I've always had a sort of love-hate relationships with big cities, in particular London and New York. I don't think I could live in them, but I feel a constant drawer to visit. Not just for the opera and theatre, although that is a major part of the attraction, but for a wider aesthetic purpose. One of the things I love about New York is the constant contrast between decay and rebirth. I was at a meeting today with FlickerLab, brokered by Caitlin of Starlight Runner with whom I have yet not to have an interesting conversation over multiple meetings. We are working on a major proposal that will involve all three organisations working together. The more I have these conversations the more the connection between our work and trans-media becomes apparent and the more I start to think of narrative in the context of the material culture literature. We came to this world from a very different starting point from the other players so the different perspectives are interesting. More on both of those points in a future blog, along with some of the developing exaptive ideas that are coming out of the conversations.
To get to the meeting I indulged my fetish for using public transport from my hotel at JFK to Bowery and then walked up to their offices. Now this part of New York, south of Union Square is a celebration of creativity constantly confronted by decay and poverty. The picture was taken in the subway well illustrates this, it must have been glorious in its day and still carries with it the faded memory of that glory. The same contrast on yesterday's bike ride and it is in the nature of port cities. Decay contrasted with rebirth.
I left in good time as the air train is out for a week of maintenance so I added an hour to be on the safe side which proved sensible as I made the gate five minutes before they announced boarding. The subway route out to Jamaica was fine although I almost missed my stop I was absorbed in reading How Things Shape the Mind recommended to me by Alicia Juarrero and I will be eternally grateful for said recommendation. A lot more on that in future blogs. I got off and started looking forward to having time for a proper lunch (yes I even look forward to salad in these new healthy days) but that was a mistake.
The air train was running to Federal Circus but then buses were laid on to take you to the terminal. This should have been a slick operation but it was a total and utter disaster. Buses came in to drop off passengers, but as they came in blocked the exit for fully loaded buses. Orderly queues were transformed int angry mobs as the buses stopped forward of the starting point of the queue. Finally packed, hot and sweaty the bus lurched towards the terminal. There were two routes and mine stopped at terminal 6 and 7 before 8. Instead of separating pickup and drop off the bus did both. So we arrived at terminal 6 and the doors were blocked by desperate passengers trying to get on the bus. From the stress levels and language there had been multiple failures to get on earlier buses. Just when we were ready to leave another bus drew in ahead and in parallel and all those who couldn't get on our bus poured in front to try and get on it. Finally we moved and the whole process repeated at terminals 7 & 8.
Now this had been planned for some time. I saw the time sheets that the bus drivers had to complete and the design effort to create them must have been great. Each stop had 5-8 people in fluorescent vests who might have marshalled people and buses, but by the afternoon they had obviously given up in despair. Given that half of each bus spoke little english, had no idea what was going on and were jet lagged it was a potent miss and fists were thrown several times, people screamed at each other and elbows became the only deployable offensive weapon.
Total utter incompetence, but I made the plane but finding something to eat in Terminal 8 which was diabetic friendly was near impossible in the time. Compensation however was there on American Eagle. It turned out I was the only Executive Platinum member on the flight so the stewardess profusely thanked me for my custom and asked what I wanted after take off - ordinary mortals would be charged but I could have anything. A Gin & Tonic (I am allowed the occasional one) and almonds sounded good and after take off they were immediately server with more profuse thanks. It was a very small plane so attention was difficult to avoid, especially as I was constantly visited to see if wanted anything else. Towards the end of the flight I felt I might be in danger of the back of the bike sheds cure offered to teachers pets in the best schools! Fortunately I escaped that and settled into the one restaurant to have dinner as I had an hour to wait for the hotel shuttle. Again that problem with ordering anything healthy and getting information on the nature of the carbohydrates or sugar content of the menu choices. All in all one of those days which start well then degenerate to the point where you are simply aiming to survive until you can collapse into bed.