Friday 11.12.2010 | 10:23 AM EDT
I Often Dream of Trains
photo courtesy of Anthony Mitri and the Forum Gallery
Last night I dreamt….
we are riding along the Lower East Side, an elevated train I think, cause traffic doesn’t seem to slow us down. I am make-upped and perfumed with something that feels and smells like motor oil. We are all talking about the city, but when the train makes its next turn, I take the mike:
“Coming up a ways, on the left, the building where I got my start here. The Puck Building, corner of Lafayette and Houston. Matt gave me my first job here 11 years ago. Someone said my boss was from the South. Some people thought we were on the make, bedwise, or if we weren’t, should be. We weren’t, though I can’t say it didn’t cross my mind. Turns out she was from Austin. Close, but Texas is not the South. Wait. Here it comes, my office was that window right…”
It was gone. The massive orange-red brick lay in a rubble, an empty, littered demolition lot surrounded by a creaking fence plastered with advertisements and gang tags. No one said anything as the train lurched on, the map of Manhattan folded and fluted on itself by the geography of the mind. And now I’m saying:
“…it’s one of my favorite buildings, you know, like the Robyn Hitchcock song. Good thing we’re heading south, that’s the best way to see it. You come up to it from the north and you hardly notice it. You have to cross the street and turn around to really get a sense of it. The entrance sits on a corner…”
Arriving at that tangle between 23rd, Broadway and 5th Ave, the Flatiron is no where to be seen. No gaping demolition lot or signs for future development. It simply is not there. The few of us on the train car look at each other sideways, mute. The train snakes west on 23rd and moves on. And I’m saying:
“This one coming up, it’s a cliché, I know. But its history and mythology has been with me since I figured out that black goes with everything. As a teen I wished I’d lived here in it’s heyday. In college we would eulogize it in music and words, knowing it was redundant, that someone already famous had done it earlier, better, but still. Wait… coming up here on the left.”
I could tell halfway down the block it was gone. It was dusk and its tall neon sign would be lit like a derelict beacon, one or two letters of its marquee missing like teeth knocked out in a brawl, or in this case, more likely lost through ill health, years of hard living that wears the body down. In the 11 years I’ve lived in this city, I never once set foot inside. This time there was simply a gap between the buildings where the Chelsea Hotel used to be. Just a dark, empty space.
The dream abruptly ends there, interrupted by the infernal beep-beep of a truck backing up on the street. Half awake, I lay in bed, still gauzy as the dream slips away like a receding tide. I am gripped by the fear that many others have gone missing. I slump out of bed and get dressed. I’d better go check…
photo courtesy of parluck’s flick photostream
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