Monday, September 3, 2007

Flying Solo

When I first came to the city, despite having a roommate, I spent an inordinate amount of time by myself. None of my friends liked to party as much as I did, so I hung out in bars alone, but I also ventured out into the nether regions of the city solo. I always figured nobody was interested in doing the things I was interested in doing, and I hate being turned down / stood up / bailed on, so eventually I just stopped inviting people.


When I became friends with Dan in 2003 and Edith in 2004, suddenly I had partners-in-crime. I've gotten spoiled by that. So today, when I had a day off but Edith out of town and Dan working (and generally distracted and unavailable lately anyway), I had a really hard time figuring out what I wanted to do...alone. There are plenty of places I want to go and see, but now I know it's just not the same unless you have someone with whom to share them.


I didn't want to waste the nice weather though, so I ventured back down to Lower Manhattan. I was there briefly after my Governor's Island adventure, and I could see it pretty well from the Floating Pool Lady, so it's been on my mind lately. To think there was an actual castle in Manhattan that I hadn't visited - I was aghast!


So I took the 5 train down to Bowling Green, with my headphones and book in tow. To be honest, I actually wanted to get a leg up on the new food stand that opened today, Picnick. There'd been such a buzz about it, raising it to near Shake Shack level, and considering I've never been able to handle the line at Shake Shack, I figured I'd get in on this place early.


Despite the hype - Sullivan St. Bakery bread, fresh ingredients, wrapped in paper with edible ink - it was pretty fricking disappointing. I guess I expected something freshly prepared, even in their little booth space, but I got basically a prepackaged, refrigerated sandwich called the Pork 'n Roll, whose thinly sliced pork loin and coleslaw were good, but not worth a subway trip. Would have been a lot better even room temperature. Myself, I'll take 'wichcraft in Bryant Park any day.


Still, it was pleasant enough to have a bite while listening to the sea birds and waves, watching all the sailboats and ferries criss-cross past each other in the water. The Statue of Liberty loomed dark in the distance, and Governor's Island winked knowingly at me.


The last time I was at Battery Park was in 2003 I think, on the 4th of July when Freddy stood me up for a Ryan Adams concert. I went anyway, I think somehow thinking Freddy would eventually show up, but in retrospect I now know what a fool I was for going and waiting for him. I remember sitting on a park bench by the subway station the whole time, not committing to go into the bandshell area. After the concert was over, I headed uptown, tail between my legs, to watch some fireworks at a coworker's roof. I pressed my purse to my side the rest of the night, hoping to feel the phone vibrate. It never did.


Today at least I planned to be alone, and really had no expectations. Castle Clinton itself is pretty boring to look at - most people go there to buy tix for the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island. But its history is fascinating. It originally jutted out into the water, on its own little plot of land, protecting the lower entry to the island (which was a battery of cannons, hence its name). Landfill was brought in around it, making the castle a proper part of Manhattan. It's easy to forget that Manhattan's lower tip used to be shaped differently, but when construction workers recently discovered the old wall that marked the original pre-landfill border of the island, it served as a good reminder of our changing geography.


When "Fort" Clinton's military function was no longer necessary, it became a popular location of public recreation - concerts, fireworks and the like. It then was used as an emigrant landing depot, and eventually housed a public aquarium (destroyed by Robert Moses in his plans to build the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel).


I thought about going to the Statue of Liberty since I've never been, but I got there too late and the line was long anyway. So I hung out once again on a park bench, this time reading my book and soaking in the atmosphere - which consisted mostly of pigeons pecking the sidewalk in front of me. And as the Lower Manhattan skyline gleamed in the bright sunlight, I was struck by the juxtaposition of modern skyscraper and military relic. What a strange city I've made as my home...


Video: Revolutionary Wall in Battery Park - The New York Times