Alcatraz

At first glance, Alcatraz didn’t seem to provide much respite from the five days of work I’d just had in San Francisco.

I’d had little sleep all week, so I felt ragged by the time Phil joined me. I needed a nap, a day of lying down, of lazing about on a beach somewhere. San Francisco, rainy, chilly, breezy San Francisco, hadn’t allowed it.

“After this hill,” the guide told the crowd, “there’s another hill. And then once you get over that hill, there’s another.”

I looked down at my strappy sandals.

I was definitely overdressed for prison.

The guide talked a bit about Al Capone, a model prisoner, before sending us off to fetch our audio guides. We were the last group for the day, and if we got to the top too late we wouldn’t have enough time.

“Let’s wait for the crowd to disperse,” is what Phil would have said if people really talked like that in everyday conversation.

As we headed toward the main building, I braced for an arduous climb. I wondered if It would be any worse than a few nights before, when I’d trekked up Nob Hill in heels on the way to a work thing.

“Why am I so out of breath?” I’d asked another reporter amid one of my nonsensical, long-winded stories.

As Phil and I wandered around the premises, we were struck by what we saw. Seagulls flitted about, and blue water surrounded us. We could see the city in the not too far off distance.

“I wouldn’t mind staying here,” I joked.

Such beauty, we’d soon find out, was among the cruelest punishments of all.



Ode to Bill Cunningham

Advertisements

In five months

“I’ve got something to tell you.”

“What?”

“I might have to move.”

It came as a surprise to me, who, just three months before, had uprooted myself from a whole two stops away. The shock lasted all of three seconds.

After all, in New York, people move about as often as they do laundry.

My awesome roommate and I eventually bid farewell, though I have a feeling we’ll see each other just as much as we did when we shared a wall. Which was almost never.

I’ve been a ghost.

Before Ground Zero, it had been five months since I last wrote.

In that time, I moved to a new apartment, was promoted, lost a roommate and found a roommate. I rediscovered the art of writing too quickly, of staring too long at a blank Word document and of furiously researching, interviewing and writing before lunch only to do it all over afterward.

I’ve gotten lost in the Supreme Court, have been to DC more than I’ve been to Richmond or Baltimore, and have read enough court decisions to know there’s much more to know.

I’ve developed a routine, finally. It took being far too busy to go anywhere to finally acknowledge that yes, this is New York, and yes, it’s just another day here.

The novelty is wearing off, the excitement of the new has been replaced by the excitement of a rare weekend of nothing. My longing to be out is superseded by my need to stay in.

The city’s long train rides and days and nights have forced me to be conscious of time.

An extra hour lingering at a bar could mean the difference between a subway ride home or, if it gets too late, a $20 cab ride. An additional minute fussing with my hair in the morning could mean a longer wait on the platform after just missing the last train, setting off a series of missed transfers and scheduled calls. A Sunday afternoon in bed means putting off laundry another week, which means wearing my already questionable jeans another day. Or two.

Buns are key. So are flats for sprinting on the subway. A bag on a Thursday should be big enough for Manila folders but not too big to lug around for happy hour.

Around 5 o’clock on a Friday, as if on cue, women line the bathroom sinks to brush their teeth and whip out the eyeliner. There’s no such thing as stopping by the apartment to freshen up. Appointments with friends, six months in the making, wait for no one.

Somehow, there’s routine in unpredictability.

Nobody knows why the train is late when it’s late. It’s best to double the time you think you need to get somewhere. A dinner reservation actually means “We’ll seat you… eventually.” A sudden late night at the office turns into the takeout of your choice. Chinese? Italian? Something cheese-intensive?

In five months, I moved from a painfully small room to a painfully even smaller room. I learned to lock the window after weeks of leaving it unlocked, study the workings of a once obscenely loud, now comforting radiator, and discovered that some things are better recycled than discarded.

My new roommate moved in last weekend.

So far, all I know is where he works, last lived and what soap he uses. So far, he’s nothing like the last one.

I’ll probably tell you all about him later, in five months.

Ground Zero

I walked down the hall, wondering where they’d hit next.

Someone was bombing hospitals, people in homeroom said. They’re targeting New York, DC, every major city.

What about schools? I wondered. I’m in school right now.

We had a quiz in driver’s ed. The teacher passed it out while the towers repeatedly crumbled on mute behind him.

Everyone knows where they were on 9/11. I was a senior in high school, just three years removed from the city. I remember the pride I felt in New Yorkers. They showed so much strength.

Nearly 10 years later, I heard it from a different kind of chatter. I was alone in my room, this time in Astoria, watching it all unfold in 140-character spurts. A part of me wanted to be in the streets to see it for myself, but the sane part of me kept me home, knowing many already had it covered.

At lunch the next day, there were no mass celebrations or drunken revelry. Gawkers, yes, and curious passersby. Men and women in suits went about their day, stopping here and there to take photos on their phones. Dozens of news stations descended on Lower Manhattan, picking up where their late-night counterparts left off.

I looked at the construction site, where the defiant new tower will stand taller than its predecessors. It will always remind us of a tragic past, as well as a hopeful yet somewhat precarious future.

We’re nowhere near finished.

Construction workers reenter the site.

A woman monitors the sidewalk as too many pedestrians walk past.

$2 flags! $2 flags!

A news crew ushers a group into a church garden.


“GOT HIM”

In this corner, serious discussions.
From behind, his sign still resonates.
This reporter does his stand up, the Daily News at his feet.
Not visible here, but the middle guy has a flag draped around him.
News crews targeted anyone with some semblance of character
It’s funny how a crowd will gather around a previously empty patch of sidewalk at the sight of a few photographers.
And how passing photographers will often take the same shot, not wanting to miss a potentially great photo.
On the fringes.
All photos taken with my Blackberry Tour.