walk out into the back garden of our rented apartment, sit out on the plastic-coated wire-mesh chair, at the thick-hewn wooden table under netted awning and fairy lights, and know that it's not worth my while to even try to get to sleep.

So, I think to myself, I may as well get some writing done, try and digest the last 48 hours that's sitting as rich and heavy in my head as the Crispy Chicken and Wonton soup I couldn't finish and the Roast Pork Wonton Mee noodles I could barely start are sitting in my stomach. Writing, for me, is a way of processing what I've consumed, breaking it down, burning it off. Writing keeps me skinny, I sort of think, takes all that junk I guzzle down like there's no tomorrow, eyes too big for my stomach, and it turns it into the energy that powers me; and when all that stuff is broken down and burned off, well then, I'll feel tired then, and I'll go to sleep and I'll wake up tomorrow as hungry as I was this morning. Or rather I'll wake up this morning as hungry as I was yesterday. That's the way life should be lived, skinny and fucking hungry all the time, not fat and indolent, fat in the stomach and fat in the head. You are what you eat? Fuck that shit. Eat what you are. Devour the days of your life. Tear chunks out of your nights and chew them up till they're just soft enough to swallow. Life is a fucking feast.

I'm in the East Village. To give a little context to this rambling, incoherent rant, I'm in New York in this peachy keen little apartment on East 10th at Avenue 1 that me and some mates are renting for a week - just seven fucking days - and there's a nightclub next door, a garden out back, and I know, I fucking know, I could quite happily live here in this wee village of hipsters sort of like the West End of Glasgow's bigger, cooler brother. I fucking love this place.

I knew I was going to love it when the owner's 20-something (younger?) friend Charlie and her boyfriend welcomed us with a bottle of Muraccio Perrina 2001 at fucking 2 in the morning, Tuesday, unfazed by our late arrival. After a gruelling trans-Atlantic flight where the tail-end of Hurricane Jeane had JFK diverting planes to Newark and where the tail-end of 9/11 had us waiting for an hour to fly on to JFK (new law, they told us; if the ticket says JFK, you have to go to JFK), after making it through the Department Of Fatherland Security, after waiting in the torrential rain for a taxi, after finally fucking getting there, a wee bottle of red was just a fine fucking thought. Upstanding. Fucking upstanding. Charlie and her man waited hours to let us in and show us round, shrugged it off with the casual grace of those who don't see two in the morning as that late anyway. Just pointed us at the wine and said goodnight to these fucked-up foreigners with jetlag and airplane body odour. And that's when I knew I was going to love it here... kindred spirits and all that. Actually I can nail it down to a moment rather than just those fifteen minutes of dazed wandering round this bedroom, that one, and the futon in the living room, and this is the toilet, and the kitchen, and the garden's out here and -

And I'm standing in the kitchen and I notice the rainbow flag hanging on this unit, and the words on it: We The People Say No To Bush. I tell you this is my fucking spiritual homeland right here, so I'm not fucking going to bed just to toss and turn as I try to sleep with that dance music booming next door. No, I'm going to pour myself another G'n'T and write about it. Just a minute...

Piss break taken, hoody shucked, gin and tonic sorted. OK.

So the East Village is cool, cool enough to have these anti-Bush rainbow flags flying all over the place, cool enough to have a vintage clothing store just round the corner with the most beautiful fucking army jacket I ever saw (navy blue with red trim and gold buttons and I only had to look at it to know that it would fit me like a glove). Cool enough for the waitress and the little old black lady in the cafe up on East 14th, where we went to gorge on pancakes and bacon and maple syrup in our first brunch in the city, to be as helpful as they could in pointing out exactly what the best way was to Times Square, not the quickest or the easiest but the best. A little bit of walking to get the feel of the city, then the first underground ride just the short distance from Union Square to Times Square. A five/ten minute paddle in the shallows then a leap off the springboard into the deep end.

We were right by an entrance to the L line at that cafe near the corner of First Avenue so maybe it would have been quicker, so maybe it would have been easier to enter into the city's entrails there before dealing with the criss-crossing confusion of this line and that line at Union Square. Maybe it would have been quicker than the walk along East 14th. But it wouldn't have given us that taste of the street, and that glorious feeling of utter panic - man, how do these ticket machines work? and shit, is this the right train? this the one we want? and where the fuck are we going? and shit, here we are among the lights of Times Square, the towering signs and screens and scrolling displays of text. So it may not have been the quickest, easiest way but it was definitely the best. I wonder if that little old lady, sitting at the table behind me - I hope you really enjoy your visit, she says as we leave - if she even thought of it that way, if she just reckoned, well, you could do this or do that, bus or L train, but, well, it's not far, just a five/ten minute walk, and it's a pleasant day for it. But as it was, she gave us a path to follow that took us step-by-step into the complexity that is New York, from street to subway to skyscraper.

The music's stopped next door now and I'm going to go outside now, smoke the cigarette I've just rolled (can't smoke in the flat, goddamnit), and I'm going to listen to the sounds of the city and the music in my head. Maybe I'll write about it when I get back, because I've got some G'n'T left in my glass, and because music is a big part of this trip - the good dance music of the Thievery Corporation, or the jangly rock of Interpol's second album, the 2 CD's I picked up today in Rebel Rebel on Bleecker Street, with the friendly camp guy behind the counter and his cute-as-fuck go-fetch assistant (who I immediately fell in lust with); Death Disco, the Gasgow-born club night that we went to last night on Delancey (man, I gotta go have this cigarette); and Franz Fucking Ferdinand, the Glasgow-based winners of the Mercury Award that Mags just happens to be doing a documentary on for the wee Scottish tv production company her and Claire work for. Franz Ferdinand, who just happen to be playing Roseland Ballroom while we're here and who we are (ya fucking beauty) on the guest list for. So maybe I'll come back and write about that a bit after this fag (it's fucking sitting in my mouth just waiting to be lit).

But it is now officially late because the music's been stopped next door since I said so somewhere above and, honestly, I'm not that fast a writer. It's late, and maybe I'm just tired enough to sleep now, after I smoke my fag and finish off my drink. I do want to get up tomorrow to fucking do shit, maybe the Guggenheim we were discussing. But by fuck I wish I was more tired because right now I just want to do it all right now. It feels like morning already.

I'm already getting hungry.



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