anni in new york
http://www.annisnyman.co.za/ny/

The Ampersand Foundation fellowship
August 2006

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14 August 2006  l   r
Whispers and giggles

The highlight of Monday's experiences was the 'whispering gallery' in front of the Oyster Bar in Grand Central station (a wonderful historical pub with great food, in a magnificent building). Leaving the pub, we looked for the corners of a vaulted ceiling where you can whisper into the corner, and your partner hears your voice diagonally across the space seemingly coming out of the wall! It is absolutely magic, and Lynnette and I spent a good twenty minutes whispering and marvelling at the phenomenon like little children. Amazed that people aren't queueing to experience it.

As the other picture clearly demonstrates, the day developed (or is it deteriorated?) from there! (Taken at about three in the morning - when the barman and I traded places.)

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l   rwhispering gallery

Whispering Gallery

l   rbehind the bar

Behind the bar...

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13 August 2006  l   r
New York Moment

The city that never sleeps only wakes up at eleven, so having done an allnighter the night before (we went to bed at five), Lennstein and I tackled the really southern tip of Manhattan yesterday, with the South street Sea port and its exhibition centre, Brooklyn bridge and the Staten island ferry on our list of to do's. Well, that, and most importantly, we were looking for a place with food to quell our hangovers. One would have thought that this was an easy task, since restaurants abound in the area.

We dutifully applied for a table at the first restaurant with a proper view of the water (This is a mistake, since places with views of the water are assured of clientele, and very rarely make proper food.) When the very sweet Russian waitress brought us our sanitary sealed plastic cutlery, we should have smelled the Lysol and moved on, but we were not easily scared, and probably not quite sober, so we drank our water (out of plastic cups), ate our salads (out of plastic plates) and had some wine (out of plastic cups) while Elvis in a gold lame safari suit sang 'blue suede shoes' in the blazing sun behind us.

Less than satisfied, we resolutely continued on our journey of discovery. The pier was absolutely crowded with people, many of them jostling to get in the picture with Elvis. Understandably so, since most of them couldn't hear him, and were wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the words: New York Deaf Society. It was like trying to move through treacle - with the sun, the hangover, and the silent riot of long lost deaf friends reuniting excitedly in wild gestures around us.

At last we located the Exhibition centre, and fell in line to view the obviously poplular show entitled 'Bodies'. The posters advertising it all over town gave one the impression that it would be a fascinating look at the body from a scientific point of view, since it had this half dissected upper torso of a man staring at you. Having just spent most of the last two weeks in professionally curated exhibitions of incredible art and artefacts, I subconsciously expected something of the same standard, I suppose.

What we encountered, was more like a gory morgue of disembodied limbs and hearts and hands dramatically lit in a maze of otherwise darkened chambers. Our curiosity lead us closer, and at first we marvelled at the beautiful tiny structures of the bones and muscles of the inner ear - knowing that these are 'real' samples, but not quite prepared for how 'real' things were going to get.

Agonisingly thin figures, half skinned, with bits of wispy hair topping their tortured splayed muscles pretended to play basketball. Two children of about twelve were frozen in a tug of war - the one a complete skeleton, the other pale and thin, his tiny limp penis hanging between testicles without a scrotum.

A little (live) boy of about five stayed very close to his father's side as everyone peered into the innards of another emaciated sprinter. One bold woman fingered the colon of a cadaver when the security guard wasn't looking.

I couldn't help walking faster and faster, trying not to see the rows of fetuses and embrios curled up in their cold glass incubators. Lennstein and I saw the panic in each other's eyes and raced towards an exit that was predictably hard to find, the arrogant mind behind the exhibition allowing no-one to escape without having witnessed every single act of death dishonourably dissected and displayed.

A big black security guard at the exit saw our green faces, and directed us to the restrooms without us even asking. Outside, the warmth of the sun was welcoming, but not enough to melt the chill that had descended on us.

