Saturday, November 17, 2012

New york city (part three of four)


The next day we crossed the bridge out of Manhattan for the first time since arriving to visit the uber-trendy Brooklyn suburb of Williamsburg, which is like Melbourne on steroids in terms of coolness/hipsterism/beards.

We walked up the main street, Bedford Avenue, and Til started feeling faint from hunger so we found a café as soon as possible where I had a bagel and Til had a muffin ('off' bagels as she was after her little episode in the Museum of Natural History). 

Like all cool suburbs, Williamsburg's streets are illuminated with street art, smothered in stickers, and riddled with scrawled messages. It has a really great atmosphere, filled with quirky little shops and finds. We made our way through all the horizontal streets within a certain area to see as much of it as possible. 

Cat refuge. 

When the muffin failed to sufficiently enervate Til, we went to a park on the waterside and rested for a while before heading back to a place we'd passed earlier that looked like it had good pasta for something more energising. 

Brooklyn wildlife

As we finished eating, the girl at the table next to us talking to a companion pointed up the street where a massive bird of prey had landed. We watched it for a while and I went up the street a little to get a closer look and photo, and it looked like some kind of huge hawk, apparently not a common sight in suburban Brooklyn from the reaction it was getting from the Williamsburgers. As we were walking down the street to leave it came swooping overhead to perch above us, so I got a few more photos, along with a small crowd.

After a while and without warning it leapt majestically into the air and flew across the street, straight into a wall covered in vines, at which we were a little surprised. But then it came back holding a smaller bird in its talons, and we realised it hadn't crashed into the wall accidentally. They really do have amazing eyesight. It was sitting right above us again and you could see the poor little bird stuck in its claws looking around as though in complete shock, which was sad. Evolution's a bitch. It's a shame animals can't kill other animals more quickly and painlessly. You could also see something on the bird of prey's leg, so I don't know if it was captive or if it had just been caught and released before, but it was all very exhilarating to watch. 

After capturing the bird (those are the vines it crashed into in the background).

Cloud atlas

After some more wandering around and browsing in shops, Til went and looked through a big secondhand clothing warehouse while I read Cloud Atlas in preparation for seeing the movie in IMAX that night, the date of its release. Then before leaving we went and had a few drinks in a bar. So cheap! It's amazing how cheap alcohol is over here … 

On the side of a brewery.

We ended up kind of having to rush to get the movies, and by the time we got there the furthest back from the screen you could sit was the second row, which was infuriating. I was so mad. No one wants to sit that close; they obviously only have seats there so they can sell more tickets and make more money. Usually assigned seating annoys me, but these situations are when you realise its use; I bet I bought tickets before anyone else in that god damn cinema. I'd been so excited for days, practically jumping around every time the ad came on, and that morning I'd specifically said I hoped the IMAX wasn't so big that you had to move your head around to see the whole screen, which it totally was because we were so close.

'No, you don't wanna be uncomfortable.'

But it ended up not being that bad, thank God. And I'm sure I'll see it again back in Australia anyway because it was SO GOOD. For some reason I can't explain I found the first half a bit lacklustre, but the second half was enthralling. They changed a lot from the book, but I was okay with most of it because you could see why it was necessary, and some of it kind of even improved on the book. As always with book–movie adaptations, of course, it was sad what they had to leave out, especially from the Sonmi-451 storyline, and the details they had to elide, but again understandable. The only thing is it is a freaking ambitious movie and I feel like you could very, very easily not understand what the hell was going on at all if you hadn't read the book, and I think the filmmakers would have only have had to do a very few things to make a lot of it MUCH clearer. I was also disappointed at the exclusion of the young Islander boy from the first storyline, which I thought would've been a small but valuable plotline to include, underscoring the evilness of the men on the boat, and also providing an opportunity for the actor who plays Javier to recur elsewhere like all the other characters do. 

Mostly I was glad that the leftist impulse about cooperation over competition was left intact, even if some of the more peripheral messages about truth and such were unfaithful to the book. In the Zachry storyline, Meronym talks about 'true-true' all the time, telling Zachry Sonmi is not a goddess, and in her storyline Sonmi insists that there is only one truth, whereas in the book Meronym made such a point of saying that Sonmi wasn't true for her, but she could still be true for Zachry (in other words, a pluralistic, culturally relativistic sensitivity in the significantly black-skinned Prescients' 'colonisation' of the white-skinned inhabitants of Big I that was missing from the imperial colonisation of black Pacific-dwellers in by white-skinned invaders in Adam's story line – an inversion of colonial history, colonialism done the 'right' way, if there can be such a thing). 

And one of the extra layers I enjoyed most about the film was the same actors' recurrence in every timeline, all playing different genders, all playing different races. It's so fitting in a film about souls crossing the world like clouds cross skies. It's such a statement that none of that stuff matters; we're all human. 

