New York, part II

Money can buy strange things. When it comes to, for example, the public beach near Brooklyn that a friend and I visited on Saturday which is accessible by subway and free to the public, as compared to the beach a little further away that we visited on Sunday and that requires taking the Long Island suburban train and paying a surprisingly high entrance fee, a mere $22 may not be enough to buy a police helicopter but it is enough to buy the absence of a police helicopter constantly canvassing the beach, as well as a remarkable instantaneous skin-lightening procedure for the other beach-goers.

Of course money can’t buy everything. But with even less, in fact with the mere effortless fact of being born you can apparently gain the infinite self-satisfaction with which an obese old woman this very morning at the table next to us in a café while we were sitting down interrogated us, with absolutely no preface and before my lowering body had even reached the chair: “You’re not from New York, are you?” To which I wanted to reply: “No, which is what guarantees that I’ve traveled more than two blocks from home in my life.” But then again, if you antagonize old women the world is never on your side.

The city is such a thunderous furnace of barely contained chaos, it’s no wonder it’s been so hot the last couple of days that it almost seems like the weather gods’ contribution to the atmosphere for the Puerto Rican National Day parade. I was envious of the guy covered only in flour and a loincloth that we saw in Williamsburg one night who came staggering out of a bar where the band which he seemed to be associated with was playing and started performing some sort of cataleptic dance on the sidewalk. Then again, for me to pull off all my clothes like that would have required some sort of justification as performance art, which seems to throw a burka-like veil of respectability over all forms of public nudity. As my friend said, “Even though they may not have any particular merit, I’m sort of glad that things like that happen here.” Which probably sums up the American public’s attitude towards its arts scene, and maybe to New York as a whole, as well as anything can.

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