New York Trip

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New York. It’s a hell of a town, I hear, but I hadn’t really found out for myself. I’d only been there for a short visit when I was 15, traveling with my mom. So that doesn’t really count. I have a number of friends in NYC: an old high-school friend, a friend who moved there from Austin, a fire-equipment customer, and some net.friends.

And then there was 9-11.

Things changed in a fundamental way on 9-11. It was a historic moment, and I felt an obligation to myself to go to the place where it happened, to get a sense of what things were like there. I wanted to be able to look back 50 years after the event and remember what the city was like in the days after the disaster. It would be nice to be able to remember what the city was like before the disaster too, but I can’t wind the clock back. If only I could. If only I could.

About two weeks after the event, I decided to go, and made travel arrangements. I would up arriving in New York on October 13, for a four-night trip.

My fire-friend Dori had offered me a place to crash (perhaps an infelicitous choice of words, considering), and I took her up on that. She and her boyfriend Jeffrey have a funky loft (as opposed to one of those homogeneous, corporate lofts, right?) in Brooklyn, a few blocks away from the Williamsburg Bridge and the Marcy stop on the J-M-Z lines. This proved to be a pretty convenient launchpad for my little adventures.

Saturday, 13 Oct 2001

I departed at a ridiculous hour on the morning of Saturday, October 13. My flight was at 6:45 AM. I wanted at least an hour to allow for formalities at the airport, and the blue-van people wanted at least an hour to deliver me there. They told me to expect a pickup between 4:15 and 4:30. Yes, in the AM. Ugh.

There were heavy storms and severe winds overnight, and that morning I awoke to total blackness. The power was out. The blue van pulled up slightly before 4:15, and the driver asked me why I didn’t put my porch light on. Anyhow, rather than taking an hour, it took about 15 minutes to deliver me and one other passenger to the airport. So there I am, at about 4:30, with over two hours to kill in a deserted airport. I found a seat and tried to get comfortable. I think I dozed. Eventually the ticket counter opened. I got my ticket, went through security, which wasn’t that big a deal, and procured coffee. The line for coffee was much longer than the security line. A reassuring sign of normality in these troubled times.

The airline, I flew, Vanguard, is one I hadn’t even heard of before I started researching the trip. They had the cheapest fares, and their routing and layovers weren’t completely insane (their hub is in Kansas City). One new twist was the random baggage checks. After getting past security, and right before boarding the flight, they called quite a few passengers to have their carry-ons hand-checked.

In KC, I noted that the airport had a screwed-up system where there was a separate security checkpoint every two or three gates. Very inefficient. Dumb. Since there was one line at each mini-cluster of gates, if that line backed up (and it did), you just had to wait. At any rate, my connecting gate was in the same mini-cluster of gates, so I didn’t have to leave the secured area. Though I would have, if I needed to use the can. Dumb.


When I saw the Chrysler Building, I got a happy feeling: I really felt like I was in NYC.

On to La Guardia. I was kind of surprised at how small LGA seems. I caught a cab into Brooklyn, to Dori’s, where I was warmly received by her and her boyfriend Jeffrey. They have a loft on the 9th floor of a big old industrial building, populated with artists and craftsmen. We went with their neighbor Ashley to the neighborhood eatery, Right Bank, for mimosas and (in my case) eggs benedict. A couple of the people in the building were having open-houses to show off their art, and we stopped by one. His loft was crammed to the gills with art and stuff. There’s no other word for it. It was quite cozy. Some of the art was pretty neat, some I confess I didn’t really get.

Dori’s loft is also pretty well accoutered with stuff, and is very funky.





