Sleep No More: Some Notes

Sleep No More started at 11, so we caught a cab at 10:30and headed over. Not an actual taxi, but a car service. Plus, it had air conditioning (unlike the taxis). Minus, he talked on the phone and wrote stuff down while driving.

Similar to the masks we wore.

Similar to the masks we wore.

Got to SNM. We were about 8th in line. They let us in, gave us our plague masks, took all bags (for a $3 fee), gave us a punched playing card, and sent us to the bar. We had iced water and sat and talked.

Turns out they gave us different numbered cards on purpose. So they called my number separate from Ron’s. I went without him, even though I had flatly said he had to stay with me.

The elevator was crowded. A woman had not read the “don’t be the first one off the elevator” advice. They opened the elevator, she got off, and they closed it again. She was really on her own.

I was let off at a dirk track with crosses everywhere. It reminded me of abortion protests, so it was not particularly scary.

As soon as I could, I went up the stairs to the highest level they would let us go. There was a big guy–think bouncer– in black with his arms crossed blocking the way to a higher level.

From there I started down.

The first room I came to was a library. I opened a book off the shelf. It was Hayakama’s Language in Action, a foundational linguistics text. I so wanted to take it with me!

One of the children’s rooms had a one-way mirror set up to make you see yourself, but as a ghostly image–like a photo shot with a long exposure while you were moving.

Eventually I arrived at a doctor’s waiting room. I sat down and read the early 19th century advertising broadsheet. I recognized some of the quack machines from eBay and read some interesting ingredient lists for medicines.

I saw the insane ward, including the doctor’s notes on Lady Macbeth’s condition. (I was looking for those because I had read about them in the reviews.) There were rocks on the first bed, covered up with the thin sheets and blanket, while the rest were empty.

The next room was the wash room, obviously a modern view of an insane ward’s bath (and wrong). It had about eight claw foot tubs. (An actual Bedlam would have had chairs to tie the patients to while the “caregivers” poured water over their heads.) There was a nurse standing over one of the tubs. At first I thought she might be drowning a mannequin, but she was washing a patient’s pajama top. It looked like a Civil War uniform shirt to me, though very think. Creepy, too, because she washed it in slow motion with a lot of stops.

Later on, having made the circuit on that floor, I saw Lady Macbeth undressed by the nurse and she climbed into one of the tubs. So I saw the nude scene, but it was very un-sexual.

I saw the sweet shop, Hecate’s workshop, and the taxidermy room.

I did not see the detective’s room, which I had really wanted to see. It had a dark room next to it with images of birds being developed (for the entrail omens equivalent).

I was in a small living room, sitting at the secretary and reading a letter one sister wrote to another, next to a packet of mail sent by that sister to the other at the address of the living room but marked Return to Sender. The letter said she had been let in by the owner of the sweet shop and that the sister’s tea was still warm, but that the sister was not there.

While I was there another woman came in and sat down at the table in the middle, looked at a book, then moved.

While we were both still in there, an actress came in and slammed the door behind her. The other participants who had been following her tried to open the door and knocked but no one opened it. She sat at the center table, opened her purse, took out a wad of fake money, counted through it, stuffed it back in her purse, and moved to the fainting couch next to the window. She sat there and stared out at the participants who were crowded around it.

At some point I got up and wandered into the next room (the living room was connected to a bedroom) and found that her thin cotton nighties were hanging on the wall (antiques or at least vintage) and a Bible was open to the story of Absalom’s death with blood on the edges of the page.

While I was in there the living room door got opened and the actress came into the room, went to the armoire, got out a suitcase, filled it with dresses (but not underthings at all), and then turned and left–with all the participants following her.

I was sure the letters and sisters were part of a film noir plot, but I have already forgotten the women’s names.

I was also in the front lobby of the “hotel” enjoying the cool of the fan blowing at the copper-covered lobby counter when another actor came in. He stood behind the desk and messed with the papers. One participant came up to him (none had been following) and handed him one of the sheets of paper off the counter. He took it. Then the actor reached into his pocket and slowly pulled out a balled-up sheet of paper. This he handed to the participant, by reaching for the guy’s hand, stretching it out, and dropping the ball into it. Then he curled the guy’s fingers around it and the guy left.

Soon a female actor came in and went to the front desk (perhaps the one I had seen packing?). She started to register and then she and the actor behind the counter began to dance and fight. He climbed on the furniture; she pushed him off. He ran away; she did not follow. He only ran around the corner (visible to me but not her) and stepped into one of the four phone booths. The phone on the counter rang, she answered it, listened, and then slammed the phone down. She grabbed her suitcase and went to the phone booths, opening each. I think they fought danced again. But I stayed where I was and did not follow them.