Costume convictions

Saturday we devoted to souvenir shopping because it's stressful and we both hate it (well, I like giving people presents; I just hate getting them), especially me because I have so many people to buy for and we didn't want to leave it till the last minute because something always goes wrong and we thought it'd be good to get out of the way.

Crazy guy at Times Square when we were shopping.

We only got through about half of it, though, when we really needed to get our costumes for the party that night sorted, because the host had told Jill it was fine for us to come but costumes were mandatory and just dressing as normal and saying 'We're Australian' wouldn't do. I had my heart set on going as something Australian-themed and matching, possibly like a Steve Irwin crocodile hunter costume (possibly with a bloodpatch and a stingray) for me and a crocodile or kangaroo suit for Tilly, but it didn't happen. 

Instead what we found were convict costumes, so I like to think we went as my ancestors from the first fleet, Nathaniel Lucas and Olivia Gasgoyne. It took some cajoling to get Til to agree to come as a convict too, because she took to a crayon costume we spotted, but she eventually gave way. I'm glad I didn't do the Steve Irwin thing, too, 'cause it felt a bit insensitive. I was going to get a ball and chain from the costume store, but Til told me I'd be better off getting handcuffs, so I did that instead, only later realising they were outrageously anachronistic for prisoners from 1788 haha. 

The costumes were a hit, despite two dudes dressed as an angel and Richard Symonds on the train calling me out for my lack of ball and chain. We really didn't think the costumes were anything special; we just bought them off the shelf, but everyone seemed to react so much to them! People in the hostel were staring at me when I went to get our drinks out of the fridge before we left (again, so cheap! We got a bottle of Absolut for like half what it would cost back in Australia!). Then when we were waiting for Jill at the train station about three separate groups of people burst out laughing and congratulated us on our 'brilliant' costumes. This was America! You'd think they'd be used to seeing Halloween costumes, but apparently not. Some guy even took surreptitious phone photos of us on the train. 

Halloween party

The party was at Jill's friend's apartment on top of a nightclub in Williamsburg, which had an open terrace replete with a killer sound system and fairy lights. We saw some awesome costumes, both on the way to the party and at it. I think the standouts were the girls who went as Sims, with the green icon floating over each of their heads, Oblina from Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, Gerald from Hey Arnold, Ryu from Streetfighter (who kept shouting 'Hadouken!'), Prince, and the host and his girlfriend who went as Jon Snow and Egret, the former even having a rope tied around the latter's waist. 



Having gone to this party and having been in America for Halloween, I've changed the hostile regard I previously held it in. Like many people, I tended to see it as a culturally imperialistic incursion by the US into Australian traditions. But now I think we should definitely take it up and maybe even make it our own – we have nothing like it at home. Sure, kids trick or treating and whatever, but adults going to great efforts to dress up in ridiculous/hilarious costumes? It's such a fun holiday! Besides, Australians are renowned for taking any excuse to celebrate. We keep celebrating the Queen's birthday, right? And that's nothing but an imperialistic incursion by England. I'm definitely hosting a kickass Halloween party next year, and everyone is going to make an effort with costumes, and it's going to be awesome, and you'd better be there dressed as an obscure cultural reference! 

To be honest, the party is all a bit of a blur. You see, it's been quite some time since I had a night on vodka, if ever? At least since I was eighteen … And I've become estranged from its nature. So all of a sudden I was very, very drunk. I was that guy sitting on the lounge just saying how drunk I was. I know I had a great night and met and talked to a lot of cool people. I know at one point I felt like a singalong was needed, so I burst out in Smashmouth's 'All star' and a lot of people joined in. I know at some point the DJs had to stop playing because the club downstairs was concerned their roof was going to collapse from all the dancing. I know Tilly kept thinking the gigantic novelty spiders on the walls were real and kept starting conversations by saying, 'We're Australian!', to which Jill would add, 'This is their first Halloweeen!' and the American stranger would be like, 'Yur Osstralian? That's creezy!' 

Other than that, I'll leave it up to the photos … 

 Mario Jill and convict Til.

 Alice in chains. 

 Jon Snow in the foreground.

Marty McFly.

Thankfully I knew when to stop, and I began to sober up a little after leaving my half-full cup of Raspberry Absolut vodka, Sprite and bottled fruit punch in the fridge 'for later'. We left sometime between three and four and went for the most amazing pizza of my life. SO CHEESY. In a good way. Exactly what you need after a big night on raspberry vodka.

A strange reversal occurred on the train, where I was the one who couldn't keep my eyes open and Til was wide awake, chatting with Jill and strangers on the train. The only thing that could rouse me was the idiocy of a Republican talking about their opinions aloud. I was itching to talk to her and find out (tactfully) how she could possibly believe that crap but, alas, she got pulled into conversation with someone else and then disembarked.

(To be continued).

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