Dori’s & Jeffrey’s loft

The Williamsburg Bridge and Manhattan at sunset, from Dori’s roof

Anyhow, we hung around the loft for the rest of the afternoon, until that evening, when we went to a party, Dori being one of the principal instigators. This party was fantastic. The title of the party was Lost Vegas. Imagine: rat roulette, with a rat on a sort of roulette wheel. Hissing cockroach races. Human roulette (this involved a big wheel, at least 8′ across, with a padded top. Players would go down a slide onto the spinning wheel and land on a number). There was a shotgun wedding chapel outside, an Elvis wedding chapel inside, and various other whimsical gambling machines. On the outside there was a canopied area where a guy on a keyboard would accompany karaoke singers. Inside there was a live band, which did lounge covers of Devo hits (while wearing flowerpot hats), among other things. Dori, in her role as a pimp, pressed me and about 8 other guys into service for her “Rent A Boy” operation. We were to take a dollar (or some other amount of money) in exchange for providing whatever service we were comfortable providing for 15 minutes (or some other length of time). Business was, uhh, slow for me, but some guys brought in ten bucks or so.

I encouraged Carlos, a friend from Austin now living in Brooklyn, to come to the party, and eventually he did, after repeated confirmation by cellphone. He apparently enjoyed himself, as he wound up staying later than me–and I stayed until about 3:00 AM.

Sunday, 14 Oct 2001

Bright and early in the morning, I awoke. Yes, really. Dori & Jeffrey’s loft has a huge picture window with an eastern exposure. Besides, I had things to do, places to go, people to meet. As Carlos has been wont to say, I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

I had made prior arrangements with a net.friend, Lisa, to get together and wander around. I walked across the Williamsburg Bridge, reaching the Manhattan side around 11:30 AM. I called Lisa to advise her of my impending arrival, and embarrassingly woke her with my call (not sure whether it was embarrassing for me or for her, but I definitely sensed some embarrassment somewhere). After some negotiation, we found a yuppified quasi-healthy type place on Spring St. to have brunch. Pretty good. We then proceeded to walk all over lower Manhattan. We walked through Soho, and Noho, the Financial District, Battery Park, the Fulton St fish market, and probably a few other places I’m overlooking. We got as close to the site of the WTC as we could, which was not very close: the police had set up barricades around a three-block (or so) perimeter. There was a pretty good crowd of people, both locals and tourists, making the same pilgrimage. Whenever we’d get to an intersection, we’d look down the canyon between the buildings to see what we could. There wasn’t much to see, which is the point, I guess. Once in a while, I could see the wrecked exteriors of buildings still standing. But the thing is, I’m not well acquainted with NYC, so the absence of the towers didn’t convey the visceral shock to me that it would to someone who saw them every day. There were a lot of memorials around the WTC site, a few “have you seen this person?” flyers. Some representatives from some Christian organization passing out glossy booklets putatively about the tragedy. I was intrigued to see a mobile cellphone tower deployed in the financial district, with diesel generators right there, rumbling away.

At one point in our perambulations, somewhere on Avenue A, I think, we saw a tall guy with lots of hair and an all-silver leather outfit. Very Van-Halen circa 1986. We also stuck out heads in a fascinating shop specializing in animal bones, bugs in plexiglas, taxidermied animals, that sort of thing. Yum. There were lots of other shops we passed by that seemed like they’d probably be fun to stop in, but I was happy to keep moving and see more stuff.


At some other point, we discovered a Japanese grocery, Sunrise Mart. What a treat! It was where the local Japanese-abroad shopped, and I found a 9-pack of yukimi daifuku. Score! For those poor benighted souls among you, yukimi daifuku are a Japanese snack consisting of little ice-cream balls wrapped in sheets of mochi. Mochi is a sort of dough made of rice. I love these things.

