Pearl Blossoms Pubescently

Trip Start Jun 19, 2010
Trip End Sep 01, 2010

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Flag of United States  , New York
Saturday, August 7, 2010

            DAY FORTY-SEVEN:  It's some kind of amazing that we’re still in New York City.  I feel like I’ve spent the whole time explaining to friends exactly why I’m keen on the place, more or less, but why I don’t want to live here.  I could go into that here, but I won’t, as I’ve mused long enough.  Nevertheless, I do miss stars and dirt and the open road, and don’t think that a full week here was necessary.  But:             We get a call this morning from Joey, our stout mechanic with grease-smeared payos tucked behind his ears, to let us know that Pearl is set and ready to be picked up, and that she’s to cost us around $420 for the repairs.  Gulp.  The Beard packs up all of his stuff as he prepares to fly back to San Francisco for his little brother’s wedding, and we all fret over the miniscule worries that slightly plague this particular day.  Four-hundred, man, and The Beard hasn’t talked to anyone at home, and hasn’t figured out where and/or when he’ll be meeting us again on the road.  Plus, in New York, it seems that the conversation of "the future" comes up more and more often, but then none of that matters now anyway, hey? 

            We get to the mechanic and Pearl is sitting there on the curb, windows down, door open, naked and exposed, and I gnash my teeth at the cretin who’d leave her there, or the monster who would in fact take advantage of such a na´ve and willing treasure.  We go inside, aim directly for the water cooler, and bathe in its cold, luxuriating powers, cup by waxy cup.  The secretary is a young man with blonde hair and a blotchy “beard” like my own, his payos unspooling at the great heights above his conservative blue woolen shirt.  There’s venom aat the end of my tongue, but he’s asking us arbitrary questions of Name, City, Date, License Plate, and we’re lulled into complacent fact-giving before he casually prints out an invoice.  He hands it to us, but does so while stoking our ego, asking, “you have a piano in the bus?”  I’m torn, but still ready to start asking the hard-hitting questions they pay me for, when Joey emerges from the back room with a huge grin on his face.

            “Where you guys goin’ next?  Because I think she’s fixed, as long as you drive her like a man.”  What?  But how – why did you leave her unlocked?  How is it so much money?  What did you even do to her?  I ask none of these questions, but follow him outside, where Shmark is playing guitar, on guard, in the shade.  Before everyone’s settled, he’s peeling the top layer of rubber from the tires, rushing down the busy street, narrowly missing a turning pickup trick, forcing our baby to handle the road like a Porsche (which she could be, were she interested, though I would discourage her from trying to be anything but her beautiful and talented self).  It’s harrowing, and even The Beard – he who hangs off of prize architecture and handstands in front of buffalo – is the one who articulates the fear for his life, but Joey reassures: “I’ve been doin’ this stuff since I was eight years old.  I love it; why would I risk it if I love it?  Like I said, you gotta drive her like a man!”  As he says that, we hear car tires skid violently behind us, seeing that everyone in Brooklyn drives like a maniac, but the fact is that Pearl seems to have her legs back, that spry bounce, the rose in her cheeks, the sparkle in her eyes, and we smile to one another.  Joey keeps on talking with his million-dollar smile, which is now friendly and endearing, since we now believe him and like him (as we should have, I suppose, from the start), explaining how he opened up the turbo and tightened the transmission cable and replaced the rear oil filter and who knows what else, and before long, Cornbread’s at the wheel, testing her, driving her back to base.  En route to the office, we’re chatting like a bunch of friends, but I can’t ignore the number in my brain and I ask him for an exact breakdown of finances.  Joey begins to explain, but he looks around to see our dirty and unshaven faces, and gives: “you want me to give it to you for $350?  I understand, I understand.”  And we follow him inside, where we chat for a while, and he says, “you know what,” and emerges with a handful of Ultimate Truck Repair T-shirts for our wearing enjoyment.  We do indeed all part on good terms, and he follows us outside, shouting, “be safe on your way back!”  What a good fellow, and oh my, it feels good to have our girl back.

            We get back to the cemetery and clean up the girl so she’s all back to normal, and find pairs of Tristan’s underwear in every corner of the place.  We stack all of his stuff onto The Box – he brought a lot of stuff, it turns out, and man, nice and messy.  It takes us a few sweaty hours, but before long we’re marveling at her renewed beauty, and take a few things back to the apartment to be deposited with Eitan.

