The Unbearable Banishment: Not Bored

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Not Bored

I thought it was going to be just another dull Wednesday. It wasn't. Late in the afternoon I impulsively got my mitts on tickets to see Port Authority, the Connor McPherson play at the Atlantic Theater that's currently in previews. It's the U.S. premier of one of his older plays. ("Older" being relative. He was born in 1971 so he's still quite young, especially for someone who has had so many plays produced.)

How is it that one guy can pump out one great play after another? It doesn't seem possible. Or fair. Three men, representing three different stages in life, sit in a train station and take turns telling the audience a story. That's it. So simple, yet, so amazingly effective. A young man and a girl are too afraid to act and risk losing each other. A middle aged man is given a chance to be better than he is. An old man wonders if, 40 years ago, he should have pursued a woman he barely knew, but loved, instead of staying with the one he was married to. Does that sound plausible to you? Can a person ache for someone year after year without ever actually seeing or speaking to them? I'm certain that it happens all the time.

Prior to the play I went down to St. Mark's Place for dinner. I wanted to eat at the DoJo but I'm sorry to report that it's gone. Replaced by I don't know what. Some stinking nuevo restaurant with a lot of bright, fetid colors. Instead, I ate at a Korean restaurant and had big helping of Dak Di Ri Tang, which is a spicy chicken stew. It's served in a black stone bowl that's kept in the oven. The bowl is so insanely hot that the stew continued to boil for a few minutes after it was brought to my table. First, a few layers of skin on my tongue were peeled back because the stew was the temperature of molten lava and then my guts were seared by the Korean spices. Please mum, may I have another!

Before eating I popped into the Strand rare book room to feed the beast. I scored a signed proof of Right Livelihoods by Rick Moody, a signed first edition of The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon and, best of all, a signed proof of Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson. Everything was inexpensive except for the Denis Johnson book. He's a recluse and never goes out on promotional tours (much to his publisher's chagrin, I'm sure), so you have to pay a premium for his signed books. I also visited St. Mark's Books and picked up a signed first of the new Michael Chabon book that McSweeney's just published, Maps and Legends.

The irony is that because all of these books are signed, I cannot read them since reading them—even once—will degrade their condition. If I want to read one, I have to go out and buy a reading copy. Who the hell buys books that cannot be read? I also picked up a paperback copy of The Best American Short Stories of 2005. It has a stellar lineup of writers and was edited by Michael Chabon (a theme emerges). I found it on the carts outside of The Strand and it was only one measly dollar. The opposite end of the spectrum.


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