Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bloomsday 2011

Every year I have to work on Bloomsday, and every year I complain about it. It used to seem to fall on the last day of classes every year, so I would spend the day telling the 3 kids per class who showed up about my trips to Dublin, showing them my book & pictures & basically just jabbering on like an imbecile about it. After work, I'm always looking for a way to celebrate. Twice I went to the local reading, but I didn't really enjoy it. Once I went to the reading at Symphony Space, & that was pretty awesome, but it's pricey & ends really late for a school night. I'd like to go to the Rosenbach Museum in Philly one of these years, but like most places, they tend to do stuff during the day, when I'm WORKING. And this year was one of those when the 16th fell during Regents week, when I am actually needed.
Well not really. The English exam was not until Friday, so all I had to do on Thursday was proctor. In the 15 years I've been at NDHS, not only have I never gone sick during Regents Week, but I've always been willing to proctor late exams. It's not rare for me to be stuck there until 6:30 some nights, especially back in those 2-day ELA Regents days. This time I was so determined to celebrate Bday that I told the school in advance it was the one day I could NOT stay late! They put me down as 2nd proctor of a morning exam in an ELL room, finishing at 2:25pm.
I remembered hearing that Ulysses Folk House near the ferry did a reading every year, so I told Paul I planned to ride my bike there after work. He decided he would ride into Brooklyn to visit Jim Hanley. It was all working out.
Just as I'm showing up for my proctoring assignment, Paul starts trying to call me. I get a text from him that says "Don't panic, but I got hit by a car. I'm fine but the bike is fucked up." I call around to find someone to cover me long enough for me to call & talk to him, but now he's not answering the phone. Once I finally got through to him the bike was fixed already (the guy who had run him over going 3 mph was kind enough to drive him to a bike shop & buy him a new front rim), & he assured me he was fine & was at Jim's. I was tempted to use the excuse to sign out early, but I did the good girl thing & went back to proctoring the exam.
Raced home, got my stuff together, & rode to the ferry. Just missed the 4:00 boat, so I got a cheesy hot dog from the place by the ferry & hung out long enough to eat that. Walking onto the boat I heard 2 guys talking about how to fix the brakes on the one guy's bike; they said they needed an allen wrench, so I lent them mine. They spent the whole ferry ride making one working brake out of the two broken ones the guy had on his bike. They thanked me for the loan of the tool & seemed impressed on how uber-prepared I was (I also have a patch kit, pump & spare tube. Ya never know).
Got off the ferry at 5pm. That is a hell of a time to go riding around the financial district. The bar has a big courtyard that's actually a street cut off from traffic & full of tables, all of which were filled. I locked up my bike on the scaffolding in the courtyard & made a couple of circuits around the whole building & courtyard. It seems their Bloomsday stuff had been going on all day; the readings were apparently done, but I got in at the very end of the "complimentary pint of Guinness hour." So that was a win! But it was very uncomfortable, and while there were a few groups of people that had books with them, most were lawyers, financial types, & just plain frat boys who were somehow already drunk off their asses. I managed to read over a few pages of "Oxen of the Sun" before I decided to try my luck elsewhere.
It was turning out to be a really nice day weatherwise, & I really liked the idea of drinking outside. It's one of my favorite things to do, & one reason why I love Paris so much. I thought it would be great to ride up to the outdoor cafe on the Hudson Greenway & have a drink there, but it was after 6, and Paul & I had planned to get the 9pm boat home together. I figured I was better off finding someplace in the Village where I could sit, read, eat & drink. Corner Bistro came to mind right away.
The ride there was fabulous. As I found a sign outside to lock my bike to, I noticed an orange bike locked up across the street. Paul's bike is orange, & every time we see an orange bike he kind of sings "orange bike," so of course I heard that in my head. As soon as I parked my bike this guy came over & started asking me about it, assuming it was a custom bike, which it's not. He turned out to be the owner of the orange bike, & as soon as I said, "My husband has an orange bike," he ended the conversation & left. Go figure.
I went into the Corner Bistro & headed straight for the Ladies' Room. When I came out, saw the line for a table stretching halfway to the door, & every spot at the bar was full. So I decided to walk a bit & find a place to eat.
