The Past Week or So

SAT scores are in, and not everyone is happy. Graduates graduate, look bewildered, stride down steep hills, gowns flapping open, talking on their cell phones about “the private sector.” The weather, for some reason, is reluctant to please us. Some Geminis spend their birthdays in yoga class, others tripping mushrooms. Both experiences yield the revelation that everything is simoultaneously beautiful and horrible and whatver meaning you ascribe to it is up to you, that life is absurd and hippies are dumb but perhaps not as dumb as they look. We need to feed ourselves and so we interview for jobs, jobs teaching kids infected with or affacted by HIV, jobs teaching kids likely to argue about their grades if they are not sufficiently inflated, jobs attempting to inflate the SAT scores not everyone is happy with. The temperature pulls a Marty McFly and jumps from 55 to 85. The city preheats like an oven to bake us through summer.

Feeling ennui and realizing once again I have too many possessions except the proper footwear and malaria meds Central America requires, I lie prone in the middle of the day watching brilliant HBO drama and comedy set in Los Angeles. I conclude that ennui is a New York disease, should either move to LA and participate in the movie buisness (Entourage)
or move to LA and be dysfunctional and depressed, ocassionally using recreational drugs and while having flashbacks to a recent near-death experience (Six Feet Under). I wonder if watching HBO television shows obsessively on DVD, repeatedly and finally while paying rapt attention to the commentary feature, is a worthwhile use of my time. I decide, emphatically, that it is very much a worthwhile use of my time, or rather, at least as worthwhile as sitting in a cubicle making phone calls all day.

I am liberated from the apartment by a barbecue invitation. Some recently graduated law students are grilling in a ten-foot square of Astroturf in a building that used to be a candy factory and now resembles a dorm. My little group is stealthy and cliquish and somehow this suits the environment. We bring our own sausages, grill them surreptitiously and eat them on special flaky rolls with mustard. Because these dormlike condos seem to thrive on that American notion of privacy that demands that everyone be separated by opaque fencing until their homes resemble jail cells, the party is hidden from us, a vague, intermittment roar of disputed beer pong calls. We smoke a bowl in the dormlike courtyard and walk out into Brooklyn toward the Promenade and the sunset. Everyone’s butt is wet from the grass and this looks childlike and adorable to me. At the Promenade, the light is buttery and idyllic and there are children and people in love everywhere. Even the people alone look beautiful and in love. It is just me and Chloe now and we hold hands and buy Mr. Softee cones and talk to this little kid and that one. Mostly we talk to the little kids about the ice cream and they light up and beg their parents to buy it. The parents relent and then we lose our new friend.

Chloe sleeps over and we eat brunch at the cafe. It is so hot and bright in my room that we get up early and the cafe is mostly empty. There is a litter of kittens in the cafe’s back garden, tiny fluffy skittish things. We eat bagels and drink coffee. We slice and ice a mango and ride the subway for over an hour to Rockaway Beach, reading the Times. I read about Class in America (a ten-part series), I read about Diane von Furstenburg’s choice of hiking boots, I read about autoimmune diseases more likely to occur in women, I read about real estate, power breakfasts, an intallsation of an artist’s studio referencing a 19th-century painting of an artist’s studio that will be occuring at the Met.

Beach 116th Street in the Rockaways is packed. We buy sunblock, a red-and-white beach umbrella. We dip in the frigid water. When I come out my slightly-numbed skin feels like a halo of cold around my body. We dry out in the sun. I apply copious amounts of sunblock, basting myself in salt and sweat and grease. I nap a little, moving from the sun to the shade and back again. I remember that the summer heat is like a series of little fevers, sweats and chills.

We walk a mile down the boardwalk to meet Joe, Chloe’s boyfriend. He has driven from Manhattan in his father’s Cadillac to go surfing. We buy hot dogs, Chipwiches. There is a tiny, crowded area of the beach set aside for surfing. We pick out Joe and see him ride a few waves. The surfers tie their boards to the roof of the Caddy and we drive the length of Queens. Evening beach traffic, we decide, is not stressful; everyone is waterlogged and happy. It’s commuter traffic that is murderous.

We pass through neighborhoods we’ve only heard about, speculate about the restaurants, read the signs aloud. We drive all the way to Jackson Heights and eat an large, spicy Indian meal. Joe drives back to Manhattan and he and Chloe’s San Diego surfer friend manuvers his surfboard through the Queens Plaza subway station. I feel sad for him, this California native, out of place with his unwieldly surfboard and only lame East Coast waves to ride it on.

It takes such a long time to get anywhere and often there is traffic and such heavy things to carry, but there is so much to see if you can make the trip.

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