Thursday, October 02, 2008

New York City, Open Spaces, and EATB at RCMH

I'm home today, on a day that can be accurately described as "blustery". I expect to see Piglet fly by at any moment.

I've been thinking about going for a walk all day, but I haven't wanted to drive anywhere. It's silly, really--I live in the country. All I have to do is walk outside to experience the Fall weather. Lots of New Yorkers drive to where I live to experience Autumn In The Country. Which can make things less enjoyable for those of us who live here, but tourism keeps taxes down, so we put up with it.

This morning I woke up in New York City. I went to see Echo & the Bunnymen at Radio City Music Hall last night. Given previous concert experiences, I decided it was better if I did not try to run frantically to the last train to New Jersey at 12:30, and got a hotel room just off Times Square instead. It turned out to be a blessing.

First, let me tell you about the show. It was absolutely magnificent. The stage set was beautiful, they had images from the Bunnymen's early years projected on two screens to the left and right of stage, and the band sounded amazing. Unfortunately, I was ill through most of the show. I was out drinking at the pre-show meetup with some other Bunnymen fans, and then my friend Chris and I wandered off to another bar before going to the show. The place we ended up going to was a bit more upscale, and they mostly served wine and hard liquor. I drink red wine all the time, but certain varieties really screw up my head. Unfortunately, I ended up drinking one of those varieties of wine, and felt horribly sick through the show. I ended up leaving during the Ocean Rain set--I thought I was going to pass out. I was very glad to not be getting on a train--and then driving home for 40 minutes.

The show had 2 parts--the first part of the show was a mixture of their more well-known tunes, the second half of the show was the entire Ocean Rain album, complete with live orchestra. I read some complaints about the sound on the forum, but it sounded incredible to me--Ian McCulloch's voice was flawless, and Will Seargent was playing in top form. The drums were amazing as well. Here is the setlist for the first half:

Lips Like Sugar
Bring on the Dancing Horses
I Think I Need It Too
The Disease
All That Jazz
Back of Love
All My Colours
People are Strange
Nothing Lasts Forever/Walk On the Wild Side/In The Midnight Hour
The Cutter

So, I woke up in a hotel on 51st Street this morning. As I was leaving for the subway, I was struck by how quiet New York is at 7:00 in the morning, and how the streets are relatively empty. Times Square is a veritable zoo during the day, and more so at night--now there were only a few people here and there. The wind was blowing, and it occurred to me that New Yorkers have a wonderful Autumn all their own. The subway station was nearly empty, save 2 or 3 other people, and even Penn Station, which is almost always busy, was very quiet in its busy-ness.

New York is not for the claustrophobic. I've been to many big cities, and there is nothing anywhere like the densely populated spaces of New York. I am reminded of a J.G. Ballard short story that I read once--I think it was called "The Concentration City". The main character goes to the far reaches of the vast city to see if there is free space to test a flying machine. Even reading the story makes me claustrophobic--the idea that all space is occupied in all directions and has to be paid for. I love New York City, but I couldn't live there on account of that lack of space. I am physically exhausted by the time I come home. However, my experience walking around in an emptier city this morning made me realize that there IS space in New York City, if you know when to look for it. It's ironic in a way (see my earlier post on "quiet spaces")--I can find quiet space in New York City, but not in the country.

Riding home on the train this morning, I was looking at the portion of the Meadowlands that the train passes through en route to Newark Broad Street. I know way more about the Meadowlands than I want to, as my current funded digital project revolves around digitizing materials related to the history of the area and the commissions designed to keep it as a protected estuary. Looking at the herons sitting on top of wood and other debris in the water, I couldn't help but notice that nature in an urban area always manages to look polluted. The masses of green algae would not look out of place on a pond near my house, but it looks like a polluted mess in the industrial wastelands of East Jersey. I'm continually amazed at how different East and West (and South) Jersey are from each other.

Only 2 more weeks til I go to London. And I will NOT be drinking red wine before the John Foxx show.

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