            After some time lazing and reflecting, we make ourselves determined to visit Caren at her office in the Empire State Building, getting up in the process to the 45th floor for free, but we laze a bit too long and fix our sights instead for Chinatown.  Wandering as hungry aimless as ever, we choose the first restaurant with ducks hanging in the window, and prepare ourselves for a feast.  Starting with light and fragrantly ubiquitous white tea cup, we dive into a platter of duck, and enjoy the fat as it rolls off of our lips.  I even get lucky enough to find a few morsels of liver in there – so delicious – but the salty and crispy skin combines so well with the sweet, juicy dark flesh – that something or anything is quite enough, let alone everything.  Cornbread gets some kung pao chicken, Shmark a spicy eggplant dish, and after the waitress won’t allow me to order “duck palm” whatever that is (“lo, lo, it not good, you not like”), and since they’re out of the goat stomach, I get some pig’s feet and mushroom casserole and enjoy it only moderately (cartilage, fat and skin, will a little bit of marrow?  Even as a Bourdain wannabe, I’m not too proud to admit that it and its inky sauce didn’ quite overwhelm me with pleasure).

            Dinner complete, Shmark and I part ways from Cornbread and head over to Rockefeller Center.  It’s a tangled maze of tourism and shopping, that serpentine jungle you’re led through straight off of the subway, but in time we make it up to the surface to marvel at the architecture.  I don’t know where it was that Rockefeller commissioned Diego Rivera to paint that mural, but these buildings do certainly remind one of that brash American spirit, the foundation of our success as a nation, and in spite of the swarm of people the Art Deco everywhere hits me right in the right spot.  Shmark, further, is happy to snap pictures of the brass plate that reads “30 Rockefeller”, and it’s interesting to see even him swayed by the power of television.

            We get lost a bit, but head on foot over to Grand Central Station, and that, too, is overwhelming in its architectural (or anyway for me, visual, as I wouldn’t know architecture were it to ooze from me) wealth.  It’s on such a large scale – probably the size of one of Bangkok’s terminals – but it’s clean and beautiful and full of history or meaning.  There’s even a Post-It art gallery in one of the wings; woo-hoo!  So that’s that, the extent of my sightseeing in New York City, and we head back on the subway, talking about illicit and embarrassing things while surrounded by strangers.  Isn’t it interesting how, if you get public enough, you start feeling like you’re in private?  A sympton of the isolating effects of a big city.

            We get back to Eitan’s to find that Tristan’s back, and he’s all smiles from his romantic Bostonian re-interlude.  We grill him for the sexy details, and it’s of course good to see him one last time.  We all take showers – separately – and head up to the East Village to meet our respective friends.  I head further north off of the G train to AJ Armstrong’s, an Irish-style pub that plays awful music (Blink-182 and such) while being mostly low-key and neighborly.  Inside, it’s Kuntz’ birthday, and I greet him with a tumbler of Jack on the rocks.  The bartender there is wasted, and when I yawn with my order, she pours me a free shot of something-or-else to wake me up.  Crystal, Edna, Edna 2, and Edna’s roommate, Jennie, are all there, so we get to be ridiculous together one last time before departure.  Kuntz earns his drink by getting the bar to put the Dodger game on TV, and while Crystal struggles to get us to play a drinking game I’m mostly focused on baseball and Thad Willingsley’s 5-0 loss.  Oh well, he had thrown over twenty-one consecutive scoreless innings prior, and that’s not bad.

            After an hour or so, Android arrives, then Eitan, and finally Cornbread, Tristan, and a handful of Tristan’s drunken cousins.  It’s all a mish-mash by then – the bar goes from playing Journey to the themes from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Duck Tales – but it’s good fun, and before they’re all drunk (me?  Never), the bar closes and we head to a twenty-four hour pizza place, where I listen to Kuntz and Jennie debate about the numbing influence of the Internet and how our generation has lost the value of doing things hands-on.  I do not contribute to this conversation even slightly.

            Everyone disperses from here, and the remaining few of us are left cruising the streets like high schoolers, looking for a convenience store that still sells beer, as no one is particularly tired and the night is quiet enough to where a chat in the park would do us some good.  We do eventually find a place where Mick buys some Beck’s, and everyone says goodnight until it’s just myself, Mick and Jennie sitting on the stoop of some boarded-up brownstone.  Mick’s talking about his exploits while working for a famous Californian brewery (whose name I shan’t mention here for the sake of privacy), and speaks of nights getting beaten up until he could no longer stand, or of experiences running from police, spending the night in jail, and I see from his huge flanged side chops that he’s a romantic of the Tom Waits variety.  Still, his stories run dry in time, or he at least senses so, and mid-conversation he declares that he must go home, leaving only Jennie, myself, and the cockroaches that scuttle over our shoes.  The moon is long-gone and the sky is becoming more of a pastel by the minute, but we pass a few hours discussing literature and the like before –
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