Sept 12th, 2003.

New York, NY
New York, NY

It’s been sort of busy in New York. Lots of moving the car so we avoid the street cleaners, lots of walking and figuring out the subway and avoiding the really good-smelling food that I want so much. I think when this trip is over, it will somehow have managed to ruin grilled cheese and nori soup for me. That’s been lunch for two days and will likely be lunch today as well. I can’t believe I’m obsessing this much about food.

We played Tobacco Road in Hell’s Kitchen the other night and might be able to get a gig there, which is pretty cool. Meanwhile I could do nothing but go, “Oh, my god, we’re in Hell’s Kitchen!!!! That’s where Sleepers takes place. This is a real Hell’s Kitchen bar! I want to run out and find that book again right now!!!!” Because, you know, with me, I can have the real bar right in front of me and it just makes me want to book more.

New York, NY
New York, NY

Oh, and with current New York law, it’s illegal to smoke at Tobacco Road. This cracked me up for some time.

Jayson nabbed the camera LONG before we were ready.
Jayson nabbed the camera LONG before we were ready.

Seeing and talking to Jayson again is great. He’s much more open now. We talk for hours, long after rob has gone to bed, about our undying love for journalism despite our alternate career choices, about old teachers. He signed his book contract this week and was inundated with phone calls, and then there were articles in Variety, the Post, etc the next day. I forget sometimes the noteriety of our host

But despite his pariah status, his apartment suggests irreverance, sarcasm, mixed with a concerted desire for self-betterment. I open a magazine and a bookmark falls out that reads: “Every exit is an entry somewhere. – Tom Stoppard.” As if posted by a proud parent like their child’s A paper, Jayson has placed, under a Care Bear magnet on his refrigerator, a recent clean drug test. I am amused when, flipping through his coffee table books I happen upon a truly arresting photo book from controversial, congressionally condemned artist Andres Cerrano with the post-scandal inscription: “To Jayson, from one good guy to another. AC.”

Heather is a pants stealer.
Heather is a pants stealer.

Today he cracked me up. I rounded a corner in Strand, a labrynthine book store that boasts 8 miles of books, to find Jayson, all five-foot-one of him, still atop a gray milk crate he’d used to pull a book from an upper rough-wood shelf, reading a volume about the New York Times and framed in the doorway of the little room under its red directory sign: JOURNALISM.

New rule, the third Heather rule of the trip by my count (rule one, established pre-departure, was no hot dogs. Rule 2, established after a very unpleasant morning-after in Phillie, was no mushroom cheeseburgers):

ALWAYS carry a camera.

Sept. 13th, 2003.

Whee! Us being all touristy.
Whee! Us being all touristy.

“After rob goes to bed INDEED!!!” I lie awake for hours, waiting for Heather’s return. The cool weather of fall has arrived, making New York beautiful like Baltimore after a rain. Heather’s a creature of exceeding warmth and I lie huddled under flannel sheets, shivering, waiting for her return.

Chocolate Heaven in Times Square. Heather took me around Times Square and ... well, being downwind of all the candy places was the best part.
Chocolate Heaven in Times Square. Heather took me around Times Square and … well, being downwind of all the candy places was the best part.

Today we wandered out to see a movie. Something out of a distant past, almost. We’re trying to be so careful about money, but Jayson dragged us out for lunch, a movie – and just to see the town. He’s an excellent guide, and we saw vegan cookies and steam vents and toy stores and book stores. I finally saw the new Oz series by McFarlane! Soo pleased. The Lion’s awesome! (removable entrails!)

Anywho, we went and saw the Order, which would make a great Episode I for some strange and distorted superhero series – but lacked a certain something as a movie in it’s own right. But it had all the important elements for a good flick: distorted Catholic imagery, a cult, good voices, a hot art chick lead, blood and paint, and a pretty unexpected twist. Great idea, it just sort of floundered in it’s realization. In the same vein, I told Jayson to go check out Hyperion by Dan Simmons. Catholics and blood, man. All I need.

the huge ferris wheel in the Times Square Toys R Us.
the huge ferris wheel in the Times Square Toys R Us.
Sometimes we're working. Sometimes we're watching Legend.
Sometimes we’re working. Sometimes we’re watching Legend.

So – the return to the apartment. We sauteed ourselves up some lime shrimp, and made ourselves some couscous, and this, combined with English Muffins, made for an admirable feast. All made from the raiding of Jayson’s refrigerator (which I think I can’t spell…)

“This shot be just as sweet as pie”

Ah, Legend. Heather’s discovered the joy of watching DVDs in bed on her computer. If I get derailed, it’s cause the unicorns are all making weird whaley noises, and lil TImmy Cruise isn’t controlling his girlfriend enough.

Anywho, despite my initial fears, the infamous Jayson Blair has turned out to be a fantastic host. A friend of mine, also in New York, had offered us his floor just in case Jayson turned out to be “a classic new york shitgrinning partyboy fuckup leech”. I was initially really turned off by both Heather’s description of him and some of his New York Times exploits… lemme ‘splain.