We fled down towards Battery park as fast as we could and sat down beneath some trees where we could see the statue of liberty across the water. Lennstein lit a cigarette, I took some pictures, and we tried to make sense of what we had seen, and why we were so disturbed by it, when everyone else seemed to be unaffected.

Suddenly a man sat down next me, and told me that he is a chiropidist. That he knows how to help if one has sore feet. "Oh," I said.

"Those look like comfortable sandals, what size are they? Can I see your foot?" perturbed, but curious, I stuck my dirty foot in his direction, and he proceeded to massage my foot like I've seen the women do in the many pedicure parlours in town. With a bit of a difference. He seemed entranced by the process. Huddled over my foot trying to get his nose as close as possible - "He's sniffing my toes!" I thought. He carried on for a minute or so, and I started to extricate my foot by assuring him that my feet were not sore, and thanks, but it's ok, and I'm starting to get embarassed, so PLEASE can I have my foot back?!! He reluctantly released it, introduced himself as Lewis, and said that he doesn't charge for his services..! Well well, I thought, I won't charge you either, Lewis!

Lennstein and I rushed off to get away from Lewis the chiropidist before we collapsed with laughter at an enclosed garden restaurant with a lovely view of the water... It did have proper cutlery and real wine glasses, but the Gaspazo was an insult, and I couldn't eat it after the bodies and the lewd encounter with a foot fetishist in the park.

Still hungry and hungover but with our spirits lifted by laughter, we set off with the intention of going back to the apartment for a siesta before tackling the night. It was just going on six with the day starting to cool, when Lennstein saw these beautiful roses in a window. 'Fresh' is the name of the retaurant, several blocks away from the water. The flowers came from the owner's garden, and the michelin sticker recommended it. So do we.

We left at ten, and did make it about ten metres down the street before a barman asked us to pleeeeeeeeeze come and have a drink with him, since the evening is so slow - and his place "QDT" was really cool. His name is Steve from Brighton, and he made us wonderful 'Steve's cosmoses' while we talked about his experiences at the time of 9/11 when he was working as a construction project manager on a building right next to the towers when the airplanes hit, and how they had to work with masks while repairing their construction site for months afterwards. The smell and the thick layer of funny dust that covered everything. He left construction after that. "I still get nightmares", he says, while twisting his arms in and around a dishcloth, locking himself into all kinds of beautiful bondage positions while we look on admiringly. "That's a New York moment" he said, when I asked if I could take his picture.

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l   rlennstein

Lennstein

l   rwalk up high

Walk up high!

l   rrose

Rose

l   rbondage

Bondage

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11 August 2006  l   r
Ready for Lennstein!

I've been running around getting the place ready for lennstein - champagne and flowers nuts (suggested by kat) and fruit. Definitely still not going to be cooking, but had to do some cleaning. I've actually generally surprised myself with the level of neatness and cleanliness through both weeks of solitude. When you're alone in a space, no one else messes up what you've just tidied, so it's much easier to maintain. Changed some of my perceptions about myself, that. Used to think that I was a sloth. Not true.

Though I have to admit that I still have the odd nest that grows where I work. Can't help it - things that clamour to be taken into account seem to accumulate, and the only way to silence them is to hide them under other clamouring things, until the chorus becomes noise, and then eventually, one can group it as 'rubbish', and throw it out. Anyway, we all know a tidy desk is the sign of a sick mind.

The dog peeped out at me from the inside of a shopfront. Obviously waiting for it's beloved to return, keeping guard.

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l   rerady for lennstein!

Ready for Lennstein!

l   rdog bone!

Dog bone!

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10 August 2006  l   r
Rain!

The drawing is of a very old hassidic jew in the 'diamond dairy' - where they often go to eat a kosher lunch. It's in the middle of the 'diamond district' which is classically dominated by hassidic jews. i hope they're allowed to wear some very shiny bright things under all the black and beard... anyway - he was beautiful. the food terrible but SERIOUSLY cheap!

