New York – Pittsburgh (aborted). Day off.
I dragged myself out of bed at an unseemly hour to get to La Guardia airport for a flight to Pittsburgh. The lighting crew are having a Big Night Out this evening and given that the last time we all went out together was in Barcelona, I thought it only polite to come along too.
On arrival at the airport I noted that the flight was delayed but that didn’t distress me too greatly. I had the Sunday edition of New York Times so figured I’d hole up somewhere and have lunch. This I did (finished the Sunday crossword in under an hour, which is pretty good for me) and it was actually quite pleasant to sit and idle a little time away. Some time later I went to have another look at the board and saw that my flight was no longer showing a gate number or departure time, so went to find a grown up. Behind the customer service desk was a clerk in possession of an accent so impenetrable that it took me a few goes to ascertain that my flight had been cancelled and that the proposed replacement routing had me going via Philadelphia arriving into Pittsburgh at 10pm. I hope my lighting crew will forgive me, but at this point I simply lost the will to live. Travelling only with carry-on baggage, the path of least resistance was to simply walk out of the airport and get into a cab, to arrive back at the Hotel Fabulous four hours and $100 after I’d set out from it this morning. I’m a bit gutted to tell you the truth but I trust the lads will have a good time nonetheless.
Faced with an afternoon of unexpected, enforced leisure, it was a coin-toss as to whether I should go to the bar or go back to bed, the eventual winner being the latter. Resurfacing later I felt somewhat restored but was still sulking a little so opted for taking myself out for dinner and a movie. The movies I liked the look of were downtown, so I had an early dinner at Prune en route. The movie house was a multiplex and sufficiently understaffed to allow freedom of movement between cinemas, so I ended up doing a bit of movie-hopping. I first watched a film about Bill Cunningham, the New York Times fashion photographer who has been documenting New York street fashion since (at least) the 1970s. It’s a fascinating documentary about this wonderful eccentric, who lives like a hermit in a single room in Carnegie Hall. Film number two was another documentary (and the one I’d originally planned to come and see) called Project Nim. This tells the story of an experiment (coincidentally also in the 1970s) to raise a chimpanzee as if it were a human baby and see if it would be possible to hold conversations via sign language. The cast of eccentrics in this one is also pretty hair-raising, including a philandering Columbia professor (with a killer comb-over) and the chimp’s hippy-dippy human mother-surrogate who actually breast-feeds the animal. Of course it all goes horribly wrong but it’s compelling viewing, not least for being a time capsule of 70s New York academia. I considered going for a big three-in-a-row, slipping in to watch the opening of Salvation Boulevard but in twenty minutes or less I could tell that I’d live to regret staying any longer.
Walking out into present day New York, night had fallen and the temperature had plummeted to a comparatively temperate 85 degrees or so. Without really intending to, I ended up walking for a long time. The Lower East Side isn’t a part of New York that I know particularly well, though I seem to remember doing a Tin Machine gig somewhere down here, at some dodgy night club many moons ago, when it was a borderline dangerous neighbourhood. Now it’s a picture of gentrification, bright and bustling, so I had no qualms about just following my nose. I came across a little park where it was all going on, skateboarders, cars with unfeasibly loud and distorted sound systems, kids hanging out and everybody on the phone. It felt good to be out in it, watching the New York weekend wind itself to a close.