It is a long drive from Asheville to New York. 12 hours, perhaps more if you are driving in a rented cargo van with commercial plates from South Carolina and thus you get turned away from the Holland Tunnel as being possible terrorists even though both the occupants, road giddy, try to be as Southern dumbass as possible with the cops "Air yew shure, Offisah? We just come up from South Carolina to git us some art!" to no avail. It's long on the way back too, possibly longer, since Secaucus is completely under construction and makes no sense, and highway signs don't tell you how far it is to the McDonalds until you're already committed to the exit.
There are a lot of people in the world. As evening falls and you're somewhere in Pennsylvania that was briefly made famous by Bruce Springsteen and little cars who obviously know where they are and where they're going whizz by on their appointed rounds and the sun slowly sinks behind the whatever the hell that is on the right of the van, you may become homesick and disoriented and give way to a moment of maudlin speculation: to wit - wow. There sure are a lot of people in the world. Look at the lights in that little farmhouse. All those people have families and friends and they all have families and friends and genealogies and histories and it all just goes on and on while I must just drive on and on, alone on the road (okay, not alone, there's F, but we can safely ignore him for the nonce, he's entranced by Carlene Carter) like some figure out of Greek mythology except with the internal combustion engine already invented and all who's condemned to just drive on and on past the lit windows, alone, alone-oh! Don't go there.
Marianne Faithfull singing 1930s German cabaret songs may be the worst driving music in the entire world. The Carter family is good. Elvis Costello is better. Rock would be better yet. F knows many anecdotes on several different subjects. It is surprising how long a conversation about real, unreal and suspected computer bugs and viruses can go on when there is no computer there to look at. Truly surprising.
Buying new shoes for this trip and wearing them might not have been the smartest move you ever made. East Broadway doesn't seem to connect to Canal Street in any meaningful way. You haven't lived here in a long time and the Lower East Side is just not as funky as it used to be. Lower Broadway looks alarmingly like a suburban mall, but that's okay: you have an Old Navy card and they don't have one in Asheville yet anyway! Tra la! Ah, Asian junk. I looooooooooove me some Asian junk. Ooooh! Buy the shiny little things! You need Chinese soup spoons! You need cheap little Mary Jane slippers like you used to have in high school only these are all embroidered (probably by 5 year old political prisoners with bleeding fingers, don't think about that) and soooo cute. There aren't any galleries in Soho anymore. Nobody asked you to buy dope ("Smoke? Smoke coke? Rock?") in Washington Square. How things have changed! But Fanelli's is still crowded. And Canal Street has not changed at all. This is good. Canal Street must never change!
Everyone in Brooklyn has a dog now. And all the dogs are well behaved, except for one reassuringly bad one who is still not as bad as your dogs on a good day. The people who don't have dogs have babies. They buy things for their dogs and babies at tiny cute boutiques with adorable windows which jam the sidewalks, almost squeezing out the trendy coffee shops and micro bakeries and totally replacing the surly Arabs with hole in the wall newsstands where you could buy a Daily News and a bialy on the way to the train. That's okay though, the Village Voice is free now. All the people in Brooklyn are in their 30s and cute and dressed in jeans. They drink in big old bars with huge mirrors and smoke outside, or small Austrian bars full of friendly funny people who smoke secretively in the back. They drink imported beer with unpronounceable names like Jaffel but you can still get PBR in some places.
All the art is in Chelsea now except for one or two galleries left like forlorn holdouts in Soho. In one of them was a show of Russian contemporary artists that had several really good pieces in it by people whose names were polysyllabic and unpronounceable and you would never have remembered them anyway. The gallery attendant seemed surprised when you asked for a list. Most of the gallery attendants in Soho are still beautifully groomed Asian girls in their 20s. Perhaps they're immortal robots? They still treat you like a penniless art student even though you dressed up. You didn't make it to Chelsea really except to stand by a warehouse and watch people load crates into the van.
MOMA is large and white, boxy and confusing. The art is hung apparently by vague stylistic groupings instead of by artists or chronologically thus you run the danger of encountering another Matisse or Picasso in an unexpected place. You can never get a clear look at Rousseau's Sleeping Gypsy but it's still one of your favorite paintings. Pollack is still a genius. There is new art downstairs and a lot of it is really cool and makes you feel like a loser to still be bothering with woodcuts and paint when there is clearly so much more exciting art technology now available. Some of it is rubbish though, and besides, you're experimenting with computer art now too. Anyway by the time you get down to the new art your feet hurt.
Max Fish hasn't changed much. The Mefites are a friendly, articulate and amusing bunch of people. You have a great time. You flirt and laugh and play abysmal pool, making a mental note to get your friend D to tutor you once a week from now on for beers so you won't suck so badly next time. You drink about 200 Yuenglings. It's all good. If only you could stay another day, a week, a month, a year! You wonder how Jackson would do in New York and if you could get a job and an apartment or whether those days are gone, and how your son would do. But alas you must leave Max Fish and say goodbye to the nice drinking people. The band at the next bar is good but you must leave there too, because anyway you are beginning to feel more than a little woozy. You have to be in a cargo van for 12 hours tomorrow, remember? And it's 2 a.m. . . .