The rain came down in Greenwich village. It had been threatening all day, but only managed to break once the evening came. This was the first rain of the entire month - unseasonally dry - except for the first week's heatwave, we've actually had wonderful weather - sunny, with a cool breeze. (A bit hot in the subways, but very comfortable otherwise.)

l   rdiamond dairy

Diamond Dairy (an eating spot)

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l   rrain boots

Rain boots

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09 August 2006  l   r
Mesmerised

These New Yorkers understand the commercial/consumer process incredibly well.

The day before yesterday I walked into a handbag shop on fifth avenue – the window display was so incredibly beautiful – and succumbed to the smooth talking of a guy called Edward. Boy, can he sell you ice cream in the arctic! It felt as if I was being mesmerised by the snake in the Disney version of Robin Hood. Knowing that I should flee for my life (or my wallet). Needless to say, I did buy a handbag for Alet. Gorgeous, but slightly beyond my intended budget!

Edward being a past master, but everyone behind a counter attempts to ‘upsize’ you - whatever you’re buying. Once you have made a decision to part with money, there is always the chance that you wouldn’t mind parting with a little more…

Macy’s. It says: ‘the biggest store in the world’ outside. Ok, general commercial braggery, I thought – gauging the size of the building, and thinking that even if all of it is Macy’s, it’s probably not that big. Surprise, surprise. Stumbling out about five hours later, I had seen the most incredible selection of clothes I’ve ever seen in any store – and I had not seen half of it. Macy’s is not just the building, but the entire BLOCK of buildings – with whole buildings dedicated to shoes, or bedding, or jeans, or handbags…

Even more remarkable, was the fact that it was absolutely crammed with shoppers. The ‘one day sale’ with specials of all kind abounding – I stood in line to pay for surely 20 minutes, with no shortage of tills or cashiers.

So I bow to a great culture, and vow to avoid guys called Edward on the inside of beautiful shops for the rest of the month… but I think I might be hooked.

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l   rskybuilding 02

Skybuildings

l   rskybuilding 01

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08 August 2006  l   r
Sandmandala

Got desperately lost and confused yesterday - only took one picture - of a sandmandala I made in the morning, and I suppose it should have given me a clue of how the day would work out! Anyway, saw some interesting things and people, got to know the city a bit better, and figured out that it's hard to tell west from east at midday when it's cloudy!

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l   rSandmandala

Sandmandala

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08 August 2006  l   r
Artwork for the New York apartment Ampersand's visitors book   u

Hardened

Hardened by Anni Snyman

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07 August 2006  l   r
China Town

Chinatown ROCKS on a Sunday afternoon! Quite wonderful! Obviously colourful and noisy and busy, but the SMELLS! Extraordinary. Walking a hundred metres finds one assaulted by an incredible olfactory experience. From sweet and fragrant, to deliciously rotten – the entire gamut of possibility plunges you unexpectedly into pools of memory that hover while you pick out trinkets for loved ones back home.

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Tatric Teaching

Tantric Teaching

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06 August 2006  l   r
Playground

The entire downtown atmosphere changes on a saturday. If you drift towards the water's edge (which is hard to resist) you find everyone there like school children on a playground at breaktime. Some playing games, some talking in groups on the grass, lovers scattered amongst them, but insular.

Squirrel for Lala

A squirrel for Lala

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l   r
Girl at a fountain

Girl at a fountain

l   rIn the crook of a log

In the crook of a log

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05 August 2006  l   r
Knights

Cognitive dissonance.

That's the only (2) word(s) for it. Just spent a full five hours figuring out what I absolutely have to can't miss get scheduled to do this week. With even three weeks to go - and five days behind me (one sixth of this amazing time is already over!) – there is so much, that one would need a thousand days and nights to see what even one month can give you in this town.

When in doubt - find things for other people! And yesterday I found these knights (and armour) for my son - enjoy, Dwight!

