a description of sunset at the winter garden.

Between me and the sun there’s a lamp and a tree.  The lamp is classic. Tall, dark, handsome, and capped, but its light is a stiff green-white glare. Probably energy-efficient LED, so I can’t complain too much. The tree is great; it looks like a naked bush on stilts. Naked because it’s leafless — it’s January — and the ends of the upmost branches all meet at the same point and flare out like an overgrown menorah.

What I really want to tell you about, though, is the sky. It caught me off guard, and probably also the four or five other people around me who just pulled out their cameras and cell phones. I’ve never seen anything like it, but I guess it’s been a couple of months since I’ve looked up.

It’s the color. Not the fluffy neon part. I know you’ve seen a lot of hazy pink and blue sunsets with the cotton balls that ripple out from the horizon. I don’t mean that.

Tonight’s sky, somehow, is shadowing the foreground.

First, the pink clouds break just behind the lamplight behind them this neutral greenish hue. It’s the ugly kind of color that doesn’t belong in this sky. Second, I swear the cloud bank behind the tree exactly follows the slight S-curve of the tree branch just in front of it.

It’s wonderful and all too rare that a view like that can make four people pause in their day. The casual European tourist who pulled out a cell phone. The Asian girl next to me waiting for someone who just can’t stop pulling her camera back out every two minutes.  She must have taken 20 or 30 already. The lady to the front waiting for a meeting, who slipped her cell back in her pocket just as her colleague came. And me, looking up again.

It was the classic instance of urban aloneness, in which four strangers paused in parallel at the very same thing and then exited the scene without any outward acknowledgment that the others had shared in their moment of truth.

You don’t often get such an expansive view in New York City.  To I don’t even know what’s on the opposite shore — a handful of skyscrapers huddled across the southwestern tip of Manhattan, or Newark accepting the late overflow of the greater city.  There’s this Jersey trashy neon clock, red and yellow at the foot of the tallest building.  It’s probably bigger than my house.  After sunset the skyscraper lights turn on and the clock blends in, like a reminder to gamble away your Wall Street losses in Atlantic City (just a coupla hours away, and you might come back a winna!)  A huge diagonal beam cuts through my view, all part of the Winter Garden Spectacular, along with the fifty-foot palm trees behind me. Just past the building is a stone-dead stone plaza, one of those flawless expanses built exclusively to pass through…

Anyway, this is what I thought while I wondered what they were thinking.


murakami meets jersey

September 5, 2008

weird: you were in my dream last night.

we went to a jersey diner with the usual late-night crowd of coffee-sippers and i had to pee but on the way to the bathroom there was a canteen scattered with drably dressed old chinese people, sleeping, (drugged?), and a chinese restaurant owner was cleaning a small toilet room that didn’t have a door, only a curtain. it was like an asian restaurant in asia, not a westernized one. in the back of a jersey diner. we had driven there to talk about something important. i’m baffled.

it’s a little like a murakami novel, now that i think about it. i hate murakami novels.

[To A.Tseng]