Anyhow, I loved seeing everything this way, but my feet were taking a pounding. I told Lisa “If we found a place with seats, I would avail myself of one.” We went to Two Boots Video to pick up a couple of Woody Allen flicks (we went looking for What’s Up Tiger Lily?, but that was out of stock, so we got Sweet and Lowdown and Small Time Crooks instead). Then to an Indian restaurant and bar where we sat on a little couch in the front window and had some wine. Sunday night was supposed to be a fire-practice, but things were a little up in the air. I called Dori to get the latest scoop, and she told me to meet at a bar near Lisa’s called Whiskey Ward. On our way there, Lisa and I stopped for a slice at Two Boots Pizza (Two Boots seems to have a mini-empire in the neighborhood). Then we went to the bar, where I had a chance to meet the usual suspects in the NYC firedancing community. That was fun. Presumably we were going to find a practice venue, but once everyone was installed at the bar, they proved difficult to dislodge. This may not have been an entirely bad thing, considering how whipped I was. So Lisa and I decided to watch Sweet and Lowdown instead. I enjoyed it. Headed back to Dori’s to go to bed.

Monday, 15 Oct 2001

Another day, another little adventure. I took the train with Dori into midtown Manhattan. Got off the F line on 42nd St. Wandered around for a while and walked over to the Empire State Building. Although I’ve always loved the Chrysler Building’s art-deco style, the Empire State is no slouch in that area either. The lobby is ornamented by big brass disks with various designs.




Some architectural details from the Empire State Building

What with the way things are now, most of the entrances to the building were blocked, with three uniformed guys standing around to keep an eye on things, and there were security checkpoints at those that were open. A guy checking IDs outside the door, who gave only a cursory glance at my driver’s license (evidently he hadn’t seen any Al-Qaeda membership cards), and a metal detector and x-ray checkpoint inside, which was manned by guys who were giving more than cursory treatment. I suppose it’s possible their boss told them to be hardasses, but I suspect they were internally motivated to take their jobs seriously.

Once inside, I walked around the lobby, but couldn’t go to the observation deck, which was closed at that hour for some reason. I then had breakfast at the “Big Apple Diner”, directly adjoining the lobby. Kind of odd–I had a Spanish omelette, which was served with french fries. How…multicultural. And some really bad coffee.


Monday’s breakfast

From there, I wandered around Times Square a bit, and was suitably impressed by all the wall-sized curvy TV screens, the hustle, etc. But I really wanted to go to the Guggenheim, so I lit out for points north. I walked through Central Park, which is really pretty and really big. I mean, you can look at a map of Manhattan, and there’s Central Park, centrally located, and using up a lot of prime real estate, so you can tell, intellectually, “Gee, that park must be pretty big,” but you don’t feel it in your bones until you traverse it on foot. And I never knew there was a zoo in the park, but there is. At one point, I just had to take a break because my feet were killing me. It gave me a chance to take some notes for this diary.





Some views right next to central park, at 5th & 76th

Eventually I closed on my objective for the early part of the day: the Guggenheim. Have you ever had the experience of knowing some famous work of art through books and postcards, and then coming upon it in person? I remember having that feeling very strongly when I first saw Sunday on the Grande Jette and Nighthawks. Anyhow, that’s the feeling I got when I first caught sight of the Guggenheim building itself. It really is that special.

There was a security check to get in.


Coming upon the Guggenheim

Unfortunately, when I was there, the main ramp was closed: a new exhibit of Brazilian art was being installed, and it looks like quite a show, to judge from what I saw. The pictures here don’t reflect it properly, but the entire main spiral was painted a very dark blue.

I did get to view the permanent collection in the smaller annex, and that was certainly worthwhile. They had a number of Modiglianis, which are notable for their very elongated forms, and I mused that if you morphed a Modigliani person with a Botero person, you’d wind up with a normal-looking figure.

There were also a number of Mondrians on exhibit other than the ones I’d seen before, and it struck me, when I took my glasses off, that he might have meant for us to look at the some of his works with blurred vision. With my glasses on, all I really noticed was the strong lines. With them off, I noticed the overall patterns of color, which were much more organic. But of course, at least half the fun of the museum is the museum itself. I was especially tickled by the miniature reproductions of modernist chairs in the gift shop. I guess those would be for the world’s best-appointed dollhouse…?







