The Diaries: Ping-Pong Life
16th June – Return in NYC
“Drink coffee so you can do stupid things faster and with more energy.”
Re-entered the US yesterday, took train into Manhattan, stopped at 53rd and 7th. Dive-in to the giant city.
Then met G and friends at the sailing school. That and gin tonics significantly uplifted my spirits. We motor-sailed out (free of charge) to the clubhouse barge to watch the regatta amongst the drunken well-off strata.
Wonderful view of the city’s skyline, the one I’d been seeking all along, the One, that which I need, but had run out of battery on my camera. Hang time with the club people.
Returned to Manhattan, split with G, assuring him I had a place to stay. Found a removed patch at Central Park, behind the empty wooden stand of day merchants. Woke up from mosquito bites, cool midnight breeze. Proceeded to hobo-sleep the rest of the night in fortuitously lit and half-open entrance of a building on 68th street.
Concierge in the morning let me doze off a bit longer.
The past 15 days?
I had paused the diaries for two weeks, little do I remember now of the interesting details – was very busy, little rest: in fact I probably am more exhausted now that I was prior to the Hiatus. Found myself to be (un)pleasantly comfortable as a salesman.
Could not entirely suppress the feeling that friends already see me as having abandoned the monotony to ‘live the life’ while they perhaps linger in the numbness of routine and stability. I hope to be wrong.
How untrue. But grass tends to be green.
@ West side restaurant, cup of coffee. Talkative Italian-sounding owner: Mount Olympus, Maria Sharapova, when she smoke she don’t talk, etc. Complete and good-natured bullshitter, although an elderly and proper and regular lady customer doesn’t catch the irony.
20th June – Brooklyn Mystery Party
This w/e worked out a bit. Very nice weather. On Saturday night went with George and some of his friends to a mysterious artsy party on the outskirts of town, past Brooklyn. Among the festivities:
A pirate-like bar dug in an arcade under the highway, nickel-drinks, nickel black jack, candle-lit and torch-lit concrete smothered in decaying graffiti, then, when people were drunk enough, and after starting a pitfire, drunk-women boxing on the sand floors, with an amused though not hysterical crowd.
We left as the day rose, fell asleep in the car. Stumbled out in Queens and made it back here with some slight difficulty.
Now the week starts. Spend some days in front of the screen…
June 23rd – Homestead
Home, sweet home. What a delight it was to return once again to my humble wheeled abode.
Met a guy on the plane, fifty although he looked no older than forty.
Started talking, first about travelling, let him do the talking, about being a frequent flyer, switching up airlines to get his gold status back and so on, let him talk more, got from that that he was probably some kind of sales rep. After an appropriate time to establish a little intimacy, inquired more specifically about his line of business: he worked for TV, several jobs, technical and managerial, now works in a start-up that produces an allegedly revolutionary video device that enables live TV quality broadcasting (instead of having to use those big antenna trucks which are no doubt on the way out (who builds those trucks / antennas? Sell sell sell!).
He’s been to China recently, Shenzhen, am interested to hear that “it felt like here.” He’s not referring to the language, but rather to the economic and corporate mindset, to the overall comfort of the amenities.
N, that’s his name, has two daughters, in early twenties. We talk a bit about parenting, education. He’s opposed to the over-achiever pedagogy, pushing kids too hard, till they grow angry and unbalanced and never satisfied with themselves (although self-satisfaction certainly comes with its own treacheries). Saw an editorial to this effect in the NY Times. On the other hand, he’s also opposed to the “everybody’s a winner” mentality – was an episode in the show How I Met Your Mother about this topic.
So he’s now 50, divorced five years ago after a 20-year marriage, spends some time on online dating sites, apparently meets some nutty (read: nymphomaniac slash fetishistic) women there. Has a good idea for a book title based on the conversations he has over the phone with these women (I feel free to divulge it here since it doesn’t seem he’ll actually use it): “You’re over 40 and you’re divorced: welcome to the twilight zone”
Most interesting part of the conversation (to me) is an anecdote (the word seems disproportionately trivial) about a near-death experience.
N says: “I often think of life like the ping-pong balls in the lottery machine. Y’know, every time they hit each other and take a different turn. Every split second.”
He was speeding on a highway in Texas, maybe 85 – he has a radar detector, he evidently took some pride in the fact he was speeding – and was about to overtake two trucks. But the rear truck switched lanes, to overtake the first truck just before he got there. N slammed the breaks.
As he’s following the truck to the left (this is a two-lane road), the truck to the right suddenly swerves out of control.
The right truck hits the left one, “metal scraps flying in the air, there’s a door that flies right past me.” N slammed the breaks once more, this time to a complete stop.
The driver of the swerving truck died in the accident. The other trucker was bawling afterwards.
“I could’ve died right there. If that second truck hadn’t decided to overtake the first at that exact moment, forcing me to slow down. It would’ve been me.”
The ping-pong balls.
“They might not have been there.” His kids. He thinks about how parenthood changes life perspectives.
“It makes a big difference.”
I believe him. Beyond one’s love for their children, I think there also comes the realization that we’re only a part of a reproductive chain, a mere link, not an end point.
This thought inflates, and not the reverse.
@ Sunny Bryan’s, a local BBQ chain, at N’s suggestion. Tomorrow I will go to Clarks, hole in wall hour and half outta town, on way to Oklahoma City.