March 28, 1997
She's bitter. She complains. Suzzanne's got a turgor in her temple veins. It won't quit. Her head hurts. It throbs, feels heavy with pressure. She opens her mouth like a steam valve venting invectives, her lips a thin and angry curl, pinched where her face is round. "Done nothing all week," she states. She's frustrated and stumbling over the bricks.
Dave her ground is at a loss. What can the ground do without enough gravity to pull her down out of her rising anger? She's unreceptive to his gravity, or pushes away from it in fear. He jokes about his grievances, tries to let off her steam with laughter. They cross a cross-town street. Broadway is a blur of yellow cabs and horns honk honking in anger to clear the road ahead. It follows our steps to the restaurant.
Ollie's is packed. We enter. The smell of chowmein and chicken mingles with perfume and bodies. The heat of cooking lamps reflects off the earth toned meats and upon our cheeks.
"There's Steven," Suzanne announces.
Dave nods and moves forward.
Steven and Emily greet us at their table on the far right side, "How was the lecture?"
"S'alright," Dave begins.
"Terrible. Packed. We stood in the back and Rem didn't even show any projects. Complete waste of time," Suzanne says.
I smirk. Dave laughs to smooth over the anger of Suzanne's words, and says, "Yeah, Motumbo stood and asked very seriously, 'Mister Koolhaas, what projects have you done in this theme?'"
"And Rem turned shy," I continue, "and said, 'Well nothing beyond the conceptual stages so far.'"
"I bet Tschumi loved that," Suzzanne says seating herself, "Its so Columbia."
Steven and Emily knowingly and sheepishly smile. Dave and I sit with smiles pasted on to cover her mood, and shield ourselves from her influence. The waiter arrives, a sober faced Asian with menus, immune to the Manhattan we bring in with us.
Chinatown aswirl with commerce pours into little Italy. Ambassadors from a nation of a billion mix with those from Europe's classical seat of power- a ruined empire. Brick tenements caged in black fire escapes covered with a patina of brilliant red, green, pink, and yellow signs bear the fruits of multi-culture. Fish smells, and honey roasting peanuts float over the sidewalk, from the storefronts on our left and the tented vendors to our right. Abundance, chaos, noise, and material cravings orchestrate the market dance. Shopping hips sway. Garment bags bounce. Teens gather and smoke in tight trios and quadrilles.
A billboard rises over the Bowery advertising Newport cigarettes. Four white twenty somethings sing karaoke on a uniform green background. "NEWPORT PLEASURE," it says. A matron in furs with a large round head, powdered face, and black, almond eyes barks her native Chinese to her husband who non-challantly lights up. His hands cup the flame, head tilted down. The brim of a 'fourties hat shields him from the woman's ire. Newport pleasure, I think, forcing the stink from my nose.
From a little man with big bushy brows and cart I buy an orange juice.
The warm Spring weather breaks upon the street, shattered by lightening and swept aside by thunder. The rain pours down lines of spattering yarn from the sky.
Soho's galleries, stark wearhouses of contemporary art, are our refuge from the rain. Cloth signs flutter in the city canyon breeze, The Eye, The Enchanted Forest, galleries of New York. Urbanites march beneath umbrellas in browns and black. Occasionally a taxi, canary yellow, rolls by livening up our side street.
Cars in primaries and dirty white pack Prince street, competing with each other and pedestrians for the right of way. The lights change slowly, a bass line for the spiraling rhythms of pedestrian crossers.
"Why is everybody honking?" a woman in furs asks.
"Welcome to New York," someone says.
Go back to Fifth Avenue, I think looking at the fur coat.
On the way to the next seat of our bathroom tour, Dave and I enter Bar 89. "Restrooms are reserved for patrons only," I read. Dave puts hands in pockets to touch his wallet.
"I'll buy," I say, "Let's snag a seat."
We stroll to the back, and sit. Soho's patrons and matrons quietly soak in and become one with the scene- actors with the proper backdrop. Drips fall from our jackets to the floor.
I scan the menu for the cheapest items. French fries look good. Dave agrees. Before a puddle pools beneath our feet the waiter returns and takes our order. Though wet, I am parched. The orange juice's acid still sours my mouth.
We wait and watch and listen. The restaurant-bar's aesthetic is contemporary to the day, minimalist and spacious. Details guide the eye from point to point like a painting making reference to itself. A crescent motif is repeated from stair steps and rail to the bar and skylight above like a lemon-wedge of sky.
"I feel like I'm on a stage set," I say.
Dave points to some actors the next table over toward the doors. Two men dressed like men and acting like boys sit with their long since grayed mother. One wearing blue flashes his Rolex and pretty boy lashes. He disdainfully drops a crumpled napkin upon a half-eaten hamburger.
"Rolex wearin', cell phone talkin', big shot flauntin', gonna drop this meal and slop it," Dave goes off with all the silly overeducated angst of an architecture student. We laugh at the poor rich fools, so disconnected from reality.
Our waters arrive with the fries. Despite our appearance the waiter is polite, professional. I drink. I wash the aftertaste of the orange juice from my mouth. The water is refreshing, clean, clear, crisp, and cold. Soon I have to pee.
The bathrooms are upstairs. I mount the stairs which rise and narrow in a half turn to the left. The balcony above is semi-private, and the people are more natural, more relaxed than the show down below.
I find the bathroom and push through the door. The stall doors are clear upon entry and their toilets empty. A soft indigo light bathes the room from above punctuated with yellow, slotted side lights. The yellow is subtle, mellowed to near whiteness like a cream. A red of mysterious source crops up, solarized around the blue.
I enter the stall and shut the door. The glass turns opaque as if filled with milk and coffee. "Occupied," blinks on in white letters across the upper part of the floor to ceiling door. I sit and shit in the nice, ambient space into the American Standard. Democracy in action. Even amidst opulence and flash we all sit upon the American Standard.