MARCH 2000 - 1/2
The counter woman at the 101st st. takeout joint had been harassing me. Once one of the cooks, a female, was ranting in Chinese for the whole time I was there waiting for my order. It was very loud and disturbing. Another time a young woman was helping at the counter and she was chewing gum in a disgusting manner. A third time when my order was ready the counterwoman, instead of packing my order and telling me the price, was in deep conversation with a black man who had just come in. They were speaking about her gold bracelet and it was obvious to me that it was deliberate to ignore, disrespect and inconvenience me. I said in a loud voice to interrupt them “How much?”
When I sat at a table to eat at the hostel I realized that there was no sauce to eat the egg roll, no crackers and no spoon to eat the soup! So the whole point of the little scene with the Mexican was to show me how little respect I deserved, while showing utter deference to a Mexican! Since I couldn’t eat I returned to the store and requested the missing items. I was angry but did not behave inappropriately. The woman said that I had not requested the items so she had not put them. “Do I need to ask for crackers with this soup? Do I need to ask for sauce with the egg roll?” I asked angrily. I sat at a table to eat. As soon as I had sat down a group of teenagers came in, two girls and two boys, and one of the girls had a very unpleasant voice and of course she was almost shouting.
Fri. the 3rd: At the word processing center on 106th st. a black man comes to sit at the computer next to me shortly after I came in. He’s using a graphics program on the large screen Mac. I’m not paying a lot of attention to him but I can see that his work does not progress much. At the end of my session I ask him if he’s a graphic artist and he says he is. Since I’ve been thinking of adding graphics to my web page I ask for his business card. He doesn’t have one but writes his phone and beeper numbers on a paper I hand him. I’m surprised that a graphic artist does not have a business card, and also that he has to come to a rented computer to work if he’s a professional. I smell a rat but don’t know what the trick is.
Later at the Columbia library two girls at the catalog computers giggle and tap the keyboard noisily for a good half hour without being asked by the staff to be quiet. Then the internet computer next to them becomes free and I go sit at it. While I wait for the connection I steal a glance at what the girl next to me is typing into the search fielßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßßbvious that she’s on their side because she is smiling slyly. OK so she wants me to know that the library staff is in on the harassment project. I already knew that from the Bloomingdale and St Agnes branches.
As I’m walking on Broadway back to the hostel from the library, somebody bumps into my shoulder bag from behind. A few seconds later a young woman passes me, carrying a guitar in a black case. So she bumped me with the tip of the case. Very smart.
Sat. the 4th: I go to Barnes & Noble on B’way and 83rd, and in early evening decide to have dinner in the neighborhood rather than in the hostel’s neighborhood. I go to a Vietnamese restaurant. Because one woman is sitting far from the table it makes the seat behind her unavailable so I take the chair opposite, which makes me face away from the room, and I haven’t been sitting there more than a few minutes when the table behind me becomes free and a couple comes in and takes it. The man sits just behind me and when he takes off his jacket he drags it on the top of my head, mussing my hair. It’s very upsetting. I know he did it deliberately. He says he’s sorry and I say nothing but any decent person would have taken care not to do what he did.
Mon. the 6th: Word processing at St Agnes library. As soon as it opens there’s a line to sign up for the internet computers. I want to sign up there too so I can use the internet when I’m finished with the wp. Two men in their sixties argue in the line about the sign-up. I know it’s a staged argument because they are not very convincing, neither seems really upset. I look at them with a baleful eye.
Thurs. the 9th: At computer studio finish writing 1st part of Feb. 2000. Graphic artist named Richardson arrives a few minutes after me and sits at computer next to me. I ignore him.
Fri. the 10th: At computer studio Richardson arrives immediately after me. He seems to have trouble with something and John, the fat owner with a blond buzz cut comes to stand behind him presumably to help with the problem. Meanwhile I type Part 2 of February, the incident with the oriental man while a guitarist is murdering Hotel California. It’s only after I’ve left that I understand: all this time Richardson was reading what I was typing. No wonder his work didn’t seem to progress, and the computer “problem” was only an excuse for the lack of progress, and the presence of John near him just when I was recounting an incident that incriminated the hostel staff!
And now I understand also what the black janitor was doing sitting next to the oriental tourist: he was teaching him a few sentences in French to make me believe that the Oriental really knew some French and to make me like him.
