30 January 2009

Visting the Political Madhouse in America

After the craziness of O-Day the Very Understanding Girlfriend and I headed north for a day or two of icy goodness in the tri-state area*. Emerging from the subway car in deepest Brooklyn to the sight of giant rats skating their way across frozen ponds of runoff on the platform, we knew we were in for a fun few days.

A thick blanket of snow still covered the roofs and gardens in the Fort Greene neighborhood where we were staying, home of the historic Fort Greene Park and it's Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument, a high column under whose base are buried over 11,500 American prisoners of war held by the British in prison ships during the war of independence, a historic fact no doubt lost on the kids who tobogganed down the side of this Enlightenment-age burial mound oblivious to the potential for disaster should the angry dead rise again a la Ghostbusters 2**.

On Thursday we had lunch at Red Bamboo vegetarian Soul Food cafe, sister restaurant to the one in the West Village, and the Very Understanding Girlfriend was able to satisfy her craving for veggie sugarcane drumsticks and soy barbecue wings***, before heading into Manhattan that night to meet up with some good friends for dinner at the Candle Cafe, producers of one of the cookbooks that I live my culinary life by, or at least that portion of my life that is concerned with impressing people that occasionally come over for dinner****.

Friday saw us take a trip into the bowels of the UN in search of the One World Government and its New World Order, thanks to a good friend who works there. We got to sit in on a Security Council Meeting (very cool), and marvel at the wonders of extraterritorial soil, including the notice in an assembly room that read "smoking is discouraged". I thought about staging a monkey knife fight there on the grounds that while it probably wasn't allowed, there weren't any signs specifically saying so, and as any good empiricist knows in the absence of any hard evidence to the contrary it is completely safe to assume the positive*****.

The other highlight of the day was a trip to 1411 Broadway, former home of the New York Metropolitan Opera Company and location of GB Shaw's 1933 lecture 'The Political Madhouse in America and Nearer Home", of which I have spoken before. The irony is that the halls in which Shaw issued his polemic against a capitalist system in which the banking class had been allowed to drive the economy over the brink of disaster and into utter financial ruin destroying the lives of million in the pursuit of personal greed, are now the offices of Chase Manhattan bank, which quite recently helped to drive the economy over the brink of disaster and into utter financial ruin destroying the lives of millions in the pursuit of personal greed. Unsurprisingly few****** of the smokers huddled outside the safe confines of their office, unsure of their own financial futures and mistrustful of eager book-clutching Irish visitors, were eager to discuss this irony.

Friday night saw (after O-Day itself) the best part of the entire trip with a visit to the Have' to catch up with our bestest friends Mr & Mrs Inessentials, arjedre and her main squeeze Mr Bill******* at our absolutely favorite restaurant in the whole world, Miya's, home of the most amazing vegetarian sushi ever. Over a sumptuous four hour long dinner, with enough sake to dull the pain of the broken and shattered economy we caught up and reminisced, though to be honest it felt like no time had passed at all since last we met.

And in the end, isn't that really the greatest sign of a true friendship?


* technically we only passed through New Jersey by train, not actually stopping to linger amongst the snow-covered mounds of burning tires and glistening avenues lined with numerous "Friends of ours" in thermal sweat pants advising us to "fuggedabowdid", but somehow I think that if I had said that we sojourned in the bi-state area a different mental image might have been evoked.

** though in truth that mostly happened in Manhattan, but why should the living be the only ones interested in gentrification, the dead can be hipsters too you know. Just ask the Mormons, they manage to find millions of dead people every year who decide to convert to Mormonism - how cool is that? If anybody knows what the one true religion is, it has to be dead folks, right? I mean, they've been to the afterlife, they've seen what's going down, and if they all decide to turn Mormon maybe we should listen to them.

*** Celery is not an appropriate veggie alternative to Buffalo wings. The Very Understanding Girlfriend asks bars with Happy Hours to please take note.

**** Not a huge portion of my life I have to admit, ranking somewhere between that portion of my life spent worrying about whether I'm wrong about all this religion stuff, and the part that I spend worrying about being right but that the Mormons will convert me after I'm dead, and I'll then be barred from atheist heaven or at the very least laughed at by all the cool atheists when I get there. On the other hand, if I do blag my way in after they convert me then I'll be the only person in atheist heaven allowed to have multiple wives. Other then Henry VIII. Yes, he's in atheist heaven, I'm sorry Anglicans & Episcopalians, I don't make the rules, that's just the way it is.

***** Not actually true. Don't try this at home. Always assume the glass to be half empty, and full of poison. The only way to overcome this problem in life is to spend a few years building up an immunity to iocane powder and to never get involved in a land war in Asia.

****** ie, none.

******* whom I had not met before, but is a really cool guy. We all appreciate what you are doing Bill, we know how difficult it can be. They say firefighters are the real heroes, but I think we know differently. Apologies for anyone not at dinner in Miya's on Friday, upon whom this reference is thankfully lost.

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