First off, I couldn’t care less about plaigerism at a major newspaper. It seems to me that anyone who believes everything they’re being told from any particular source is either inexcusably naive or inexplicably stupid. Anyone who believes that the NY Times isn’t just another business out to move product, well, the same adjectives apply. (“A world turned to ICE!! It be goblin PARADISE!!!”) I was nervous because Heather described Jayson as a fantastic journalist, with an inquisitive nature and an unstoppable intellect. Heather’s opinions of people, I don’t usually trust them at first… (well, that goes for MOST people’s opinions of other people) and in this case, my take on what Heather felt was a fantastic journalist sounded like a nosy, parasitically curious person, who perhaps believes highly in the Truth, but only at the exclusion of morality.

Below that is Soul Plane from Drexel Hill, PA. Hrm, should’ve made that picture bigger, but space is becoming sparse on ze server. Death.

[note that stuff like that – about making the pic bigger? EXACTLY one of the reasons I’ve started moving things over! It HAD been displayed like…

… so I think I’m making good choices! – rob 12/11/17]

Also, in finding out more about Jayson, I found that one of the stories he’d failed to show up at, but had still “reported on” was the Sniper Shootings. That was my neighbourhood – people died – I passed one of the victims and watched her bleeding out in front of a Shell Station. I didn’t even know it at the time, but I was watching a person die from absolutely senseless violence… AGAIN.

People died. Jayson treated it as a work assignment that he wouldn’t, or couldn’tĀ face. That’s great when you’re covering a horse race, or something even more useless and prone to fabrication, like a presidential race – but these were genuine human Lives. They were not treated justly – I was up in arms about that.

But Jayson Blair the person? I think I understand why he’s done what he’s done, and he’s amazing to watch in action. Tonight he got a phone call – a possibly million dollar movie deal based on his upcoming book. He’s using all this as a platform to speak out on journalism and the culture eating away within the profession. I don’t like the way he handled his dissolution, but the revolution he’s planning in it’s wake is admirable.

Jayson Blair IN person? He’s dynamic. Hyped on coffee and purpose. He’s perhaps a little crazed, but that’s nothing new to me. The apartment is an education. Sparsely decorated. It’s mostly books. Tom Clancy and Roger Zelanzy, a dozen biographies, dozens of novels on conspiracy theories, the debunking thereof, CIA spy books, black ops and black history. Books on French made easy. The Smack’em Frog (Golden Grahams? something like that) lies deceased across a shelf, his verdant hand pointing to “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order”.

His current obsession is Hitler. His girlfriend says he mentions him in his sleep – “Who killed the Jews honey?” “Hitler did.” A conversation held unconscious after a crazy marathon of writing… not a chain smoker, but a man who wishes perhaps that he could be mainlined into a coffeepot – minus the fact that he brews it six times over, turning it into a thick sludge of concentrated caffeine. There’s a crusade embedded in his head. Drive.

It’s strange, hearing the phone calls, then seeing the headlines the next day. It’s strange to see the press in action against its own – well, not really AGAINST, I suppose. They’ve been pretty fair recently. (though while going through today’s papers,k of which Jason bought about four on our tour of the city, one writer referred to Jayson as ‘Mr. Liar Liar Pants on Fire”). Mr. L.L. Pof takes all of this in stride.

It’s strange to realize that I genuinely like the guy. My taste in people tends to run immediately contrary to Heather’s, but Jayson – he’s relaxed, calm, confident. Oh, and twanging with excitement. Those two sentances should be mutually exlusive I suppose, but really it depends on the moment you catch him.

Recently, he’s taken to leaping on us while we lie unawares in bed. There’s that horrible moment when I wake up, Heather snuggled snoozing comfortably in the crook of one arm, and there’s a slowed down moment in time as drowsing eyes look upward – and Jayson Blair, of the cover of Newsweek, is involved in an incredible feat of hang-time above our bed, grinning maniacally. He has leapt from the door, and time rushes back in as he comes crashing down upon us. All sorts of affection.

It’s cause he hates people, I’m assured.

Dinner was an education in power consumption, like in Apollo 13. Slowly switching appliances on one by one, blowing the breaker, shutting everything down and starting over again. Eventually, we used the hotplate to cook the shrimp, the toaster oven for the muffins, and the microwave for… something. I don’t remember what we microwaved.

We had dinner steaming and then went about turning the coffee maker back on, the lights, plugging the refrigerator back in. New York plumbing and electrical wiring leave much to be desired.

And that’s all I’ve got to say. I want to catch Annabelle Lanyon’s last scene. Have never been able to decide whether she’s attractive or not.

Well, that’s a lie, the best part about Times Square was that we were truly allowed to be tourists there. People were filming themselves crossing the bloody streets. It sucked, cause we treated ourselves to our “last fine dining out experience” in Times Square at the Macaroni Grill there… I lie… the Garden whatchamacallit that WISHES it was Macaroni Grill. – anywho, I figured it would be… nicer, somehow, sitting in Times Square. But the bathrooms were SHIT. Literally.

Heather in the window at Jayson's.
Heather in the window at Jayson’s.

Erf, enough of this… time for bed. Maybe. Maybe chocolate. Mmm, I wonder if Jayson has any chocolate in the house (raid raid raid).