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I owe you all an apology.

Back several months ago, I promised a diary entitled "Raptured by Gil Thorpe" for this Saturday.  It was going to be a fine evisceration of a best-selling series by a talentless hack whose day job involves writing a comic strip, and as late as two weeks ago I thought I'd have no problems writing and queuing it up.  

And then the life happened, and the diary...well, it didn't.  So in lieu of Gil Thorpe, this morning you get a love letter to the Queen of Cities, a place of crime and wonders, beauty and poverty, the source of so much culture and so much greed.  

This morning, my friends, I bring you not a book, or two, or even three.  I bring you my weekend in New York.

As I mentioned a few days ago, I tried out for Jeopardy on-line a couple of months ago, and after basically forgetting all about it, I received an e-mail asking me to come to New York this past weekend for an in-person audition.  After I got over my initial shock (and confirmed that no, this was not the latest attempt by a Nigerian named Chukwu Mbumbe to mulct me of my hard-earned millions thousands hundreds of dollars if I would only give him my bank account and Social Security numbers so he could use my accounts to spirit his trillions out of the country, I clicked "yes, I will attend" and made plans to go to New York.

The only problem:  I would be traveling to New York over a holiday weekend, on fairly short notice.  

As I'm sure most of you have guessed, this meant that the hotel prices were, to put it mildly, well outside my budget unless I wished to stay at the luxurious Le Poisson du Garbage Youth Hostel and Laundromat (conveniently located behind the Polish/Thai fusion Roach-A-Rama ice cream stand in the Bowery).   Either that or I'd have to get up around 5:00 am, take Amtrak into the city, audition while either barely conscious or completely hopped up on No-Doz chased down by Red Bull, and then turn around and go right home.  

I mentioned this sad state of affairs to my BFF, Beata.  She in turn mentioned it to her sister, Bella, who lives in Murray Hill.  Bella, God bless her, offered us both crash space for Friday and Saturday nights.

And so I took the afternoon off from work, met Beata at her home, and together we boarded a Peter Pan bus named "Tink's Wink" or something equally ridiculous, and we set off for New York.  The bus was crowded, our seats were small, and thanks to an incompetent desk agent at the Peter Pan terminal in Springfield, we were the last ones on the bus and only were able to sit together thanks to the kindness of a woman who shifted seats at the last minute.  

Despite this, and the gloom of a rainy dusk, the trip down went fairly smoothly.  We bypassed the hell of Hartford's rush hour thanks to being in the carpool lane, and made excellent time to New York itself.  It wasn't until we were actually in Manhattan, around West 60th, that traffic got bad enough to delay us, and I swear I could have walked faster than the Tink's Wink traveled the couple of blocks covering Lincoln Center.  

Thanks to that, we were somewhat late in arriving at the Port Authority.  We were also somewhat later than expected in arriving at Bella's apartment, although this may be partially due to Beata kindly swinging by the Chrysler Building so I could go into full Tourist Mode as I stared up, and up, and up, at its icy white spire stabbing up into the rainy night.  The security guards yelled at us for trying to see the gorgeous Art Deco murals of the lobby, but even a glimpse was enough that I was practically swooning on the sidewalk.  

I think my reaction made her smile.

It was only a few blocks from the Chrysler Building to Bella's apartment, and after a quick stop at a bodega to buy our hostess some flowers, we arrived in good order.  Soon an ultra-thin crust pizza had arrived from a local restaurant, and we were sitting up talking and laughing while the sisters baked a coffee cake for breakfast and I watched that night's episode of Jeopardy on DVR.  I also spent more time than was strictly necessary gazing out the window at the view from Bella's window, but can you blame me?

The next morning I got up early (earlier than I should have, but somehow I didn't sleep all that well - funny, that), helped Bella rouse Beata so she could meet their parents at Roosevelt Field for a day of shopping and catching up, and got ready for the audition.  Bella walked me to the subway (right past the Empire State Building, which I hadn't realized had such an enormous footprint, or such gorgeous detailing on the lower floors), made sure I took the right line to get to my audition, and sent me on my way.

I had no problem finding the hotel where the interview took place, and soon enough I was one of about 21 people (several of them military personnel) trying out for one of the slots on the upcoming season of Jeopardy.  It turns out that 100,000 people took the on-line test and only 2,500 were asked to come in for an actual face to face audition, so I was reasonably psyched about that.  They'll choose 400 of us for an actual appearance, so that may or may not happen, but I still had a lot of fun, especially the taped interview where they make sure you have the personality to go on TV without imitating a shocked and very unhappy coelacanth.  They gave us a Jeopardy! logo pen and a set of very nice earbuds for our swag, and we all wished each other luck and were out the door by 2:00 pm.

After that I tromped over to the Museum of Natural History, where I had a hot dog from a Sabrett's cart and met up with my college roommate Shosanna.  Shosh, whom I hadn't seen in far too long, was my co-conspirator when it came to founding SSFFS, and we had a fine time at the Museum as we went from dioramas to astronomical displays, the butterfly conservatory to the minerals display, and plenty in between.  Our favorite parts were probably the butterfly conservatory, where she managed to get a picture of an Atlas moth (yes, they really are that big) and the minerals section (which has moon rocks and meteorites, but alas has yet to acquire samples of kryptonite, adamantium, or vibranium).

