Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A day in the city.

Our story begins not in the hustle and bustle of Metropolis, but on the quiet tree-lined side streets of a town called Astoria. Nestled there, our heroine has been spending her morning avidly reading. The material? A web comic. One so close to her heart, to her life, that at moments it felt like reading her own biography. It does, after all, follow the story of one of her old friends during a catastrophe that they had both endured - though separately.

Upon reading all thirteen existing installments of the killing-me-softly-esque illustration, the girl's interest in its author is understandably piqued. And upon discovering that he lives in Brooklyn, BROOKLYN of all places, the girl - let's call her M - knows instantly that she must contact him.
"Dear Josh Neufeld,

Hi. You don't know me, but I'm having a very six degrees of separation kind of morning, and we know a lot of the same people...

I naturally proceeded to read the thirteen chapters without stopping, laughing out loud at times and crying a little. Because the way you write it is... overwhelmingly how it was..."
Rambling on for at least a page, the new fan explains that she's found the comic, A.D., through semi-acquaintance Rob Walker, who she has been corresponding with in consequence to his book Letters from New Orleans, which was published by Garrett County Press which is run by G.K. Darby whom M knew back in her Bookfair days in N.O...

As she has to Rob Walker, she reiterates to Josh that she is getting ready to release a zine, a zine about Katrina. Her Katrina experience, as it were. That she is donating proceeds to Common Ground, showing correlating art, et cetera.

Much like Rob Walker had the week before, Josh Neufeld actually responds to her email. Like a real human being. Like she is a real human being. Like what she's doing matters. Unlike Rob, who unfortunately no longer lives in NYC, he says he even might try to make it down for the event. (For these two responses M will be forever grateful.) Feeling that this outreach is about as good as her morning can possibly get, the young woman sets out to accomplish her day's goals.

* * *

The first stop in town is the post office, that bastion of bureaucratic disorganization on 14th and A. As is suspected and indeed hoped for, in her p.o. box our girl finds a pink slip, the one that means she will stand in the special line at the far side of the station for an undetermined amount of time hoping all the while that the postal employee of the day will be up to the task of locating her oversized package.

*Five customers ahead: a (young) college girl who has apparently never seen a package, a post office, a mail man, a box, a label, or tape ever before in her entire life.
*Four customers ahead: an attractive woman in her early 40s, whose rather large box mysteriously takes at least ten minutes to locate, and contains a Narnia action figure.
*Three customers ahead: A girl in her twenties on the receiving end of a bulky white envelope, also surprisingly hard to retrieve, contents unrevealed.
*Two customers ahead: an Asian man with a slightly cumbersome grasp of the English language, attempting to retrieve a package for an out-of-town wife. The agent of choice that day at Ominous Window Number Six, however, is a by the book kind of man and is not about to give a package to a different party than that to whom it was addressed, husband or no.
*One customer ahead: despite witnessing said previous exchange, this Mister wants to pick up a certified package addressed to his father with a card signed by his mother. Upon rejection, he states that these rules "must be something new" because he "always does it this way", and attempts to correct the postal worker's obvious misinterpretation of the situation. When he is again rebuffed, he declares "bullcrap" and storms for the doors.

And then, finally, it is time for our dear M. Impressively, both her name and box number have been written on the magical pink retrieval card. Without a question or a sideways glance, the package from her mother is delivered with all the efficiency and zeal normally displayed by a government employee.

* * *

Transportation is another issue entirely, and bus seems best. A short jaunt down to Second Avenue plants M prime to catch the M15, where she patiently waits. This arrangement is much to the chagrin of the yellow cab drivers, three of which spot the white girl carrying what seems to be a heavy box and go in for what should be an easy kill. She has to shoo them off like flies - as if she doesn't have something better to do with the ten bucks that she doesn't even have. Ironic, she thinks, that I should have such an opposite aggravation as my Puerto Rican friend Dyalma, who can't catch a cab to save her life when on the way to the club. Perhaps the PR girls should carry heavy looking boxes when out for a night on the town? Perhaps 'woman' would override culture if manual labor was involved? Hard to say.

Shortly enough she arrives at her destination - workplace, art space, comfort zone, hangout. Breaching the box is naturally the first order of business. Unsurprisingly but pleasingly, it contains the items she has requested from Mommy dearest for the upcoming event: coffee with chicory, and cookies from Brocato's.

* * *

On the W train headed uptown, M is witness to an odd encounter. At 14th street a cute girl in office attire and flip flops, sipping a bubble tea, pokes her head into the train doors, begins to ask which train? but doors abruptly close. Average White Man in jeans and boots, previously unnoticed by anyone, suddenly interjects - jumps to the rescue jamming his hands in the door from inside the train. Is playfully growling first through the three inch opening at the girl (who is mortified and saying no, no, don't do that). Then pulls a Jack Nicholson "Here's Johnny!" before finally admitting failure, having doors slam shut, being chided via intercom by annoyed conductor. Average White Man looks at his fellow car dwellers, smiles like he's just gotten very close to performing a really great trick, and says, "Oh well!" M supposes that perhaps he's a juggler.

* * *

M: "They're stapled?"

Copy Shop Girl: "Yeah, I didn't know they were gonna staple 'em."

M: "Yeah, I thought that was an extra charge..."

Copy Shop Girl: "It is."

M: "?" Severe eyebrow raise.

Copy Shop Girl: "Don't worry about it."

M: "It is what it is, as long as I'm not paying for something I didn't order..." Except that this isn't the whole document. The cover is sitting in my backpack right now. The cover that needed to be stapled on. "They're also inside out."

* * *

Upon arriving home, M realizes that the copy shop has neglected to charge her for 200 of her 2200 copies. Feeling slightly vindicated for their sloppy workmanship, she turns her focus to the box of 100 zines which now must have folds inverted and covers somehow attached.

Damn.

But first, Indian take-out.

* * *

So concludes this installation of the trials and tribulations of a day in the life of M. Tune in for the next riveting episode: Yarn Zine Binding and the Cat's Cradle of Doom!

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