Views from inside the Guggenheim

Setting up the Brazil exhibit

At this point, my legs were pretty shot. I got on the bus and headed south. There was a crazy bum sitting across from me, having a fairly intense discussion with himself. What struck me as especially interesting was that he wasn’t vocalizing–he was just mouthing the words, which seems to indicate that he was sane enough to keep his voice down, but not sane enough to keep the voices out of his head. It’s as if at some level, he knows he’s crazy, and can kind of keep things together.


I love New York!


Library lion, with friends

I got off the bus around 42nd Street and went over to Bryant Park, next door to the library. This was perfect. The weather was perfect, there were chairs and little tables scattered all over the grass. I pulled one of the former up to one of the latter and wrote postcards to the folks back home.

I came upon this amazing deli somewhere near Time Square. That little red lantern you see is typical of cheap Japanese restaurants and basically says “Restaurant”. I have no idea what the Hebrew text says, but basically, this signage says it all. If there’s a reason to love New York, this is it.






Views around Bryant Park

After a pleasant couple hours in the park (or so) spent writing and reading, I caught the F train into lower Manhattan. Lisa and I were going to have dinner and go to a show (about which more below). I had some extra time, so I wandered around. I already had a glimmering of familiarity with this part of town, having criss-crossed it repeatedly yesterday. Walked past Katz’s Deli, site of the famous scene in When Harry Met Sally. Came upon a Belgian Frites shop. I’m not sure what the fascination with Belgian Frites, which are simply big helpings of french fries with some kind of fancy dipping sauce, but these shops are all over the place. Evidently there was a big Belgian-cuisine push a few years back, and while I’m sure fries are not the pinnacle of Belgium’s culinary arts, apparently they’re what stuck. That and Stella Artois beer, which seems to be very popular around town.

One thing that struck me as I wandered around was that there are evidently some drivers in NYC who think they can clear a block-long traffic jam by simply laying on their horn for, oh, 15 seconds. It never seems to work, and I can’t imagine it actually makes them feel better. Quite the contrary, it adds to the overall din, and makes everyone else feel worse, I’d imagine.

Anyhow. Hooked up with Lisa and we headed out to an Indian joint to eat. Not sure what it was called. It was on the street for Indian joints, though. There they were, all in a row, one after the other. I’m not sure why the Indian restaurant operators all chose to cluster like that.

After dinner, which was pretty good, we wandered around and went into Shakespeare & Co Books, where I picked up Fruits a picture book of Japanese street fashion (compiled from a magazine of the same name), which made me laugh and made me feel nostalgic, and The 5-Minute Iliad, written by a friend of Lisa’s. Hung out there for quite some time. It’s a nice bookstore.

Then it was on to the evening’s entertainment. It was punk-rock/metal karaoke night at Arlene Grocery. (Why no possessive “‘s”? I don’t know. Why is a bar called a grocery, and why am I prone to mistakenly refer to it as Arlene’s Kitchen? Truly, these are eternal mysteries.)


Some dude rockin’ out at Arlene Grocery

This was truly one of the high points of the trip. This is not like normal karaoke, with a machine. There’s a three-piece rock band. They’re very good at what they do, and they started pretty promptly, near the appointed time of 10:00 PM. They have a playlist of, well, at least 60 songs. The lyrics for each song are on a separate sheet in a notebook, the notebook is passed around, and anyone who wants to do a song pulls that sheet and passes it up. The emcee pulls a sheet from the stack at random and calls out “Who’s doing ‘Sheena is a Punk Rocker’?”. The would-be star gets up on stage and rocks out.

