30 April 2006

Three Boroughs, Three Days

Usually when I'm in New York I spend nearly all of my time in Manhattan, and not just anywhere in Manhattan, either; I've been known to spend weeks at a time without going south of Houston or north of 14th Street.

But not this time. I've only occasionally been near my usual haunts in the West and East Villages, and instead have been clocking up much of my time in the boroughs. Thursday, inspired partially by The Brooklyn Follies and partly by my trip out to see Rose Melberg the night before, I decided to do some Brooklyn exploring. I took the F train, hopped off near DUMBO (seriously; it's yet another cutesy real estate acronym, standing for "Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass"), strolled through Brooklyn Heights, down to Borough Hall, and then out through Carroll Gardens and into Park Slope and Prospect Park, where I ran into Aaron Cometbus (brand new book out, by the way, called I Wish There Was Something That I Could Quit, which he kindly gave me a copy of, and which I'm already halfway through). We rambled through the park, discussing weighty and not-so-weighty matters, and saw two amazing professional dog-walkers, each of whom was handling a team of six large dogs as deftly as any Inuit sledge driver mushing across the tundra.

Then up to Williamsburg/Greenpoint for a rendezvous with the amazing niece, Gabrielle Bell, who gave me a copy of her new book (still in galley form; it'll be out in October), Lucky. That was Thursday pretty much done; Friday saw me back in Manhattan briefly for a meeting and stroll with the wonderful Heather and the wonder dog Snax. That evening it was off to the wilds of Astoria (that's Queens, for you auslanders) for dinner and conviviality with about 16 of the Punk Rock Softball crowd, first at the Neptune Diner, then at the rather chilly outdoor Beer Garden.

Because of the temperature being not conducive to sitting around outdoors and because we'd all have to be up bright and early the following morning, the party broke up by about 11, and I was in bed back in lower Manhattan not much after 12. This morning I was up at 6:30, so excited was I about getting up to Central Park for the third annual Punk Rock Softball tournament. I wanted to get breakfast first, but unfortunately that story about the city that never sleeps turned out to be a canard: the city, or at least that portion of it that operates cafes and restaurants, actually does sleep on Saturday mornings when I want to get breakfast in a hurry at 8 am. I finally settled for a muffin and a decaf coffee bought just after I got off the subway at w. 96th St and headed into the park.

Softball was a triumph for all concerned except perhaps yours truly, who, despite my attempts to visualise success and ability to counteract my bad memories of childhood ineptness, was unable to visualise myself into hitting the ball even once. Luckily no balls came very near me when I was fielding, so I was spared complete and utter embarrassment. I think I have a great deal of visualisation practice to go through before next year's tournament, however. But apart from that, it was a fabulous get-together, with about 75 people turning out Five or six games were played, with teams of 12-14 players each, each team roughly divided between people who were actually very good at the sport and people like me, who were sometimes hopelessly, sometimes comically useless.

Then everybody made their way back out to Astoria for barbecueing, schmoozing and reminiscing at Oliver's party loft. Chadd Derkins very nearly succeeded in re-igniting last year's epic dispute with Jonnie Whoa Oh over what street divides west from east in Manhattan (it's 5th Avenue, duh), but before it could get too vituperative, I had to dash back to the N train and and down to lower Manhattan again to join Aaron C at some sort of multi-culti literary tribute to the 50th anniversary of Allen Ginsberg's Howl. I was never a huge fan of Ginsberg or the poem, but got a bit of new insight into him and it. Could have done without the elderly Korean poet shouting at us for half an hour in Korean, but the one or two Koreans in the audience probably enjoyed it. I could and would say more, but my one hour's internet time is about to expire, so you'll have to stay tuned till tomorrow for further details. Over and out.

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