After that we went back to Bella's apartment, went out for Chinese, and then feasted on a chocolate mousse cake Shosh picked up at the Zaro's in Penn Station for dessert.  She had to leave for home in New Jersey fairly soon after that, alas, and I sort of faded out by 11:20 (excitement and very, very sore feet will do that), but it had been a wonderful day.

The next morning I woke on my own at 7:00 to a sky the deep, shimmering blue that only comes in spring and fall, and air that smelled sweet and fresh. The Empire State Building all but glowed in the early sun, and I smiled to myself as I puttered about and made tea.  Bella got up soon after and we talked, then finally roused Beata so we could spend some time at a street fair on Lexington.  We did just that, walking uptown while the Chrysler Building glittered in the sun, and as I marveled at just how places sold Indian scarves and skirts and t-shirts of New York and fizzy water and burritos and shish kebab and superhero t-shirts and calendars and jewelry and souvenirs of New York and "silk socks" and incense and Indian food and Spanish food and Italian sausage and t-shirts and Indian skirts and sunglasses and shea butter hand cream...

It was just an instant, a momentary glimpse, but there it was:  a woman, dusky skinned, in a hijab that covered everything but her face and a robe that skimmed her ankles, waiting at a police barrier to cross the street.  Next to her were two young Asians, possibly Chinese or Vietnamese, in Western edgy/artistic/Bohemian black, arms wrapped about each other as they waited for the cabs to rocket past.  A few feet to one side was a  Middle Eastern food place promising shish kebabs and gyros, right beside a t-shirt place and a sunglass stand.  Behind the woman in hijab was a booth selling allegedly silk stockings that were nothing more than nylon knee-highs, and beyond that was a Spanish food booth hawking burritos and churros, between a booth selling Marvel and DC t-shirts and one selling calendars even though it's far enough into 2013 that anyone who wanted a calendar has one.  Beyond that, stretching for blocks, were men and women of all colors, all ethnicities, all sexualities, tall and short, thin and fat, brown and pinky-tan and black, Muslim and Christian and Jewish and Hindu and Buddhist, some rich, some poor, some walking dogs, some with lovers or friends, some alone, all out for a good time on a beautiful day in a city that never sleeps.

It was America, my friends.  America as she should be, "we the people" as they truly are.  It was the reality of our country, all there in the shadow of a skyscraper built during dark times that stands defiant and gorgeous in the summer sun.  

More than that, it was New York.  And I was lucky enough to be there with two dear friends to see it.

Oh, there was more - a great little Indian place on Lexington where we had a great lunch and saw the most amazing sink...Grand Central Station standing defiantly under the looming glass and stone of the MetLife Building...the silky smooth bus ride home past the newly renovated pavilions at Harlem Hospital, complete with the exterior tiles of the Charles Alston WPA murals inside...being met by Beata's husband and telling him all about it, and then coming home so I could tell Roomie after the Triple Felinoid group-greeted me...so many wonders, so many good things to see!  But of everything I said and did this weekend, the sight of that woman, and that couple, and that ordinary, extraordinary street fair -

I saw something that confirmed, more than anything else, why I love New York, and why I love my country, and why I still think that despite everything, this great, glorious, conflicted, too religious, too secular, too commercial, too idealistic, too beautiful and hideous and bigoted and progressive and exploitative and forward thinking mess of a country is worth fighting for.

I went to New York to audition for a game show, and I saw what my country is, and what she should be.  Who could ask for more?

%%%%%

And so, my friends - how did you spend Memorial Day weekend?  A barbecue?  A visit to the cemetery?  The movies?  Sleeping in?  Not sleeping at all?  Come and share....

%%%%%

Readers & Book Lovers Series Schedule

DAY TIME (EST/EDT) Series Name Editor(s)
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Sun 9:30 PM SciFi/Fantasy Book Club quarkstomper
Bi-Monthly Sun Midnight Reading Ramblings don mikulecky
MON 11:30 AM Political Book Club Susan from 29
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Mon 11:00 PM My Favorite Books/Authors edrie, MichiganChet
TUES 5:00 PM Indigo Kalliope: Poems from the Left bigjacbigjacbigjac
alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM LGBT Literature Texdude50, Dave in Northridge
alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM All Things Bookstore Dave in Northridge
Tue 8:00 PM Contemporary Fiction Views bookgirl
WED 7:30 AM WAYR? plf515
Wed 2:00 PM e-books Susan from 29
Wed 8:00 PM Bookflurries Bookchat cfk
THU 8:00 PM Write On! SensibleShoes
Thu (first each month) 11:00 AM Monthly Bookpost AdmiralNaismith
Thu (third each month - on hiatus) 11:00 PM Audiobooks Club SoCaliana
FRI 8:00 AM Books That Changed My Life Diana in NoVa
Fri 6:00 PM Books Go Boom! Brecht
SAT (fourth each month) 11:00 AM Windy City Bookworm Chitown Kev
Sat 9:00 PM Books So Bad They're Good Ellid

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Mon May 27, 2013 at 07:46 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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