I ended up at Fiddlesticks, where I had gone only once about 10 years ago when Ellen dragged a bunch of us to a fireman auction. I went in & asked if I could sit outside, & the nicest waitress on the planet earth told me to sit anywhere I liked. I ordered a Guinness as soon as she brought me the menu, & opened the book onto the tiny table, which had a plant on it along with the bread, water carafe & glass, salt, pepper, and a ridiculous ketchup dispenser in the shape of a tomato. I ordered the sliders as an appetizer (the NWOTPE said, "The name 'sliders' is kind of misleading; you only get one," but I said "That's perfect" because I really had no business getting an appetizer AND entree on top of the second Guinness) and a goat cheese fritter salad (eating cheese as an homage to Bloom, natch). While I was reading & eating, someone brought out lanterns for all the tables. I was glad for the tealight, but the table was just getting ridiculously crowded. I kept using my phone as a bookmark, since checking Twitter for the various Ulysses-themed tweets was almost a full-time job that day, made all the more challenging by my dwindling battery life (I think it was down to 32% when I got home). There was one guy I kept seeing walking back & forth in front of the place, & as soon as I started thinking "What's this guy's problem?" I realized he was probably a manager there. Duh. There was a table of 4 young people behind me; one of them was a real smarmy trust-fund-kid-type who was irritating the hell out of me because he was LOUD. He was talking about how cool he had been when he went to Paris & bargained for paintings near "Sacre-Core" by offering good American money instead of Euros (see what I mean?) & I couldn't see his companions, but the thought that they were buying into his shit was really annoying me. Somebody needed to punch that kid in the mouth. That's all I'm saying.
I read a few more pages of "Oxen" & wrapped up my stay there. The Nicest Waitress on the Planet Earth brought the check, ran my card, & took the little check-holder-thingy back & we both thanked each other profusely. I made sure I had the card in my wallet & the wallet in my bag, & decided to hit the ladies' room before heading back to my bike.

I was really congratulating myself on how I had timed everything; I figured I had time to do the scenic route along Battery Park City to get back. For a moment I was afraid I would leave The Book in the bathroom, but I didn't. I walked back to my bike, unlocked it, & got back on the road. Rode down Washington St. to Christopher, got back on the Hudson Greenway, stopped at a light like the nerd that I am, & took the opportunity to check the time. Reached in the pocket of my backpack for my phone, and IT WAS GONE. MY PHONE WAS NOT THERE. I pulled everything out of that pocket & put it back. I felt the book bag that I keep The Book in, remembering how I had kept the phone in there while I was reading. I looked in the main part of my pack, although I knew I would never put my phone in there. Full panic creeped up on me & pounced.
Had I left it at the restaurant? In the bathroom? On the outdoor table, where any passerby could have picked it up? Could it have fallen in the gutter outside Corner Bistro when I took out my keys to unlock my bike?
I was freaking out. By this time I was pedalling like a madman back up toward Corner Bistro, taking one way streets the wrong way, riding on the sidewalk on the cobbled streets, just plain not giving a shit. Wondering what the hell I was going to do if the phone was gone. At one point the bike lane was blocked by cops & three bike riders were stopped behind it; I jumped off & walked my bike around on the sidewalk & kept on going. Had someone stolen it out of my backpack somehow? WTF had happened to it? Got to Corner Bistro, looked in the gutter, wheeled my bike in & asked the bartender if anyone had turned in a phone. He said, "not tonight." I wheeled out & rode to Fiddlesticks, FREAKING THE FUCK OUT. Got there & saw that manager guy right away. Told him I might have left my phone there, probably in the bathroom. He said to ask Rory at the bar, & said he would mind my bike. Opened the door & walked right into the NICEST WAITRESS ON THE PLANET EARTH, who before I could say anything smiled & said, "You left your phone; I tried to catch you..." I can't describe the relief that flowed all over me right then, as Rory came from behind the bar with my phone in his hand.
It was 8:50 pm. I texted Paul: "Late sorry - you're gonna kill me when u hear why." I managed to get to the Greenway & travel a bit before he called me back, worried. I just came out with it; "I left my phone at the restaurant." He said, "Did you get it back?" I said, "Yeah, I'm talking to you on it."
As we waited for the boat, I was really kicking myself. The NWOTPE had said this happens all the time. "Not to me," is what I told her. Paul said the important thing was that I got it back, although my text had worried him; he felt I should have just told him what happened. Especially given the way his day went, and the fact that his last text to me before that had said "Watch out for cars!"
I guess I should mention the 11ysses experiment. It was pretty interesting. This dude arranged for volunteers each to turn an 8-page section of Ulysses into a series of 4-6 tweets that he labelled "Bloomsday Bursts" and tweeted in Dublin time over the course of the day under the user name @11ysses. He also started @11ysses2 for commentary on how it went. At the same time, @UlyssesSeen was tweeting brief mentions of events (in fact, he started doing this a few days in advance, tweeting the backstory). It was kind of cool the way his tweets illuminated ours, but it got confusing since his tweets were in Eastern Standard Time. Most people who had decided to read @11ysses because they had never read U seemed really disappointed that they couldn't understand any of it, but fans of the book seemed to love it. The dude who started the whole thing was kind enough to email us each a certificate & a pdf of the whole twitter version, which he asked us not to distribute for fear of legal repercussions. I also got a fuckton of new twitter followers. I picked a few to follow back, but let's face it, I've got enough to read as it is!