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armour

Knights and swords for Dwight

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l   rKnights

l   rswords

 

04 August 2006  l   r
African sun

I always seem to be writing when the sun rises in Africa. Between the towers of this ant colony the sun just appears, but since I tend to be walking home (towards the west) in the early evening, I am aware of its setting, more than its rising. Still, the waters within me remember the rising of the African sun, and wake me up accordingly.

***

Uptown is different to where we live. It's hurried and pressurised - all the things one imagines New York to be. Broadway is broad. And futuristic. Yesterday afternoon my legs were aching from all the walking and a bit of dehydration, otherwise I would have taken some cool pictures in the heat.

I was coming back from MoMA, when I saw this virtually naked tattooed giant of a hunky cowboy (the boots and hat told me the last bit) playing guitar on the 'middelmannetjie' (can't for the life of me remember the english word) of Broadway. I have no idea what he sounded like - the din all around ensured that it was a silent image. To the right (in the shade of a building) was a long throng of teenage girls waiting to be let into Mtv's studios, their excitement obvious, their dreams palpable.

I slipped between the girls and a railing - finding myself in a clearing (what a relief!), only to realise that I'm the only un-uniformed person in the space, and that the railing had some stencilling on it: 'POLICE LINE - DO NOT CROSS'. I crossed quickly, having crossed already, found the subway and hurried home.

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Shadows in MOMA

Shadows in MOMA

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03 August 2006  l   r
First Walk through New York

Yesterday was awesome! Walked all the way from the apartment, up Broadway to the Strand Bookstore. What a shop! Discovered a marvelous artist - Robert ParkeHarrison, and Leonard Cohen's latest book of poetry. Found an organic whole food market for lunch, took the subway back and slept a bit - tried to work, but it wouldn't flow. In the evening Chris took me to meet his tattoo artist, in Christopher street - lots to see and do there! Walked back in the long extended dusk - took pictures, got lost, found my way again, and had a glass of champagne and dinner at de Niro's place in Tribeca. Today I'll find a wireless hotspot (send this and the pics to Katty) go to the MOMA, rearrange the apartment... and see what else the sweaty city offers me. What a joy!

From the tribeca grill

Knob Creek. It's a bourbon. I don't drink bourbon, but its a funny name for a drink. Tribeca grill. That's where I sit looking at it. The champagne's good the Sauvignon Blanc from Chile great. Albeit with tits. That's what reminded me of Eddie - not that he's got them, he told me that some wines have. Refrained from waking him up in the middle of his night to tell him that I'm enjoying some. The thought did cross my mind, though. (So consider yourself remembered and respected, Ed!)

Pleasant spot. Full of fornicating New Yorkers. The couple next to me at the bar is about one clothing item away from being arrested. She's a bit drunk, I think. He is very sober, and clearly focused on the task ahead.

What a town. What humble, well mannered people. How on earth did they become Godzilla of the planet? Obedience? Maybe that's what's 'wrong' with them? But they're so cute, so beautiful, so NICE. Dreamy. Unreal. Does the very notion of Utopia create Hell? When we turn away from one possibility, do we create shadows taller than ourselves?

*

The memory of those twin towers hovers over everything.

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New York city scape

Walking through New York

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02 August 2006  l   r
Bedroom of 3G, 275 Greenwich street

Vyfuur en ek is wakker - gister was 'n blur. Chris en ek het soveel moontlik probeer doen, maar my brein was nog nie hier nie, en die hitte was ongelooflik. Vandag is ek reg vir als! Miskien breek een van daai legendariese New York donderstorms oor die dorp vandag - dit sal opwindend wees! Wil soveel as moontlik sien en hoor en beleef. Ek dink ons moet die woonstel se prente herrangskik, onder andere!

Ons het gister 'n paar ongelooflike mooi Egon Schiele sketse gesien. Ek ken hulle almal uit die boeke uit, maar daar was iets aan die weerlose naaktheid en onvolmaakthied van die sketse self, wat my aangeraak het. Daar was ook besondere antieke metaalwerk uit die Inca tyd, en Kara Waters se reeks: 'After the Deluge' het my beindruk. Dit was alles in die Met. 'n Klein print gallerytjie het ongelooflike mooi mezzotints en etse te koop aangebied.

