Nothing here is as it seems. The museum in black and white; it’s not the paintings we care about, really, it’s the people looking at them, isn’t it? Karl Rove in Federal Hall, touring the Lincoln exhibit. (He has a crushing laugh, loud and ugly). The shop that proclaims to be “your 24 hour pot dealer” is really only an emporium for vases decorated with nipples. A barbershop proudly displays posters of boys wearing perfect bowl-cuts, men in mullets. Another features images of men in tight boxer shorts, dancing with their hair straighteners. Am I in a Dr. Seuss book? (Oh, the places–) Unnecessary quotation marks everywhere. How about this one: “free soup” with any sandwich! A plaque tells of a place called The Highway Leading to the Fortification Called Oyster Pasty. A friend takes us up the steps of a church; look closer, he says, so we lean towards the cathedral pillars and see a baby’s head emerging from a vaginal cornstalk.
All the absurdities. A sign that tells us both to cross the street and not to cross the street at the same time; even the signals have become confused, here. The windows of Bergdorf Goodman’s look as rich as any painting in the Met. I find a place outside Trinity Church where the Queen stood in the 1970s; Prince Philip, reads the inscription in the tile, stood nearby. Oh, no photographs, not here, says the woman selling posters at the flea market, and I retreat from her snarls and stumble into a rack of fur coats, brown and white, urban bears. On Madison Avenue, our first night in the city, cold and hungry, we look across the broad street (broad as an ocean) and see the Oxford Café. Seen from a certain angle, the statue of first world war soldiers on the eastern edge of Central Park becomes real; shadowy men pierce a wintry tree with freshly sharpened bayonets (do bayonets need to be sharpened?).
And I have a photograph to prove every single one of these things; but as one placard in the museum points out: “a photograph of an angel is either a miracle or a hoax.” (Even the photograph in this post is merely a reflection).