i bought this book for my dad, partly because it won a pulitzer and got lots of hype, and partly because it’s about dominicans, and i live in Little DR, aka Washington Heights. it turns out the book doesn’t take place in the Heights for the most part, in fact, the Heights are barely even mentioned. however, when they are, the narrator takes pains to note that the story takes place before “white kids with yoga mats” showed up. to use the narrator’s own language: negro, please. my first-generation jewish grandmother lived up at 180th street before the Dominicans knew what Trujillo had hit them with; Grandma Betty was rocking the shtetl back in 1915. for god’s sake, the lady swam underneath Highbridge- in the East River- and lived.
other than that minor defect (and for making me feel supremely uncool for understanding only about 1/5 of the Latino slang) the book is pretty good. the story picks you right up at the beginning and takes you back several generations to illustrate the bitter awfulness that the De Leon family, and Dominicans in general, lived through under the dictatorship of Trujillo. bonus points to junot diaz for writing a sweet story that simultaneously tells the history of the DR over the last half century. in a million years i would have never picked up a nonfiction book on the subject-the thought of it alone would bore me to tears- and yet that’s really what this book is about, with some sidenotes about a fat kid with a death wish.
but, after 2+ beers with my sister, i decided to visit teeny in the west village at En, and then head down to tribeca to work out at tor's gym. Normal. Why not? (I did 23 push ups in a row!)
then, we went to some bar in tribeca. then to blind tiger. then to the rabbit club.
it’s now 4.52 am, i am seeing double, which means this can be accurately described as my first drunken blog. i am mis-typing every third letter, making this a very slow process.
however, my drunkeness was rewarded, because when i went to pee and pulled down my pants, proof of the ridiculousness of my life spilled out of my back pocket: a metrocard and a large pink googly eye. this probably only happens to preschool teachers.
my friend martyna, whom i call teeny, keeps a log of all the books she reads. apparently, she’s been doing this for years, though i had no idea. i thought it might be a good idea for me to keep track of the things im reading, too - maybe just a few cursory notes on the book and what i thought of it. lately, ive found that my brain is a black hole for plots. and i always forget about books that i mean to read, but am too cheap to buy and too lazy to pick up at the library. hopefully, i’ll remember to blog about things i want to read, so i can look back and remind myself later, like when i pack myself a snack, and then forget about it, but then i’m even more psyched when i reach into my bag and pull out a kiwi. yeah, just like that.
it was the second day in a row of freakish spring-time warmth. it was so warm that the ground had thawed and my run turned into a squishy, muddy mess; i loved every splashing puddle of it.
i ran along riverside park, from roughly 181st, down to the state park at around 140th. all the way down, the sun was shinging on me and making the river haze and sparkle. i thought how this run, with the water and sun to the west in a cloudless blue sky, could turn into my normal run back in sea cliff, along tappan beach, or into some future run along the western coast, when i move to california.
as long as i looked mostly ahead, and not too far over to my right, i could keep the new jersey palisades out of my field of vision. as long as i kept my gaze just slightly over the river, it seemed as wide as the pacific, and my california illusion was maintained. i morphed the scrappy pine trees lining the river into the cypress along 17-mile drive.
on the train i saw a man reading “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. i thought it was kind of ironic, as i would never want to be friends with someone if i knew they needed a manual on how to make friends. i also thought- maybe there should be a disclaimer in the forward: “Do not read this in public. Otherwise, you will not make friends. In fact, you will alienate people, you fucking freakshow.”
Everyone in New York City probably has their own favorite train. Obviously, you love whichever one brings you closest to your door, which for me that is the A train to 181st street. What I really mean is that there are certain phenotypes of A train that I prefer over others. I like the ones with the yellow and orange molded seats. I dislike the ones with the grey benches- the seats are not delinatead, so people tend to sprawl their fat well beyond the space that would have been allotted to them with a molded seat. I can actually tell which type of train it will be before it gets into the station. The grey-benchers have an ominous looks to them- the cars have a strange, slanted profile, which reminds me of storm trooper helmets. The yellow-seaters are snub nosed and cute.
I also have a favorite conductor. The best time to get him is on a Monday morning because he gets on the PA, and with this soothing, silky voice, that would be pure sex if it were in any other venue besides the MTA loudspeaker, he says “Welcome back from your weekend. This is a downtown A Express.” For the longest time I was mishearing him. I thought he was saying “This is the Downtown A Experience”. I still pretend that that’s what he’s saying.
My ipod broke and james lent me his. When i plugged it in, i could have erased it and refilled it with my own music. But i didn’t. Instead, i’m getting dressed to his music, running down the escalator steps in time with songs he picked- could he have known that my descending gait and the automated MTA public address and the song playing in my ear would be perfectly synchronized? Now i’m on the train and i wonder if this is what he would hear on his commute.
—I am an acoustic voyeur. I can already see more than i ought to about his life via his blog. Now i can hear his life, too. Is this normal? There is something about the uneveness that gets me: James doesn’t even know i have this blog, or that i’m writing about him. It’s my little voyeuristic secret—
I imagine that this is what he’d listen to while running: he’s rounding the Reservoir, and I’m watching kids kickflip in Thompkins Square. By the time I’m done with work, the ipod’s lost all its charge, and i commute home listening to the sounds of the city instead.