Female Christ at St. John the Divine

Whew! Finally taking a break and just relaxing after the last two weeks of hustle bustle. Vincent is officially on vacation and we are enjoying being in New York City together with nothing to do and no kids to entertain. It is wonderful. Admittedly my angst didn’t resolve until I had the internet up and running in the new apartment, which took forever. On Saturday I got up with intentions of visiting St. John the Divine with Vincent, but once I started catching up on all things online I couldn’t be torn away. Thankfully, he got my vibe and left me alone for the entire afternoon while I sent out job applications, checked bank balances, transferred things, etc.

I find that if I look back to the seven weeks I have been here without a job prospect I panic. But as long as I send in applications then there’s something that could happen tomorrow. Someone could call. The right path will be crossed. Every day that goes by without a new application rockets my job anxiety. Sometimes I get excited about the prospects, too. I have applied for some script writing jobs, several technical writing jobs, some jobs very similar to what I have been doing in terms of presenting material for people through writing – just not in play format. Every application has a seed of hope.

When Vincent returned he had a membership to The Met! He’d gone to the Cloisters and purchased it, so we resolved to visit on Sunday. In the meantime, the internet has helped us return to movie night in the apartment. We decided to watch The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the second or third time. I love this film as it is about older people re-inventing themselves and I have a serious thing for Dev Patel. We followed it with the sequel (The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) the next night. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is next. (If you haven’t watched that one, you should!)

As I experience New York images trigger nostalgic memories from previous lives. They layer. The other day I was thinking about how people say that smells trigger memories. For me, it’s more visual. On the bus on the way to the Metropolitan Museum yesterday we passed a corner with a large circular edifice and I suddenly remembered struggling with the autism services in New York City for some reason. I tried to remember what the relation was, and I think we had gone somewhere near that edifice to check out a preschool. Now that nylons have re-entered my life, seeing them soaking in the sink brings back the murder trial I sat jury on where the murder weapon knife had been dropped in a sink of the victim’s laundry, a photo of which was Exhibit A. These images layer and enrich each other, becoming heavy with memory.

And yet, so much is new and challenging. The laundry! In the sublet the laundry machines were simple, if expensive. I just took my bank card with me, loaded the machine, and swiped for $2.50 a wash and $2.50 a dry. I thought I had the same in the new building, but my bank card didn’t work. Anthony pointed out a machine just outside the laundry room where you buy a money card. Sort of like a copy card in a library. It only takes $10 bills. I had to go back to the apartment, get a $10 bill and come down to buy a card. Then returning to the machine I’d already loaded I inserted the card. Nothing happened. I pushed start and inserted the card. Nothing happened. I pushed another button and the little digital interface said “Pay now” so I inserted the card. Finally, the machine started. As I pulled the card out of the slot it said, “remaining balance $2.75.” I’d just spent $7.25 on a load of laundry. Live and learn.

So yesterday we went to St. John the Divine cathedral. Again, very fitting because I am reading Ken Follet’s trilogy about the cathedral in Kingsbridge, England. This magnificent building is on 110th and Amsterdam and very close to Columbia University, where we used to live. It is the largest cathedral in the world. My favorite thing back then was to attend their Halloween celebration. The man who was one of the original organizers for the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade back in the 1970s was behind this celebration at the cathedral. The event is billed as the Halloween Extravaganza with Ralph Lee’s Mettawee River Theater Company’s fantastic creatures of the night While studying at NYU I interviewed him and saw his workshop. These puppets are fabulous, they can be whole body contraptions. On Halloween, or the closest Friday, thousands come to the church. They showed old silent movies that were either scary, like Nosferatu, or The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, or silly Halloween themed movies with Buster Keaton or Harold Lloyd.

The Cathedral is 124 feet high (they say it could fit the Statue of Liberty), and 601 feet long and holds one of the largest organs in the world as well. For Halloween they would fill the space with candlelight and fog from dry ice. Families would trickle in and take their seats for the film. Then a parade of characters would march down the nave. Fantastic figures, monsters. Figures dressed all in black would rappel from the ceiling, and a gigantic crab would cover the Rose window. I particularly remember a figure dressed as a caricature of a bishop climbing on top of the recumbent bishop sarcophagus of Horatio Potter and pantomime lamentation for his death. Once the show is over a sinister amplified voice would start intoning “G-e-e-e-e-t O-u-u-u-t”!

There had been a fire in 2001, and a lot of the nave was cleaned out, or under construction. The recumbent bishop had been moved to a chapel. There were new carvings on the walls that reminded me very much of Tim Burton characters. My favorite piece, however, was a female Christ. I hadn’t noticed it the first time, thinking it was just another crucifix above the altar, but Vincent brought me back to it to look closer. Very interesting piece, called “Christa”.

I was hungry, so we stopped at a restaurant on Amsterdam. I went to use the restroom and wash my hands. In several of the restaurants I’ve been in, there is a communal area for people to wash their hands and check the mirror while the toilets are in private cubicles with floor to ceiling doors like in France. While I was washing my hands, a man exited the WC behind me and went straight out to the dining area without stopping at the sink. When I returned to our table I saw that he was a waiter. This sort of freaked me out (there’s a whole Seinfeld episode about this), and when he delivered our food I had to push the thought away. I started mentally writing a Yelp review about this behavior. When we were done eating, Vincent went to use the WC and came back with “well, there was a sink in my cubicle.” “The one next to the wall?” I asked. Yes. Teach me to make assumptions.