Ons het heerlik geëet by 'n klein kafeetjie in Soho, maar die Amerikaanse porsies bly my maar een voor! Die mense is uiters beleefd - asof hulle hulself binne hou. Seker regso in 'n stad. Chris sê die polisie het eergister twee mense reg voor ons gebou doodgeskiet - hulle het skynbaar 'n kar probeer steel of iets. Sjoe, ek's bly ek het nie daarop afgekom met die intrapslag nie.

Daar's 'n muggie in die vertrek! Ek wonder hoe hy ingekom het. (Alles is toe en lugverkoel - in hierdie hitte 'n seening. Miskien voel die muggie ook so!)

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chris in new york

Chris in New York

01 August 2006  l   r
Dakar stopover

After Dakar reality started to settle in. I was actually on my way. It was almost six o'clock in the morning at home, and Dwight was probably waking the kids up. I was getting thoroughly frustrated with flying - lots of idiotic 'security' checkers running through the aeroplane, and half the people supposed to disembark at Dakar, seemed to be unaware of this - having to be told repeatedly that this was it. IT! Get off!!!

Lo and behold the Terror of the States was also seeping through, with all of us being told that it was 'illegal to congregate' in the plane. I wondered how many people would make up a 'congregation'. Then the inevitable racist-anti-life ritual of spraying the plane with poison. Never encountered that flying INTO Africa. Nope. "All of you with sensitive eyes, contact lenses, or sinuses(!) please cover you eyes and face and stop breathing, please..."

Well and truly on my way to the land of rules and the ruled. (Except for New York, of course!)

The youngster next to me fell fast asleep moments after lift off - his arm touching my elbow. I found myself staying there - expecting to be without human or animal touch for the next two weeks - I didn't move and kind of leeched surreptitiously. But I suspect like eating, drinking or sleeping, one can't stock up on it.

The sun is rising, but we're racing away from it, so it is the slowest sunrise I've ever encountered. The thin sliver of red has grown to an orange tear in the dark canvas in almost an hour. At home it's quarter past nine. Where we are, it's probably five or so, but the clouds over the atlantic aren't taking notice.

Four hours to go.

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longest sunset

From the aeroplane.

30 July 2006  l   r
Light as a Feather

Wow! I am so excited, I can hardly help myself! Between the wine (always to accompany Sunday lunch cooking) and the packing - I shiver in anticip.......... (Don't know if I'm Susan Sarandon or the voice in tights - anyway, you know what I mean.)

I am actually going to become a fellow! Always wanted to be one - only in some ways - but still. I think I'm going to introduce myself as 'fellow' from now on. Wow. I feel like a barbarian being allowed into the gates of Rome. After this, I can vote - and do a couple of other things too, I suspect.

Tomorrow will probably be hectic and sad. I'll get that fast walk on me in the airport that will only let go once I'm on the 'other' side. Not hearing or really feeling anything except the tears that are way too shallow when you greet your love and your children.

But today - today is replete with fantasy and excitement. Just the full undefined potential of this gift lying in my lap. It hasn't become anything yet, therefore it is everything. And it's weight is registered somewhere between my throat and my heart - light as a feather.

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memory bands

Platting memory bands for my beloveds.

19 July 2006  l 
Being in New York

Hallo Beloveds!

This diary is to keep all of you up to date with the ins and outs of anni's big apple stew - if you're interested, that is.

Mostly I hope that this will enable us to continue our relationships and dialogues without interruption, since you will be able to stay in touch with my experiences. Also, I hope to keep the loneliness at bay this way. Please feel free to write to me at while I'm over (t)here.

Love
An

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brakkals goodbye

Brakkals koebaai (Late July 2006) - not really, but an appropriate feeling for the moment!

Initiated 19 July 2006, www.annisnyman.co.za/ny/, author: Anni Snyman

All work is under a Creative Commons Copyright Licence.