All By Myself

June 7, 2012 at 2:20 am (By Amba)

Slept late; sat here in a daze of relief all day, working on and off, hardly moving because the kitten (spayed yesterday, that violent word like a sharp tool) is all right. Close to 7 I remembered with a start that I had a ticket to a theatre production somewhere downtown at 8. It was a preview of this, which is based on one of my all-time favorite books.  I keep giving the book to people but no one seems to love it as much as I do (ever notice how often our impassioned gifts of the food, books, or clothing we love fall flat with the recipient, and vice versa? Taste is induplicable), so I went by myself, dressed up in my half-assed way. Nobody cares but me, and there’s a freedom in it.

It was at Rector and Greenwich Streets, way downtown.  I never did know downtown well and I know it even less now, so I tried to Google a subway route.  Google Maps was way wrong.  Turns out the number 1 Broadway line train from Sheridan Square would have taken me straight to the doorstep, but Google Maps didn’t have a clue of that.  It told me I had to come upstairs at World Trade Center and go back underground around the corner at Fulton Street.

And so it was that I came up out of the subway right in front of the growing shaft of the new World Trade Center building.  Faster than I could react consciously, I got goosebumps.  It doesn’t look like all that much from a distance, so it caught me off guard that close up it was so awesome, silver against a silver sky.  I can’t find a picture that looks the way it looked. Just one more reason to break down and get a fucking iPhone. (Or is it?  If I’d had an iPhone I wouldn’t have gotten lost, wouldn’t have been startled by the building close up, wouldn’t have walked by the worn-thin gravestones in Trinity Churchyard and felt bracketed by the extremes of American history, wouldn’t have had to ask surprised strangers for directions.  It seems to have happened in the blink of an eye: no one looks at anyone anymore, no one gets lost and has to find their way using only their senses.)

I don’t know if the play would have made sense to someone who didn’t know the book as well as I do, but I sat breathless on the edge of my seat and, at certain key moments, cried.  The emphasis on dreams, which I need to reconnect with, and the director’s essay in the program, full of Taoist ideas about the virtue of uncertainty, told me I was where I belonged.  It was mostly beautifully done, with scrims and large-scale video projection that transformed the simple set into a dreamscape — much truer to the book than the PBS film adaptation released in 1980.  It could have been even better. Afterwards I found the adapter/director at the door and thanked him, told him the one scene I wished he had done more with, and how one of the actors needs to speak up.  I didn’t go on and on, but his eyes looked for escape; it was a busy moment for him, and I am neither young and beautiful nor old and important, so nobody cares what I have to say.  And I don’t care that they don’t care.  I’ll say it anyway, or not.  It doesn’t matter.

There’s an absurd freedom in not mattering at all, wandering like a neutrino (the particle that interacts with nothing at all, but passes right through matter) through an island of 5 million striving, connected people.  I have a feeling that later on, when my life is more mundane and perhaps more structured and companioned, I’ll be nostalgic for this.


  1. kngfish said,

    Ah, see….we both like The Band Wagon, but I prefer to Dance in The Dark

    You have that “I knew it was you Fredo….all along” look, Neutrino Amba!

  2. mockturtle said,

    In an urban, peopled setting one’s insignificance can be either reassuring or daunting. I find crowds and looming buildings oppressive. But in my favorite milieux, ecstatic at the base of Mt. Rainier or breathless at the top of a desert canyon, I also feel insignificant. But it’s a reverent, grateful insignificance that brings joy and supreme contentment.

    My first experience with this feeling was after dropping acid [LSD, for the uninitiated] back in the late 60’s but I probably would have arrived at it naturally.

  3. mockturtle said,

    PS: I love your neutrino analogy. Maybe you should start a journal for later publication: My Life as a Neutrino ;-)

  4. amba12 said,

    See, I think the buildings give me some of the same feelings of awe that the canyons do. This city is such an extreme, amazing setting for people to be going about their ordinary, oblivious, social business in. The architecture is literally breathtaking. There’s a long tradition of people who are happiest in either NYC or the Southwest (G. O’Keeffe and Edward Abbey for two).

  5. karen said,


    I knew what LSD was, MockT– but, who’s the dancing/singing Loner:0?
    Kgman– they dance like fluid sex. No beginnings- no endings. Secure.

  6. Icepick said,

    If you get a smartphone, you’re just going to have to have the discipline to get lost.

  7. A said,

    Maybe you can ask Siri for the most meaningful route from here to there,
    or more trickily, there to here….

  8. lh said,

    I love this post, Annie. Love it! And I ordered that book from Amazon before I came over here (I have new Ambiance posts emailed to me) to comment. Your recommendation is always a standalone good-enough for me.

  9. amba (Annie Gottlieb) said,

    It eases my heart that you love it, I was afraid it would be mistaken for self-pity.

    I’ve always loved that Fred Astaire song but love it now more than ever.

  10. karen said,

    Not self-pity.
    Self awareness.
    Still- i wish for a new picture w/a smile!!!!

    Maybe if you decide to get that infernal iphone– you could take a pic w/the camera!

  11. LouiseM said,

    For a penny and 3.99 spent on shipping, I bought some vowels and consonants. They arrived in the form of a question which touched my heart and brought tears as I sat on the steps in the afternoon sunshine reading the first page of the yellowed Avon book delivered by mail today:

    What will the creature made all of seadrift do on the dry sand of daylight; what will the mind do, each morning, waking?

  12. amba (Annie Gottlieb) said,

    Oh, I am SO happy for you that you’re going to be reading that.

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