Some people, bluntly, sucked. They were obviously having a good time, thought they’d take a shot, and picked a song to which they barely recalled the chorus. The bassist spent a lot of time coaching these folks through their songs. Some people, bless their hearts, they were really trying, but couldn’t hit the right notes, or the right time, or couldn’t project. Some people were really into it and pretty good. And a few people were great. There were two brothers, who clearly had some musical talent. The first got up and did Ozzy Osborne’s “Crazy Train”, and nailed it. The second got up and did Rush’s “Limelight”. Not only did he nail it, he nailed Geddy Lee’s neuter, nasal voice, and the bassist even handed over his ax, for the complete Rush-mania effect.

It’s quite a scene. There are a lot of regulars–the emcee addressed many of them by name. There’s even been a documentary made about it.




Views from Williamsburg Bridge at night

That was a lot of fun, and we stayed until about 12:30. Lisa has, like, a job, so she had to head home. I headed back on foot (glutton for punishment) and took some pictures as I crossed the Williamsburg Bridge.

Tuesday, 16 Oct 2001

My last full day in New York, and it promised to be action-packed.

I need to back up a little here to a pre-trip anecdote. A week or so before leaving, I had received an e-mail from a guy in the UK, Dominic, interested in buying a specialized piece of firedancing equipment from me. He mentioned that he’d be in NYC between certain dates, and that I could ship it to him there to save the international postage. I responded “I’ll go you one better–I’ll be in NYC at the same time, so we can handle the transaction in person.” Have I mentioned how much I love the Internet? For some reason, we both look like we’re sneering in the picture, but we aren’t. I think we were just captured in mid-speech.


Dominic and me. I’m on the right.

I had fedexed the equipment in question, along with my own (used) firedancing wicks and a couple other odds and ends, so as to avoid raised eyebrows at airport security. These arrived on Monday, and bright and early on this day Tuesday, I called Dominic to arrange to meet. He and I decided to meet at the streetside jewelery booth where Dori is working.

So I took the train in with Dori, hovered uselessly as she set up the booth, and waited for Dominic to appear. He appeared. We took care of business. Cool. We got to talking, and it turns out he had also been at Arlene Grocery the night before, and enjoyed it as much as me. A small world gets smaller.

I had a lunch date, so I headed north on foot to Union Square. I had some time on my hands, so I wandered around a bit. The park at Union Square looks a little run-down, but it clearly fills an important role in everyday life. It’s an oasis in the middle of a busy part of a busy town.

There’s an off-leash dog-run at one corner of the park, and I noticed a person walking a dalmation towards it, with the dalmation clearly eager for the chance to run around and sniff some dog-butt. There was a sign on the gate to the dog run reading “If you’re not responsible enough to clean up after your dog, you don’t deserve to own one.” This has Giuliani all over it, don’t you think?




Views around Union Square

I was struck by the assymetric cornice on the building in the middle photo here, clearly avoiding the airspace of the adjacent building. Also by the fact that elephant-ears grow in NYC (see the rightmost photo)–I had imagined those were more tropical plants.

While I was waiting to meet up with Kim for a lunch date, I got calls from two other friends I also planned on getting together with, plus a call from Kim saying she was running a few minutes late. Weird to get three calls all clustered together within just a few minutes like that.

Kim arrived, and we headed off in search of food. At first thinking of Indian, we shifted gears and decided on Burmese instead. Wandered around, since Kim’s recollection of the place’s location was a little vague, so she called information, gave them an approximation of the name, got the restaurant on the line, and got the address. Food was pretty good, and what the hell, it’s only the second time I’ve had Burmese food.


Knish bakery

After lunch, I had some stuff to take care of back at Dori’s loft, so I started heading in that direction when I came across this knish bakery. I didn’t stop inside, but I love the sign.

I wanted to fedex some of my excess stuff, including my wicks, back to Austin, and had scoped out a fedex box near Dori’s, but it was completely devoid of supplies. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. I figured I’d find a way to work things out, and to my surprise and relief, there was a fedex driver just a block away. I buttonholed him and got the airbill and pouch I needed. Took care of that and got in touch with my old high-school friend Scott, who’s an artist in Brooklyn and now goes by the monicker of Dread Scott. I can’t get used to calling him that, though. Anyhow, we decided to get together right then, so I called for a driver to deliver me to his house. I remember driving past a bunch of ultra-frummy (Hassidic) men standing on a grass island next to a highway on-ramp, standing around as if they were waiting for something to happen. I wonder what.

