Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I (heart) New York!: The 2010 Book Expo, Lower East Side & Gaza

New York is absolutely throbbing with energy and excitement! When I get back to Berkeley, I'm gonna have to hide under the bed for WEEKS just to recover from this trip. The very first thing that you do after landing at JFK is to get lost on the subway at least twice. Then I stayed at the Gershwin Hotel's conveniently-priced youth hostel -- with three Swedish girls and an Argentine science major. None of them snored. And just TRY to get hooked up to the free wi-fi at McDonalds. Not happening. No.

I really wanted to get an internet connection so I could find out what's happening to my friends who are sailing to Gaza with hundreds of tons of humanitarian relief stuffed into a bunch of cargo ships. They were supposed to sail on Saturday. And then Tuesday. What is happening? Have they sailed yet? Or not.

Finally, around 10 pm last night, I located an internet cafe. Nope, they haven't sailed yet. But they had better do it soon if they plan to get there any time soon. The Israeli navy has already promised to give them a Warm Reception -- and it might be impolite of them to miss that. Joe Meadors, a survivor of the USS Liberty disaster, is also on board the same ship as my friends. Perhaps he is hoping to do one of those veterans' reminiscence thingies and relive another Israeli attack? Let us sincerely hope that THAT doesn't happen!

Anyway, bright and early this morning I ran, er, hurried up to the Jacob Javits center to get my Barbra Streisand ticket. Score! And there's a photo of her on the ticket, all in blue velvet and sitting on a blue velvet couch next to a fluffy little white dog. Her new book is called, "My Passion for Design". I hope they give out free copies. My apartment could really use a face-lift.

Here's a quote from Barbra's editor at Viking: "She devoted as much time to this project as to anything else she's done in her life. You can really hear Streisand's voice when reading it. It's as much fun to read as it is to look at."

I'll report back to you later, after I've seen her speech. No photographs are allowed, however. Rats.

Now for the fun stuff. After registering and checking in at the Book Expo, I jumped on the crosstown bus and transferred to the Second Avenue bus down to the Lower East Side. I used to live on the Lower East Side! Back in 1965. B&H Dairy is still there, still selling rice pudding.

Then I went to see my old neighbor, Ben Treuhaft. He has a piano repair shop down on Ridge Street, down past Orchard Street. And, boy, has Orchard Street changed too. Insead of all those old funky stalls and pushcarts, it is now officially New York's "Bargain District". And Alphabet City, which used to be a notorious junkie heaven where you took your life in your hands just to walk down the street past 8 pm, is now all co-op apartments, Yuppie daycare centers and designer boutiques.

I was almost raped on the corner of Houston and Second, back in the day. My, times have changed.

Anyway, it's just no longer "Second-hand Rose, from Second Avenue...."

Ben, my ex-neighbor, caught me up to speed fast. "I've married and had two children since I saw you last...." That long ago?

"What about your Piana to Havana program?" Ben used to collect hundreds of used American pianos and ship them off to Cuba so that school children could take lessons on them.

"I'm not so involved in that any more. And besides, I'm leaving for Japan in four days." His wife Olga, a biologist, will be working on a brain-study program over there for a few years.

"Wow! That's exciting!" Then I volunteered to let his wife study MY brain too -- free of charge. Anything to have an excuse to go visit Japan.

Then I asked Ben if he knew anything about how the huge oil spill disaster was effecting Cuba, but he didn't know. However, he did say that Cubans are highly innovative in matters like that and could probably have the equipment and know-how to plug the leak ASAP. But we all know that asking Cuba for help just isn't going to happen -- just like what happened in Haiti, all that cutting-off-one's-nose kind of stuff.

Then I jumped onto the Chambers subway line at Essex Street and scooted back up to the Javits Center again, to see if they were handing out any more free books. No luck so far but the Book Expo doesn't officially kick off until tomorrow.

I just love New York!