It was a hot June in New York and there is no air conditioning, so I had quickly taken off my jacket. I also pulled my hair up using the tie for the plague mask.

At one point I wandered back by the “ballroom.” (This also several scenes that are acted out. I think I saw three there.) This time I saw Ron. I pitched my playing card down at him, trying to catch his attention, because we were not allowed to talk. I missed and he didn’t notice. But then he came upstairs. So I went to stand by him. He didn’t pay attention to me, so I pulled up my mask a bit and nodded to him. I don’t know what he thought, but he did not realize it was me and he wandered off. I wondered for a minute if I had been wrong, but that Las Vegas shirt he was wearing (the dark red long sleeved with black embroidery) is pretty unusual. I know it was him.

There was a room with lots of clocks ticking and a female actor came through and stopped them all and put cloths over them, like mourning.

At one point a bedroom had a metronome and a participant came in and stopped the metronome. When he left, I started it up again.

I moved back into the lobby of the hotel and read on two different books. One was very boring, but one was a book with 1066 in the title. I thought it might be history, but it turned out to be a comic play. It was rather interesting, but I decided I should not just stay there all night reading it.

Eventually I got lost trying to find my way back to the bar and asked one of the black-dressed bouncers. He hushed me for using a normal speaking tone and gave me directions. They got me part of the way there, but not the whole way. So I asked someone else.

I was out at the bar at 1:30. About 10 minutes later Ron came out. He thought I had been out there the whole time, but I hadn’t.

The bar had a “lounge” area where a band and a 1920s style singer were playing. If we were dancers, that would have been fun, but we weren’t. We sat there a few more minutes, had another glass of water, and then we left.

It was odd, a bit scary but not a lot, and just overall a strange–but unique–experience.

When we left, we had the bouncer guy take our pictures. If I knew how to put that up, I would. Maybe I can get Ron to show me.

New York Notes

Building with center four windows of brick
like an old, straight skyscraper,
while glass forms rounded extensions on all sides,
as if a glass building swallowed a traditional brick tower.
–one block back from Tillary, where the Mobile Station sits.

Red and black brick Tudor church with verdigris copper turret tops.

Water tower perched on thick mechanized spider. Chicken legs above a public storage building.

Modern flat fronted four story joins rococo brownstone.

One wall graffitti hell and an extensive roof top garden on the fourth story, one block wide fronted flats.

rounded arches topped with Art Deco torches.

To cover the sight and dust of change
scaffolding and black construction cloth
the building.
Just outside the railings
a miniature copper dragon gargoyle
plays hide and seek with the building’s renovators.

Two gray marble Greek women
guard the second story of the office’s opening arch.

The newer bridges’ concrete is formed into Art Deco geometric bas reliefs
and ivy climbs to adorn them.

New York was hit but New Jersey flies the patriotism.

Visiting New York: Friday in Brooklyn and Manhattan

Walked a mile to a shoe repair place to get Ron’s shoes shined.

Ate at a diner named Dizzy’s where the waiters wear “obey the bacon” t-shirts and the granola comes in gargantuan. They serve grits.

Union Square BMT platform by Pharos, WC Creative Commons 3.

Union Square BMT platform by Pharos, WC Creative Commons 3.

Got on the R train to head to Manhattan. The entire car was serenaded by a barbershop quartet singing about not being able to sleep and Jesus taking care of it after a while.

We missed our exchange. Got off at 14th and Union Square. Figured out a new subway route. Definitely explored the underground.

Unlimited pass for the subway is not actually unlimited. It can only be used ever half hour at the same station, so if you thought you made a mistake and leave, if you had not made a mistake before, that was a mistake. You will have to wait half an hour or walk to the next subway stop.

Walked over a mile to Forbidden Planet, the comic book store, after we found that the comic illustrators’ museum was closed. Ron shopped at Forbidden Planet, while I went next door to The Strand, a new and used bookstore with 81 miles of books (or more). I purchased eight postcards for the August poem a day co-op. All but one were of New York.

On the way we went into a costume store that went through the whole block and had a second floor, downstairs. Ron bought a hat. It’s an engineer hat.

Ron had a hot dog from a stand. Then we each had a slice of pizza and split a Caesar salad at Famous Faglimia. Pizza shop and diner, done! Still looking for Italian ices. It appears that yogurt shops ahve taken over from gelato.