This is an interesting phenomenon, hire cars. NYC has a notorious shortage of medallion cabs, and all of them apparently operate in Manhattan. The shortage has led to unlicensed jitney cabs, but the interesting thing is that when cellphones are widespread, hire cars become a viable alternative to cabs. If you have the number of the car service on your cellphone’s speed-dial, you can have a car there within a few minutes, which is effectively about as good as a cab. Although hire cars are more expensive. Then again, you get to ride in a Lincoln Town Car instead of a Ford Crown Vic. That’s one thing I noticed–all the hire cars are Lincoln Town Cars, and if you see a Lincoln Town Car on the streets of NYC, it’s very likely a hire car.


Not Ray’s Pizza

Scott lives in a third-floor walkup in a classic Brooklyn brownstone. Nice apartment, though somewhat snug for two adults and a kid. Great parquet floors (isn’t it odd how the word for a wood inlay technique became a brand name for margarine?). A bizarre collision of militantly political art and kid’s toys all over the place. Scott and I hang out, shoot the breeze, discuss these bizarre reversible shiny plastic jeans Scott’s wearing. We head out to pick up his son, Mo, from day-care. Mo is 4.5 years old. He vaguely remembered me from our first meeting in Florida, where he saw me spin fire. Like most kids his age, he wants to be the center of attention, but he’s got a nice disposition and good manners (as Scott joked “we didn’t want anyone to realize he was ours”). Scott’s wife Jenny was at work, so I didn’t get a chance to see her. The three of us headed over to Not Ray’s Pizza for a slice. The joke here is that many if not most NYC pizzerias are named some variation on “Ray’s Pizza.” Just as most pizzerias have a wall of fame, this one did too–decorated with pictures of all the Ray’s Pizzas around town, and famous Rays, like Ray Bolger, Sugar Ray Leonard, etc.

After pizza, it was time to go to an art opening. Hopped on the subway, though just before we descended the stairs, Scott said “Wait…” “What?” “See over there? Someone’s gone and done what I knew was coming–they’ve put in an art gallery.” I guess that means it’s all downhill for the neighborhood now. It was right when we went down these stairs that my left knee started bugging me. I must have put a foot wrong or something. Anyhow, the art opening was for a new installation by Jenny Holzer (who I had confused with Barbara Kruger when Scott mentioned her to me). We took the train over to Chelsea, which, as Scott explained, is pretty much the center of the U.S. art world, though many artists based in NYC (other than himself) like to think of it as the center of the art world, period. Didn’t get the name of the gallery. It was very crowded, with lots of people standing around outside to get some air. I could smell the white wine before we even got to the door. Really.

The installation was in three rooms. Each room was very large, white, with very high ceilings. They were completely empty except for the installation pieces. In the first room, there were 4 towers of scrolling LED text in blue, reaching from floor to ceiling, in a square formation. In the second room, yellow LED text scrollers were attached to the ceiling in parallel lines. In the third, it was red LED text scrollers, set into an alcove in the ceiling, criss-crossing each other somewhat like interleaved fingers. The text seemed to be the same in all three rooms, and was a fairly sensuous description of a woman’s body. When it was legible, anyhow–after a while, text would be running in two directions at once, or blinking, or using other effects making it hard to read. I suppose one could read all sorts of things into this–about the death of romance, or the loss of privacy created by technology, or some crap like that, but when Scott asked me what I thought, I told him “I’m not sure I’m getting everything I’m supposed to be getting.” He said it was partly an exercise in showing how the artist could do this neat high-tech thing because she had a lot of money.

