In this Vanity Fair article (which, months later, I still enjoy), James Wolcott recalls a time when, "Each day in Manhattan (can’t speak for the other boroughs) offered an outdoor excursion into street theater. It was carnival-esque... like impromptu psychodrama performed alfresco."
Those days are mostly gone. But if you want to experience the street theater psychodrama of the Now, pick any night of the week and go to Astor Place. Stand facing the sleek glass tower of Gwathmey's Green Monster, peering in to the Chase Bank, closed for the night.
Under the blue hum of the glowing sign, listen to the soundtrack--snippets of cell-phone talk from the commuters streaming behind you.
"I want to party like it's Sex & the City."
Move from west to east, from cubicle to cubicle. Let your eyes scan the flat, empty desks, impersonalized, cleared of all human traces. There is nothing here to spark or stimulate. Notice that you feel nothing, only a vague, spreading depression.
"Well, yeah, it was bad, but I was totally drinking rosé, so it was okay."
On each computer's dark face, the Windows screensaver bounces up, then down again, then up again. The carpet, the color of a corn husk, denies you the drama of even a spill, a stain, a crumpled note angrily tossed away. Here, there is nothing to wonder about.
"So my mortgage broker called me and she was like, Did you send in your co-op package? And I was like, Of course I did!"
And then, at the end of the line, in the very last cubicle, a spark of sorts, a jolt in the otherwise blah topography: A googly-eyed, egg-shaped knick-knack, green and grinning. A crafty doo-dad. A trace of humanity. And you want to weep, because at least this is something.
Think now of Frank O'Hara's line, the one that used to mean so much: "I can't even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there's a subway handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life."