Brooklyn neighborhood. Photo by Jim Henderson, WC public domain.

Brooklyn neighborhood. Photo by Jim Henderson, WC public domain.

Walked 8 blocks looking for yogurt shops with variety. Apparently we were walking away from the yogurt. Eventually we got off Broadway and got on Mercer. We stopped at a gourmet coffee shop (which has its own high end coffee magazine) and had dessert. I had what they called macaroons–the 8 sampler. Really they were more like fluffy cookies with stuffing between two. They were green, pink, brown, caramel colored. The raspberry was good. The hazelnut not so much.

Then we headed back to Brooklyn. Misread the train map and had to walk to the next stop. Got back to the hotel, took showers, and napped.

Shoes on a Brooklyn Walk

Having in my 50s been indoctrinated into the shoe cult,
I watch the footgear of the strolling locals.
Elaborate sandals that would scrape skin to the bone on me
grace dozens of women’s feet;
toenails are more often nude than painted.
Few of the foot tats that mark my coworkers
adorn the lightly tanned limbs.
Bostonian boat shoes, with and without socks,
are common on male feet,
though hefty brown sandals are also donned.

Five-inch platform heels hike the hills
and I see why folks live 2.5 years longer here–
as a pair of four-inch wedges walk home
with 3 bags of groceries.
Men walking with their wives and kiddos on an early Sunday evening
stop in at flower stalls and purchase bright bouquets.

New York Notes, 2

Children wear helmets for scooters,
though most under 5 are tucked tightly
into narrow strollers perfect for leading
the charge to one of the local yogurt shops
or patisseries for dessert.
If you go to the Culture Shop, the organic,
locally made nutella is amazing,
though strawberry-rhubarb topping is
also good on the tart original.
A long table for eight seats four friends,
gathered for an afternoon,
while the other end
hosts a tourist couple who wandered
into the air conditioned relief.

Early June typically tops out in the high 70s,
but this year the low 90s
tax the locals and tourists both.
Window units run on some floors
while fans draw hot air in and out on others.

Riding the trains is a simple task,
made more complex by the multiplicity of routes
covering similar territory and the fact that
terminals going different directions are located
across the streets.
There are no east-west, north-south designations,
instead trains head uptown or downtown,
to Coney Island or Bay Ridge
(neither of which were a destination for my jaunts).

Avenues and streets are numbered,
crossing each other generally at right angles,
and interspersed with streeks like
Carroll and Union in Brooklyn
or Christopher and Prescott in Greenwich.

All the streets have sidewalks,
some covered by scaffolding
and occasionally one dug up and re-routed
out, around, or across the street.
The touristy areas have sidewalks wide enough
for eight friends to saunter side-by-side,
though they are so packed
people often step into the street to pass.
There are also semi-permanent fixtures,
like trash bags and map-searching out-of-towners,
and more permanent protrusions
like the hot dog or ice cream van,
the tilt-a-whirl of shop postcards,
and the cloth-covered table
of designer scarves, purses, and/or umbrellas.
I♥NY tee-shirts sell in color for $5 each
while sets in black and white
(and presumably thinner)
clothe a family of five for $10.
In Michigan I paid $30 for the cheapest bag
to cart my purchases home,
but in New York,
they are bigger, more versatile, and on sale
for as little as $5.99, including tax.
Unplanned-for rain sent us scurrying
for a small outline umbrella
in something other than the traditional black.
And the blue cloth with brown and beige umbrellas,
both open and closed,
spent most of its time
in my purse and my husband’s backpack.
It did protect us during the final downpour of the day
as we and a neighborhood of commuters
spilled out of the underground subway station
into the deluge on the street.

Macy’s Midtown, filling the entire block
between Broadway and 7th Avenue,
is a tourist attraction
offering an entire floor of women’s shoes–
Steve Madden, Marc Fisher,
and more elite and expensive designers
offer shoes below a thousand dollars and pair
and many three and four hundred dollar shoes on clearance.
You can also purchase pairs for as little as $50,
some not found in similar venues in other states.
Macy’s has a Visitor’s Pass worth 10% off for the day
and can be used multiple times that day.
The $5 difference adds up
when you’ve shopped on seven floors,
with the first four split between men and women’s,
with the remainder all for the ladies.
Auntie Ann’s pretzels and a pizza shop
tantalize junior shoppers
with smells of baking.
Starbucks, up a floor, between juniors and lingerie.

Vincent Camuto, Gianni Bini, Jessica Simpson…