A Three-Hour Tour It’s 2 PM on Saturday. I don’t have work and I don’t have castings either. The beauty of a weekend. My friends in town from LA are all back in LA and I have had an entire carafe of my Kings Road French press. I’m staring at my bedroom – frozen by my frustration that I don’t have curtains yet and everyone can still see in my room, irritated that my roommate’s dog is taking over my life, wondering when my platform bed can get built already. You know, general debilitating impatience.
I call my mom because I know that she misses me and I know that she will listen to me rattle on for forty minutes about how pissed I am about this or about that, my irritation amplified by my excessive abuse of caffeine. I remind her about Erika Smith’s house back in elementary school and how filthy it was. There were three kids and six something dachshund. On the few times that I braved a sleepover there, I learned quickly that if you were the first to wake up you won the awesome opportunity to step in dog turds. They were everywhere. Apparently, these animals were nocturnal defecators; using the cover of darkness to crap in the family room right next to where we’d be playing Dr. Mario later that morning.
My mom laughs and I laugh but it’s not that funny because right now that house reminds me of my current apartment – a beautiful, freshly renovated walkup with 12 foot ceilings and a bathroom with tiles I dream about in my sleep. Munch has pissed and shit multiple times and it’s killing me. I’ve given up on house socks and moved on to house shoes; I was dragging around more hair than I cared to in my Costco elastic topped numbers. The shoes seem to me less of a vehicle for dog particles. Rubber soles protecting me from filth. It’s ridiculous that I wear them for the ten feet back and forth between the bathroom and my bedroom. I’m aware of this.
When I become bored with my own pacing around the apartment, contemplating what bleach does to wood floors and what window I can throw Munch out of to make it look like an accident, I decide that a trip to IKEA will quell my anxiety – generally an odd and unorthodox way of thinking about trolling a windowless megabox fighting for shopping cart space with families of nine.
The IKEA is in Brooklyn and they provide a complimentary mini-cruise liner to cross the murky Hudson. I take the subway and mess up on transfers along the way. Of course. I try not to slug one of the MTA guys in the face when he talks to me like I’m a tourist. “Does this go down to Fulton?” I ask after another woman has finished babbling on with a question while she flips her map over and over and over again saying “Ummmm…God, you know…I’m trying to find…I’m trying to find….Oh, ummmm…..” I wait patiently for her to stop being an idiot. I’m waiting for his answer to my simple and easy question. “NO.” Not “No, and would you like to know what train does?” Not “I’m sorry you’re in the wrong place.” Just “No.” This is when I hate New York.
I finally take the right train down to the right exit and emerge on Wall Street. People are taking pictures outside of the NYSE and other buildings with lots of limestone stairs and bronze statues erected in front of them. Forefathers. People that did more important things than I ever will. Unexpectedly, the whole block makes me mad. All of the disaster that went down in this small stretch of Manhattan, how much havoc was wreaked from the bowels of this place by mere handfuls of individuals.
When I see the pier I start running. A giant dog leaps into my comfort zone and if I could have seen its face I probably would have been terrified. Judging from the size and color of its shape, I would imagine it was a charcoal Great Dane. I keep going. The IKEA boat is there within view and it comes on a schedule and if I miss it I will be screwed and my boots clack clack clack on the concrete and cobblestones and I’m running and I’m running and now I’m on the wood dock and then I start slowing down because the stupid boat is full steam ahead and I am not on it. Damn it. I let out an “Argh” for my own personal benefit and go sit on a bench, staring at bird shit scattered all over the place and talking to a friend on the phone.
Forty whole minutes of waiting in the cold and the IKEA ship arrives. It is yellow and blue and they play a stream of crack-cocaine happy 60s and 70s hits. Think Abba. Lots and lots of Abba. The “captains” are a pair of knuckleheads who pick up a paper yen off of the ground and start asking the IKEA-goers what a yen is. I haven’t read The Economist in awhile and my brain has been filled with important things like getting the right woven rug for my bedroom and wondering when the hell my duvet is going to get delivered. I offer something like, “Uh, a yen is from China.” Thank God I don’t say it too loudly and no one I know is around to hear me. I’m just another idiot stranger to a boat full of people. Fine by me.
We pull into the IKEA dock, the big blue and yellow box looming in the not too distant distance. Buy me. Shop here. Thankfully, you can also eat here. I’m starving after all of this waiting around and running through a city while wearing layers and boots. I scan the board of options and settle with the child-size plate of Swedish meatballs. There was a girl I used to work with who swore by them and would come on the weekends just to eat them. After assessing these puppies for myself, I would like to tell her she was wasting her time. A man serves me seven little brown grease balls of an indiscernible quality along with a softball of mashed potatoes. I ask him to hold the cream sauce. I just want a snack, not a Goddamn heart attack. How do people eat like this? The plate weighs heavy in my hand. This is for kids? I look over at the plates of adults ordering the adult-sized orders and it’s no wonder this country weighs nine billion pounds.
After force-feeding myself something that I suppose qualifies as sustenance, I grab a shopping bag and lead myself into the belly of the beast. Apparently, me and every other family for fifteen from Long Island are in dire need of cheap mattress pads and cream vases that weekend. Kids tear around screaming and jumping in beds, none of which are kept made in any of the example décor rooms. I shut my brain off and attempt to focus on the matter at hand, not that the fact my rising blood pressure at this sight is most likely a fairly accurate indicator that I should wait to have kids for another few years.
I give up on my paltry yellow bag and upgrade to a cart, adding to it a bounty of Made in Nowhere goods. Two floor rugs for under three dollars apiece. A canvas blanket that’s going to look good but scratch like hell. Two roller blinds that don’t end up fitting in my windows exactly but at least the firemen across the street won’t be able to check me out while brushing their teeth from the third floor window. Three balsa wood paper organizers. One road-cone-orange tray that I will figure out what to do with later. One set of nicely textured cream tea towels. I like tea towels. I’m not sure why. One set of screws, varied in size. One silver lamp for next to my bed. All of which is put into two giant plastic bags that I pay 59 cents for. As I fill up them up I wonder how the hell I am going to get all of this stuff home. I know that a taxi ride is in order but of course this isn’t what I am going to do. I am a glutton for punishment.
The wait for the next boat to the mainland does not take as long as on the outbound trip. I negotiate my way around the waiting area, trying not to take out small children with my rolled up window treatments. The knuckleheads greet us with “Welcome back” and joke, “Did you get IKEA or did IKEA get you?” I understand what he means; I left my apartment at 1:30 for the start of this whole thing and now it’s 5 PM and the sun is disappearing to the other side of the world.
We pull off of the dock and set sail. The world is a hazy purple and Manhattan sits off beyond the water. Past the leafless trees of Ellis Island and under developing clouds. The remaining light that peaks from the last minutes of sunlight glare against five buildings, blinding and golden. I look over at the Brooklyn Bridge just as a silvery pink stretch of metal crosses under a road of moving cars. The subway catches the sun so beautifully. New York has the most amazing way of making the totally mundane inspire. All of a sudden I forget about the MTA guy, I forget about how my back is going to ache tomorrow when I try to take these bags on the subway, I forget about my red nose and my cold hands, about the meatballs, about the kids and the jumping and the beds. I just sit and watch as the subway glitters its way into Brooklyn and out of my line of sight.