I had breakfast. I had breakfast at the hotel. There were breakfast sausage patties and individually scrambled eggs in the shape of regular eggs–sunny-side-up eggs–which I found bizarre. How do you make a scrambled egg look like a regular egg? I didn’t ask. Instead I ate as much as I could, packed my shit back in my car, and left Youngstown, Ohio just about as fast as I could.
And then I was in Pennsylvania.
Let me tell you something about western Pennsylvania, or the whole of Pennsylvania on I-80: it’s gorgeous. It ain’t the Rockies, and it ain’t Oregon, but it’s subtly wonderful crossing the Appalachians in early fall, leaves dying and looking their best, rolling hills coming and going, silos and barns all about. It looks like Amish country, and I may have even passed through Amish country, but I was going 80 the whole time, and I didn’t stop to look. Let’s just say this: if there were one stretch of the cross-country trek that I was forced to do again–as penance, say–I’d pick Pennsylvania. It’s not just the natural beauty of it all, it’s also the fact that my car, I assure you, would not break down. And so, even though the Rockies are more sublime, I’d take the Appalachians and the Poconos over the continental divide any damned day. The Subaru hummed the whole time through them.
And then I was in New Jersey. Which was prettier, for a while, than I expected.
And then I was through the Holland Tunnel and into New York.
New York City is not a driving city. It’s a walking city, and a subway-ing city, and a bicycling city, and a roller-skating city, and a juggling city, and a baby-stroller-ing city, and a cross-country-skiing city–it’s all of these before it’s a driving city. Unless you know exactly where the fuck you need to be, it’s a mess. It’s a world of hurt. It’s a clusterfuck. I got into Manhattan out of the Holland Tunnel. Sign says, “Brooklyn, Exit 3.” What do I do? I follow that fucking sign, that’s what I do. Sign says, “Williamsburg Bridge.” I say, “Hmm. Okay. I’ll go that way.” And then, my friends, that sign abandons me. Utterly. I’m left somewhere in Manhattan looking for the follow-up sign to point me toward Brooklyn. And do I see it? No I do not. So I pull over. Ask a lady and her child. Where do I go? She says that I’m on the west side of the island, that I need to get on the east side of the island and ask directions from there. So I try to do that. Really, I do. I pull over again, ask a cop. He says, Go to the West Island Expressway or whatever the fuck, take a left, and there will be signs. And so I try to do that. I call everybody I know. I ask them, Where am I going? Various stories are told. I pull over again in the Village. Another cop says: expressway, signs, Houston, etc. I listen. I follow. Then I’m at a red light. I see no signs. I ask another cop as I drive by him at 10 mph. Me: Brooklyn Bridge? Cop: you should’ve taken a left right here, and I am, of course, driving past him as he says so. I say Shit out loud. I take the first U-turn I can. I take the right that would’ve been a left if I’d seen a motherfucking sign. I finally see a sign for the Brooklyn Bridge. I follow it. I get enormously lucky because there are, for the first time in Manhattan, follow-up signs that point me in the direction that I need to continue going. I see the bridge. I sing Halleluia. I cross it. I find parking in Park Slope. Everything is illuminated.
My dear friend Liz met me in front of her apartment two hours after I’d arrived in the city. We talked about our love lives–or lack thereof–over two beers at a swanky bar. We bought chicken and mushrooms and shallots and scallions, went back to her apartment, made risotto and green salad. It was the best meal I’d had since the Central Time Zone. She read me a poem by Frank O’Hara called something like “Having A Coke With You,” which made me feel wistful and regretful and envious and tired all at once. And then it was nine o’clock. I gave Liz a hug and drove to my brother’s apartment. We went to a bar called Moonshine to meet up with my dear friend Maura, and while there a man named Eric decided that he wanted to fight me. Apparently I had gotten in the way of his sister’s game of darts while en route to the bathroom. He seated himself at our table. He talked trash. I had my hand on my knife the whole time. Then he said something revealing. He said this:
“I’m just here to cause trouble and to play darts.”
So my brother, infinitely wise, said, “Let’s play darts,” and Eric went from asshole to bar-buddy in the blink of an eye. We played cricket. We lost twice. We got smashed. And in the end, we all shook hands and had a hell of a night.
Now it’s the morning time, I’m hungover, and the people of New York are on their way to work. And me, I’m thinking about brushing my teeth and going back to sleep.
I’ll see you tomorrow. Or tonight. Depending.