I’m moved to Room 310, a room with only two bunk beds. I’m alone there until 11:30 or so. At first I feel uneasy being alone, I’m not used to it anymore and I find the silence oppressive, but then I calm myself, reasoning that after all this is a rare opportunity for some peace and quiet, so I eat at the desk and read the New Yorker. Still as the evening progresses I feel afraid. Maybe they put me alone in this room so they can murder me while I’m sleeping! They could carry my dead body in one of those huge canvas hampers on wheels that they use for carrying dirty laundry, and nobody would be the wiser. So before going to bed I’ll pull the other bunk bed in front of the door to prevent anybody from entering. But what if I’m wrong? What if a tourist wants to sleep in this room and I have to ask her to wait while I put the bed back against the wall? Won’t I look totally paranoid and stupid?
I decide to wait until midnight but pull the bed about one foot from the wall, about one-fourth of the way to the door. And just before midnight a woman comes to sleep. I wonder if she’s here just to allay my fears and will allow some murderers to come in and get me in the middle of the night. I have seen these large hampers on wheels that the maids use to put the linens in. It wouldn’t be a problem to hide and carry a body in one of these.
The woman is in her twenties. She must pick up my nervousness because she seems a little cowed and does not assert herself when I ask at what time she would like the lights to be turned off. After the lights are out I stare at the band of light under the door. If somebody comes I’ll see the feet. But I’m tired, I want to sleep, I won’t be able to stay awake all night in the dark lying in bed and I conclude that if God has decided that this is the way I’ll die there’s nothing I can do about it.
Fri. the 10th:When I wake up I’m happy to be alive. When I want to make a reservation for the seven nights starting on the 11th I’m told that there is no bed available on the 11th though the following six nights are not a problem. While I’m talking to a staff person I can hear another staff person say the same thing to a would-be customer. My reservationist gives me a photocopy of a rate-sheet for another hostel on Central Park North. Uh huh. I’m not going anywhere North of here to sleep. I don’t say anything but suspect that they are saying that there’s no room at the inn to make me go there and why would they want me to go there unless it was for some dirty business?
In the evening a woman in her early sixties comes into the room. She’s the dynamic, healthy kind of sexagenarian, with straight white hair cut in a pageboy. I say hello politely and keep reading the New Yorker. Very soon she starts asking personal questions and I remain as evasive as I can though I think I tell her that I lost my apartment and live in this hotel for the time being, otherwise the questions about traveling are unavoidable. She has a new-agey occupation. Yoga teacher or something.
Sat. The 11th: In the morning she starts doing yoga postures standing up and breathing exercises. I totally ignore her and she cuts it short. She resumes her questioning and suggests that I go to a hotel where they have weekly rates. How could she know about this New York institution, being from out of state? I hate it when people suggest to me what to do. Do they think I’m so stupid that I didnt have the idea by myself? And she keeps asking questions so personal that at one point I ask her if anybody’s paying her to ask them. It shuts her up for a while. Then she says that she’s going to read the New Yorker and eat an apple as if she didn’t know that it was what I read and what I ate. Is it a kind of intimidation, these people who let me know that they know something about me while pretending that they don’t know it? Who arrive from far away apparently but know something about me? Very unpleasant but a dead giveawy that the person is an enemy.
When I’m getting ready to leave the room she wishes me the best and tells me that miracles happen to those who are prepared for them. In other words she puts me down, implying that I haven’t done everything in my power to get out of the hole I’m in. And of course she says it with warmth and apparent goodwill and sincerity.
I put my suitcase in storage for the day. Later in the morning a janitor holds up the elevator door while I’m waiting to get in, meanwhile a young woman stands in front of the snack machine eating an apple noisily. Later two maids hold the elevator on the second floor while I’m inside and they discuss the merits of different dust pans.
At the computer store I get my time sheet corrected. The man had counted me about two hours extra that I didn’t use on the computer. At lunch two homosexuals, one a transvestite, sit near me as soon as I sit down at a table and during all my lunch I can hear their affected voices which grate on me.
I call Howard Johnson and find room in Clifton NJ. Before going I buy some dried fruits and nuts, bananas and such to eat dinner in my room and I take only a light bag with me. At the check-in desk a man arrives just ahead of me and he complains that the hotel was difficult to find and he had to “traipse” to find it. Later as I walk to my room I’ll see him in the hallway as if he was trying to start a conversation with me but he’s out of luck. I want to be alone, blissfully alone for once and I enjoy the comfort of the room.
Sun. The 12th: I return to NY in the morning. As I wait for a bus on 42nd street an Asian woman asks me for directions to Times Square, then she corrects herself and says Union Square so I explain to her again hot to get there on the subway. But she wants to go by bus. I wonder if she’s not another of those harrassers. How could she mistake Times Square for Union Square?
Sat. The 18th: I eat at the Chinese restaurant on B’way and 103rd. I have hardly been seated when a couple with a little girl leave the restaurant and while they’re passing me the little girl says: “Mommy, when I grow up I’ll save all my money so that I’ll never be homeless.”