After that we caught the crosstown M4 to The Met. We sat in the back. I always go straight to the back. Vincent asked me why I passed up all the empty seats in the front. I told him that eventually elderly or handicapped people would need them and we’d move to the back anyway, so why not start there. He’s always impressed with my forward thinking. The fact that I do it impresses him.

I watched an older black man with a Jamaican accent explain how his cheap thongs ($1.99) had melted in the heat to a young well-dressed Caucasian woman who listened attentively. He took them off and showed a spot where he’d stepped in hot gum, that had eaten right through the rubber. When he exited the bus, I thought I heard him say “next time” to her, and I sincerely wondered if they knew if each other, or it was a passing conversation. Vincent had started reading a book on his phone (kindle) while on transportation. I am still not able to do this. I enjoy looking around and seeing the stories all about me.

As the bus lumbered down 5th Avenue Vincent suddenly stood and moved forward. I asked him why, and he said the corner he’d been sitting near smelled like someone had taken a piss there. Moving just past the stairwell, we took seats near the mid-exit. But then I noticed a smell. There was a homeless man, complete with shopping cart in the front of the bus, and I thought the smell came from there. We got off as soon as we could.

The Met was so crowded, hundreds of people everywhere. We started at European paintings of the 18th century, and then split up. I was having a chat with Gali most of the time I was there and sent him pics of paintings I thought he’d enjoy. I am a fan of the neoclassical period and found a whole room of Davids. One of my favorite paintings is “The Death of Socrates”. I also enjoyed the stories in the paintings, whether they are biblical, or the artists observations. Sometimes historic. In one a young man is having his fortune told while three young women are picking his pocket. In another, David depicts an apothecary and his wife. The apothecary was executed during the French Revolution.

I found another called “Lot and his Daughters”. The caption explained that after the destruction of Sodom, Lot’s daughters thought there were no men left to get them pregnant, so they tried to seduce their father. I don’t know that much about the story of Lot, but I found the image and idea of depiction funny. I took a step back to examine the picture while a tall black man, about my age stepped forward to read the placard. I know my eyebrows were raised, and I had a funny look on my face and when he turned he had the exact same look on his. I said, “I bet you just learned something you didn’t know before!” And we both laughed.

Vincent had gone searching for the Raphaels. He found them and then joined me in the gift shop. He asked me what my favorite painting was, and I couldn’t really answer. I could tell him about my favorite stories. He mentioned a Raphael depicting Lot and his daughters. Must have been a popular subject.

We walked over to Madison and the nostalgia set in again. I remember going to the absolute worst therapist somewhere near there. She must have been a dilettante to have an office in such an expensive area and be so terrible. If I remember correctly, you could just hang a shingle if you wanted to be a therapist back then. Vincent had already checked with Madame Google (as we call Google Maps), for the best route home. Oddly, it didn’t offer any crosstown options. Then he noticed the bus he’d selected only ran every hour on Sunday, so we hastily re-inquired. The best option was to take the BxM3, arriving in two minutes.

Now, when I first got here I read that some of the Bronx buses have a higher fare. At first, I thought all designated with “Bx_” did, but then realized most of those simply meant Bronx. I forgot about it until the bus pulled up and it was fancy, like a greyhound with upholstered seats, not a plastic city bus. I got on and asked if we could use a MetroCard to pay? The fare on the door was $6.75. The driver said, “try it, try it!” It didn’t work, so I got off, but the driver kept saying, “where are you going?” “230 and Broadway,” I said. “Give me your quarters, do you have quarters?” Well, I’d already given a fistful of my change to a homeless man earlier in the day, but I got on and threw my stuff on a seat, rummaging in my wallet for quarters. Feeling the pressure of time as the bus wasn’t moving while we did this. Vincent began digging out one quarter at a time, laughing at his own wit. I came back to the driver with a handful of pennies, nickels, dimes and probably a euro or two with a few Canadian coins as well. He said, put it all in. So, I did. And he told us to take a seat. The older ladies in the front (the bus seemed to be full of little old ladies) told him that was a very nice thing to do and he said, “they have to get to 230th and Broadway, I can’t let them walk!” Sweet.

I was reminded of a time when I was eight months pregnant hailing a cab on Broadway from the West 70s to our apartment on 115th. I got in, thinking I had a twenty-dollar bill in my purse, but suddenly remembered I’d spent it earlier, and I only had a five. As soon as a cab takes off it’s already a $2.00 charge, and I knew it was about a $7.00 trip. Immediately I told the driver I didn’t have money and apologized. But he turned off his meter and drove me home anyway. Because he was a nice man.

A new favorite discovery this weekend. Mochi! These are little individually packaged doughy dumplings with ice cream in the middle. They are delicious, and the texture is great: the dough is a little chewy. I am hypoglycemic, and too much sugar sends me into a nauseated swoon, so I eat candy or sweets judiciously. These little things are just right.

I’ve sent off a lot of applications to technical writing positions this weekend. I still haven’t head back about the interview I was promised last week. I call in to Regis every morning. The job-hunting software can be pernicious, and I am getting tons of useless spam emails. Once, at the challenge of my students who tired of hearing me say “One time, I had this job where I…”. I tallied all the jobs I’ve held in my life, full- and part-time and it was over 50. But it’s so easy to forget that sort of desperation that comes when your sending your hopes out into the void. And you worry about all the things that are not in your control. But it is going to work. It just feels too right not to work.

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