I moved out of 160 Bleecker St. this morning with a small bag of clothes, my laptop and my camera and with more questions than I could possibly answer in a lifetime, let alone today or tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. Everything is new, everything is on the table and where this journey leaves me is something I’ll discover only when I get there (wherever “there” may be). I made my way to the job with a set of feelings and emotions that I had never felt before.
After work I went to Williamsburg and moved into the Williamsburg HostL, a small, private hostel at 318 Bedford Avenue, located on the west side of the street between South 1st and South 2nd. I was greeted by a group of twentysomethings from Germany visiting New York, but neither Dan nor Ken, the proprietors of the hostel, were there when I arrived. After my introductions to the group, I sought out a bed for my stay. There are two rooms for guests at HostL, each one with bunk beds; the bottom bunk is often a queen-sized mattress for couples. The only mattress available in the room I was in was the top bunk of the bed against the south side of the room, so I put my stuff in the locker next to it and claimed that one for myself.
Dan got in after a while and we exchanged stories and then went our separate ways for the night. I ended up going to drinks at Savalas, a great bar diagonally across the street from HostL to enjoy a few whiskey and Cokes and, it turns out, plenty of good conversation with random people throughout the night. The bartender was a cute brunette with a sweet laugh and welcoming smile, wearing a bandana wrapped about her head. The bar has a projector and was screening Picturing a Metropolis, an amazing DVD containing 26 old, short films about New York. The oldest film in the collection was from 1899 and the “newest” was made in 1940, so the entire program was a view into New York’s past, into some of the great and varied histories of people and places that have made New York one of the greatest cities in the world.
As I sat on the last stool at the end of the bar, watching images of the old city illuminate the darkness of this dimly lit space, I felt the stirrings of a sensation that I hadn’t felt for quite some time. As these pictures of a time that is no longer—but of places that remain and continue to inspire—flickered in and out of existence, the shifting shapes of that once familiar feeling began to solidify and I slowly recognized the return of my oldest friend: wonder.
“Welcome back old friend, I’ve missed you. What next?”
“ I don’t know. Let’s take our time and see what happens: you have an entire city to explore. No telling the things you’ll see.”
With wonder at the return of my wonderment, I grabbed some paper napkins and began to write down the first drafts of the thoughts that I’m now setting down. No telling the things you’ll see. If I ever give this project a real title, or really try to summarize its scope, “no telling the things you’ll see” will be it.
As the night went on, I had a number of interesting conversations with people. One of them, DM, a writer and reporter for the business press, was very impressed with the length of my RSS feed list (who says size doesn’t matter?) and also shared my love of tobacco, so we ended up outside, on Savalas’ smoking patio, talking politics and religion and relationships and I can’t remember what else. I wanted to see more of the neighborhood, so after Savalas, another drink was had at Lucky Dog, a beer bar with a backyard patio and a shuffleboard table, also on Bedford St., a block south of Savalas.
The night came to an end thereafter.
Now back at HostL, I laid in bed listening to Leonard Cohen, with everything feeling different and new. I drifted in and out of sleep for most of the night, struggling to process all of the conflicting emotions I was feeling, trying make sense of all the recent madness, all of the recent loss and change: I had barely gotten back from the funeral of an uncle who had twice beaten cancer but who wasn’t able to win the game on the third go round when a final fight with JA brought our wondrous, rocky marriage to a close. Now, there I was, laying in the top bunk of a hostel in Williamsburg, on the first night of a walkabout through the five boroughs where I will explore as much of the city as I possibly can, for as long as I can possibly do it. I was caught somewhere between hope and fear, encased and enraptured by the line that runs from anticipation to trepidation and back again. It was a feeling not dissimilar to the beginning stages of an acid trip, when the drug is just starting to kick in, when the world still retains its consensus décor but you first notice your traditional perceptual rules giving way to something new and radically different, something that you know can fuck you up but which you hope will set you free. As this feeling ebbed and flowed through my consciousness I thought again of my hopes for this project and realized the words I had written earlier had even greater import than when I first expressed them. This was the first night of a journey towards achieving greater freedom and there was, truly, no telling the things I’d see.