Sightseeing and entertainment in New York

My eyes are still burning. My throat is still raw. I visited the site today.

The smoky air was noticeable even before I emerged from the subway. I was not surprised to find people wearing face masks; I was more surprised that most weren’t.

The view to the north was pretty much the usual. To the south were barricades, shrines, and an unusual amount of light.

Most of the little stores along Chambers Street and Broadway were open, but they had few customers. I wanted to patronize them all.

I had a slice of cajun pizza (crawfish, andouille sausage, okra, and spices) at a little joint near the corner of Broadway and Maiden Lane. I bought a banana from a fresh-fruit cart across from Trinity Church at the western end of Wall Street. I got a drink from a store on Broadway near Dey Street.

The mood was hard to define. There were small crowds at every street crossing that offered a view to the site. People were staring, but they weren’t gawking. No one said a word, not even those passing out religious tracts or selling American-flag-related merchandise.

One person was dressed like a rider on a horse, the front and back of his steed sticking out a couple of feet from his body. He drew some smiles. The police and military didn’t seem anxious to restrict anyone, and no one was testing them by venturing onto forbidden territory.

There are views no one has ever seen before. It is possible to look at the World Financial Center’s waterside Winter Garden from Broadway. It is possible to see the Bank of New York building on Barclay Street from Rector Street, ten blocks to the south.

There is a piece of one of the towers sticking out of the American Express building at the World Financial Center. It looks vaguely like a sculpture that was added to the old McGraw-Hill building on 42nd Street some years back. Much of the site is compelling to look at. I cannot bring myself to call it either beautiful or art.

There is dust everywhere. Smoke is still rising from the ground. The fire is still burning.

My neighborhood, in contrast, seemed completely normal this morning — except for a line of satellite trucks parked outside ABC News. Today they didn’t just report; they WERE the news.

Central Park has been exceptionally gorgeous the past few days. The sky has been a brilliant blue, and the leaves are every other color, with bright berries, crab apples, and horse chestnuts adding accents.

On Saturday night, we went to our favorite Greek restaurant, near Times Square. It’s large, and we rarely have to wait long to get in, but we usually have to wait at least a few minutes, even on, say, a Thursday. This time there were many empty tables. That was the first restaurant I saw since a few days after the attacks that wasn’t doing its usual business, and it’s not an expensive one. I wonder if they count on theatergoers.

We plan to see a play and two concerts this weekend to do our part. In the meantime, our municipal succession is entertaining again.

Having little time to prepare for the big vote next month and working from the historical knowledge that runoffs usually have smaller turnouts than primaries, the Board of Elections combined certain election districts last week. Instead of having individual machines at their polling places, they shared.

After the polls closed, as is traditional, the police read the machine vote totals for the Associated Press recorders. But they didn’t know what to do with the combined districts, so they read the same machine figures for each. On the basis of those numbers, the press declared public advocate Mark Green the winner of the mayoral runoff against Bronx Borough President Fernando (“Freddy”) Ferrer, 52%-48%.

Ferrer conceded. Then the doubled counting came out.

The Board of Elections has yet to conduct its official count (it should be completed by the end of this week). Based on a quick recalculation, Green is still currently expected to win, but with a smaller margin (still much larger, both in raw numbers and in percentage, than in Florida last November).

In the meantime, Ferrer has withdrawn his concession. Green is insisting on his victory. Other politicians are chastising Green for not waiting for the official count, and yet others are saying that the combining of election districts may have violated a Justice Department order covering three of New York City’s counties (we’re a five-county city). Then there’s the question of who made race-based phone calls and distributed race-based campaign literature supposedly on behalf of Green. Some bigwigs in the Democratic party and union leaders are hinting at supporting recently Republican Michael Bloomberg in the general election.

Bloomberg, of course, is tsk-tsk-ing against Green with the rest of them, but, because he’s not using public funding for his campaign, he’s not permitted to participate in the government-reform-program debates. So, tonight’s will feature Green, who may or may not be the Democratic party candidate, versus the candidates of the American Dream, Green, Libertarian, and Marijuana Reform parties. Wheeeee! Needless to say, Green is not the Green Party candidate.

That’s tonight’s entertainment. Last night’s was the Engineering Emmy Awards of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which took place as usual, with people flying from all over the world to attend. There was a tear-choked speech about Academy president John Cannon, but he died in June. Only one award recipient — a citizen of Japan — made a speech about September 11 and its aftermath. He got a big round of applause, but so did the shortest (and last) acceptance speech. We think its brevity may have been related to the acceptor (a last-minute substitute) not knowing why he’d won.

It’s traditional for those who attend the banquet to be bribed with gifts to stay to the end. Two of the recipients this year announced that they were making charitable donations in lieu of gifts.

One of those in attendance told me she has yet to be allowed to return to her apartment in Battery Park City. I saw the building today, just south of the site. It looks okay. She’s been staying with friends since September 11.

The Marriott Marquis dessert chef cranked out the usual chocolate grand pianos filled with raspberries and cream, but this year there was a touch to commemorate last month’s tragedy, a red, white, and blue edible flag. I watched my fellow attendees eating their pianos and leaving their flags untouched.

I knew that the leftover flags would have to be unceremoniously disposed of. So I did the patriotic thing. I ate mine.

TTFN, Mark

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