We hung out in the gallery until Mo got bored. On our way out, we bumped into an older, professorial-looking guy, who stopped to chat briefly with Mo. As we walked away, Scott told me “That was Andres Serrano“. “Who?” I ask. “You might remember a controversy in the art world a few years ago…” “Piss Christ!”. Yep, that was him.


The bar at the Marriot

My timing was working out just about perfectly. Scott and I walked out to one of the avenues (10th?) and I caught a cab to the Marriot at 45th and Broadway, where I was supposed to meet an net.friend, Kelly, for drinks in the hotel bar. Apparently they used to have a rotating lounge overlooking Times Square, which must have been pretty cool, but that area was closed for rennovation. The bar we did sit in was pretty cool, and had a lot of glass pieces lit from beneath by a rotating color wheel (or something like that). We had a long and wide-ranging conversation about this and that. Eventually it got late, we got the check, and I discovered I had been drinking the most expensive beer I’d ever had. $32 for two wines and two beers. But oh, they had brought tasty little nut-snack deals gratis. It was drizzling in Manhattan when we stepped out, so I made haste to get to an F-line station. When I made it back to Brooklyn, it had stopped raining.

Wednesday, 17 Oct 2001

My last day in NYC. Oh well. It had been a very full trip. Dori didn’t have to be anywhere special that morning, so we had a leisurely coffee and I got my stuff together. We hugged goodbye and I headed into Manhattan by train. I had a coffee date with another net.friend, Robin, somewhere in midtown. When I was closing on the location of her office, I gave her a call, and we met down in the lobby. Headed over to the tea room in the Morgan Library, which was very civilized. Although she and I had corresponded sporadically for some time, this was still sort of a “get to know you” situation for some reason. She told me exactly where I could catch a bus to LGA, and of a cool-sounding exhibit at Grand Central, right next to that. Once I got as far as the bus depot, which was at the base of the Chrysler Building, my feet and left knee were just killing me, so I wimped out and got on the bus out to the airport. $10.


Closing in on the Chrysler Building


Last shot before getting on the bus

At the airport, I went through security, which was taking its job really seriously. Studied my ID, had me remove my glasses. When some spare change set off the (very sensitive) metal detector, I got a very thorough patting-down. Once cleared, I walked past the M15-armed national guardsman and purchased an overpriced sandwich and orange juice and plunked myself down at the small departure lounge at my gate to start reading my new book, 5-minute Iliad. Very funny, by the way. Eventually other passengers started showing up, and four of them sat down next to me. One of them, a man, got to talking with the three women sitting there. He evidently just came from the New Life Expo (red flag!), and discussed how he was “doing some healing” for the disaster victims. It got worse. Evidently this guy never met a crackpot theory he didn’t believe. He was going on about the two theories for the “real” perpetrators of the 9-11 attack. Either time-travellers from the future or the Trilateral Commission. Riiiiiight. He went on in some detail on this subject, also explaining how anthrax was a “virus” (it’s bacterial) engineered by the U.S. Government (it occurs naturally), which won’t release the antidote (only poisons have antidotes, not diseases) because it wants to maintain control over the population (anthrax is treatable with typical antibiotics). The three women seemed to be listening to this nut-job with more than polite interest, but I had to get up and walk away otherwise I would have RIPPED HIS FUCKING HEAD OFF!! if for no other reason than to see if bats would fly out. Not to mention the public service I’d be providing.

The flight was basically uneventful. Had to transfer in Kansas City, and this time I did have to exit one secured area and get checked into the next. Really dumb. Security was tight here too. They were having some guys take their boots off and send the boots through the x-ray machine. They opened my bag, and the pimply-faced young security guy was very puzzled by my firedancing equipment, which I identified simply as “poi”. Got back into Austin pretty late, and caught the blue van home. Phew. What a hell of a trip. I felt like I fit ten days of stuff into four days of time.