03 April 2014

i prefer people watching to shopping

The Fourth Day
text: molly holleran
photography: katie beth

Monday morning KJ and KR went to deal with Bruce while HE and I headed off into the wild blue yonder. She particularly wanted to see Times Square, so we went there first. Actually, first we got onto the M line going the wrong way and ended up going to the end of the line. We were a little frustrated, but it provided a great opportunity for people watching. As we rode out into Queens we got to see the less polished parts of the city, a large step from the gloss of Lower Manhattan. The city is full of old brick buildings, many of which were built at the same time, so you see a row of houses that are all the same though they may have been painted different colors. The houses are all covered in decorative scrolling and careful brickwork, even if they were only intended as housing for the masses. The builders cared about their craft as it would continue to stand, not just the immediate result of a job well done.

At one point, our train held steady with another just long enough to look inside and make eye-contact, if that were not a moray in this society. For a moment I thought, “I could write a book around this phenomenon!” and then I realized that it had already been done. The only person I saw was an older man, sleeping in a seat. He was strongly jowled and gave the impression of being comfortably middle class. The train moved on, and I was left to study the people around me. As we moved closer into Manhattan I noticed that the apparent social standing of the people who were getting on was rising. People were more put together and their shoes were nicer. Shoes are a great way of observing people particularly because if you try to look higher than the floor you run the risk of being observed observing. Instead, you study shoes and socks.

We got to Times Square, looked around, and wondered what to do next. HE wanted to go to Forever 21 and H&M, so we went in and shopped. I felt a bit like husbands and boyfriends might under the same circumstances. The music was loud and invasive. I’m not sure what the atmosphere was supposed to invite, but all I would want to do in a store like that is run in, grab the one item I wanted and get out as fast as possible. Perhaps other people enjoy it more and don’t mind lingering. The H&M even had spotlights, which struck me as odd. Part of me was scared to get caught in them just in case it was part of an attempt to draw attention to particular customers as might be done in a performance. I quickly realized I was being silly. While HE was trying things on I wrote in my journal. We went to one final store the name of which I cannot remember, then began walking to the Strand Bookstore.

On the way to the Strand we stopped to eat a bit, and sat in the chairs in front of the Flat Iron building; a rather impressive edifice. Apparently it creates a wind tunnel and there was a time when men would go there to catch sight of a titillating ankle. After a bit of walking we found our way to the store. For a bookstore it was very busy, and a little overwhelming particularly since my mental list of books I need to get always flies out of my head whenever I enter a bookstore. Clearly I need to create a spreadsheet for it. There were four glorious floors packed full of books. Unobtrusive music played in the background and the staff made no advances of unwanted help. Just the way I like it. The main floor, or rez-de-chaussée, was full of classics and literature as well as the tourist-y stationery supply part. The above floor had a lot more art and children’s books, and the basement was sufficiently dingy and full of Philosophy, science, and foreign language. I started to look for anything by Richard Feynman in the physics section and felt a little pretentious and generally an impostor. K&K met us there and we spend a while hunting for books. KR found a complete collection of Faulkner out in the carts for a dollar, which made her happy. The day done we went home and made food and slept.

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