After years of hedging, haggling, and struggling, the time has come. We went to The City to celebrate my birthday, and get THE VISA for Thailand.
We packed, overfed the cat, fought about who carries the chargers, how many shoes, and whether we needed to bring wine, then drove to Albany to take the train south.
The city caught us by surprise. It was hot, sunny and crowded – that, I expected. What I didn’t expect was the stench.
New York City does not smell good. There are fumes, and cigarette smoke, and dog poop, and cat piss (where on earth are all those cats?), but the worst is the garbage. It stays with you from Penn Station to Chinatown, follows you up to the Fifth Avenue and Broadway, lets off a little in Central Park then grips you on Lexington and doesn’t let go in Madison Square Garden. That smell got the worst of me.
The people are fascinating. It’s a slim, weird, fast-moving crowd whose superpower is ignoring each other. They do it in the crowded streets, in the subway, in the elevators. They avoid smiles, eye contact and human interaction like the faithful avoid bacon. Zombie-like, they ambulate in their sad lonely bubble, often speaking to themselves.
The dogs are worse. On popping duty in the crowded streets, their haggard minders following them like plastic bag carrying hawks, they’re desperate for a legal place to pee, even if it’s just a dandelion breaking through the asphalt. Tails down, heads bent, the expensive English bulldogs, the ill-behaved chihuahuas, the fancy retrievers, the blind husky, they’re all a sorry sight making goldfish look good.
Bent under the weight of our backpacks, we struggled through the stinky heat to our hotel, sitting between Chinese funeral homes, dumpling places, and funeral supply shops selling realistic make-believe items to be buried with the deceased. I skipped the shirts but I almost bought a couple of cardboard beers – the price was great but they were low on alcohol.
Life got better after wine and a bath.
The 4 miles walk to the Thai Consulate the next morning didn’t smell good either, but we did. We smelled like a rose thanks to the pile of paperwork Steve has been working on for months – application forms, passport photos, fingerprints, FBI checks, financial affidavits, money orders, a doctor’s certificate that we have no STDs (I wonder how he knew) – all in three copies. Believe it or not, the Thai are not ecstatic about people moving to their country, even Americans like us.
We dropped off the paperwork, to – maybe – pick the visa tomorrow, and we went back to the stinky crowded streets, by the Trump Tower cordoned in three strings of parallel barricades with narrow staggered gates for crowd control, a machine-gun policeman on the doorstep and clusters of policemen hanging like grapes on every corner.
To Central Park, the closest thing the City has to nature and wilderness, the paradise of little blond children minded by dark-skinned women who don’t look like their mothers, of expensive dogs walked by non-expensive looking people, and of little blue-haired ladies hand-in-hand with caring dark ladies.
For my birthday, I got my art fix at the Met – Van Gogh, the Impressionists, and a really pretty Buda and the beautiful airy Japanese paintings that make me miss Japan.
Exhausted beyond belief, we had a birthday dinner of a nice Bordeaux and fried dumplings in our room, listening to Chinese music from the park across the street and dreaming about The Visa.
Tomorrow, we go to get it. Or not. Who knows?
Thank you all for staying with us through our struggles, even though I cheated on you. I promised you Thailand, but I lost my best friend. Gypsy died. That’s all I can say. That’s all I will say. So I didn’t write anything since that’s exactly what I had to say.
Stay with us if you will. Let us know if this matters to you in any way.
Good luck, stay well and have fun.