An dem stillen Meeresstrande
Ist die Nacht heraufgezogen,
Und der Mond bricht aus den Wolken,
Und es flüstert aus den Wogen:
Jener Mensch dort, ist er närrisch,
Oder ist er gar verliebet,
Denn er schaut so trüb und heiter,
Heiter und zugleich betrübet?
Doch der Mond, der lacht herunter,
Und mit heller Stimme spricht er:
Jener ist verliebt und närrisch,
Und noch obendrein ein Dichter.
—By Heinrich Heine
As mentioned early in the morning (my time) I am a bit of an idiot. A kind, well-meaning, all-works-out-well-in-the-end sort, mind you. I misremembered my return-to-Madison date ... I thought it was the 13th when in fact it was and is today (the 12th), and so early in the morning (1:30–2a.m. my time) I packed and made sure I had taken care of the little details. I awoke shortly after Jy did; she's an early riser.
Showered, shaved, the whole shebang, and so around 7 we went back to the West Way Cafe (Broadway and 108th) for eggs, toast, coffee, and OJ. Not the murdering football player turned actor, mind you. You know, I did enjoy his movies. He had charisma, perhaps still does. Imagine how Bill Clinton would have made it through a bloody glove, dead Hillary, and dead Hillary's lover scenario ... that was the OJ situation, except for the whole skin color, white Ford Bronco, and interrupting my NBA Finals freak show.
We picked up my things and worked our way to Penn Station (ticket, make sure I know where the tracks are); and from there off to the Empire State Building. Jy parked herself in a local Starbucks to read and watch my luggage. I paid my $18 for the privilege of wandering through a maze of ticketing lines, hallways and rooms under construction, and attempts to get even more money from me. “Be sure to get the audio guide!”—after one buys one's ticket one see that there is a free printed guide. I was not foolish enough to get the audio. They photograph everyone in front of a green screen; on your way out you can pay $5 for a good photo of you on the observation deck ... magic! It was the most crassly commercialized and whorish thing I'd experienced in a while.
The view from the 86th floor, though, is quite magnificent and worth the hoop-jumping. Today's tourist flavors? Japanese and French. I heard some British English and a handful of a speakers from elsewhere in the U.S. There were a couple Dutch families as well. My later attempt to get the “special” at Papaya Dog was thwarted by breakfast; they weren't yet at the whole hot dog and juice combo yet. So back to Penn Station we walked and I decided I needed some Dunkin' Donuts goodness; I accidentally ended up with three donuts rather than the two I ordered, and I guess it's my fault. I wish I knew where that third donut came from, actually.
I thought of MillMan.
Sure, Newark serves as the third NY airport, but it's clear that it's in Jersey. First of all one must pass through a grotesque landscape of rusting factories inhabiting wetlands and then the post-apocalyptic looking city of Newark itself. But suddenly one is in the airport and it's bizarro-fuglyland. Call me shallow, if you will.
I waited a (long) while at my boring gate, 114A, and then got into the sardine tin. A 2 1/2 hour flight in that midget-mobile? I was a head too tall to even stand, and even with my aisle seat (A B C) I had only enough leg room so as to induce cramps that I could, alas, feel. The flight attendant was perky, polite and always ready to please; perhaps she was just oblivious to the bad air and close quarters. We got into Madison on time, perhaps a few minutes ahead of schedule. While flying over Lake Michigan I made two observations that likely interest only me (call me Peter King): 1) gorgeous ice crystals had formed on the windows, but my camera was barely able to capture their beauty, and 2) on both the eastern and western edges of the lake it was fascinating to see how cloud fronts/formations stopped abruptly at (above) the shore.
I strolled purposefully through the airport, intent upon getting the f**k out of that pleasantly ACed but otherwise soul-digesting (the Langoliers in miniature, I tell you) institution. But there's always a but. As I approached one of the overpriced bookstores I noticed someone who looked like a colleague of mine. I'll call her $COLLEAGUE. $COLLEAGUE and I share initials. Well, I've never asked about her middle name, but I think it differs, which means, if I'm not making sh*t up, that she actually shares initials with my doppelgänger who works in Michigan. But to make a long story short (too late!) I stopped in said overpriced bookstore, realized that it was $COLLEAGUE, and started a brief conversation. $COLLEAGUE is off to Berlin for a day, and then Iceland. Yes, from here things often go in reverse, since if one flies with the right airline(s) Iceland is “on the way.” But it's not my vacation, and after two weeks in the land of geothermal energy $COLLEAGUE will return to Germany, Leipzig in particular, to do some exams-related research. I had a bus to catch (once every half hour) and $COLLEAGUE had a flight to a larger city, likely Chicago, to catch.
Outside I returned to a sunny sauna but the bus was chilled. It smelled air conditioned. It was as if breathing through your nose would provide an ice cream brain freeze. After I dropped off my belongings at home (and brought in the mail—mostly advertisements) I headed into town, checked for the Cambridge Companion to Kant and Modern Philosophy at the bookstore but didn't find it, returned my checked out but recalled copy to the library, got a receipt from the library staff person, asked said person to renew my late books but changed my mind once she informed me that she would have to renew them one at a time (I can do a “select all” via the web interface), and walked up State Street. It was a lazy afternoon, a town in slumber almost. More like a siesta. And I intended to go straight to Fair Trade, but the used CD and DVD place is going out of business (Thursday is their last day) and so all CDs are $4 and all DVDs $5.99 (box sets are 25% off). I actually found two copies of Battlefield Earth; $5.99 was clearly too much. $-5.99 might work, that is, if I get credits for taking such dreck off their hands. So I just limited myself to a couple things, one I'd seen and one I hadn't. And then to the coffee shop, which was poorly populated, as if a plague had decimated (I love misusing that word) downtown, leaving only a few immune folks to chat about the weather. Or, in my case, about the recent Doctor Who episodes I haven't yet watched. All I can say is: Captain Jack!
And before I left to walk up the street and get a slice of pizza for dinner I finished Kakfa on the Shore, which turned out to be one of the best books I've read so far this year. I think I finished HoL in January, and in many regards it was more fascinating, but Kafka on the Shore is the better “novel.”
Now I have a bottle of Trapiche malbec to consume.
“Songs to Seraphine” II
Over all the quiet sea-shore
Shadowing falls the hour of Hesper;
Through the clouds the moon is breaking,
And I hear the billows whisper.
“Can that man who wanders yonder
Be a lover or a dunce?
For he seems so sad and merry,
Sad and merry both at once.”
But the laughing moon looks downward,
And she speaks, for she doth know it:
“Yes, he is both fool and lover,
And, to cap it all, a poet!”
—Translated by Emma Lazarus
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