The Unbearable Banishment: The sound of one hand clapping in New York City

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The sound of one hand clapping in New York City

Last week I had one of those rare perfect moments that Spalding Gray spoke of so eloquently in Swimming to Cambodia. These moments, which only occur a few times in your life, are brief interludes whereby you are living in that precise moment in a state of perfect bliss and nothing else exists.

I had some time to kill before a play started and I found myself wandering around the East Village on a balmy evening. I had spent a sizable chunk of my life living down there but hadn’t realized how long it had been since I visited or how much those streets mean to me. Those were among the best days of my life and I got all goopy.

I wandered into St. Mark’s Books and looked at all the small press chapbooks and art books. It’s the kind of stuff that you can’t find in retail book stores. And I’m not slamming the chains. There’s just not an audience for it. I love the smell of that place. It smells like paper and glue and dust.


I took a slow walk down 9th Street, right on 2nd Avenue and then right on St. Mark’s Place. It’s the heart of the neighborhood. I stopped at Mamoun’s falafel joint for a bite. It was so nice out that I ordered a scrumptious falafel platter and took it outside and ate al fresco—not something you can typically do the first week of December out here. My platter—six falafel balls, salad and two pita—cost a measly $5.


I had dinner and watched the grand parade. The NYU students. The misfits. The artists and the malcontents. I don’t fit any of those microcosms and don’t know how it came to be that I felt so at home there for so many years.

Aside from the great food and the ambiance, Mamoun’s has very agreeable hours: 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m., 365 days a year.


I know what I'm needing
And I don't want to waste more time
I'm in a New York state of mind

Billy Joel

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11 Comments:

Blogger Pueblo girl said...

Those moments of connectedness are sublime.

December 6, 2009 at 4:43 PM  
Anonymous nursemyra said...

I love St Mark's Books

December 6, 2009 at 6:45 PM  
OpenID daisyfae said...

you should give tours. this makes me ache to visit the east village. and crave falafel at 4am.

December 6, 2009 at 7:10 PM  
Blogger mapstew said...

Sounds ridiculously magnificent!

Can I come next time?

:¬)

December 6, 2009 at 8:03 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Pueblo girl: Isn't it a shame there aren't more of them? Ah, well. Embrace the ones you get.

Nurse: I figured you'd been there before.

Daisy: It sounds great, doesn't it? Well, it was.

Map: Have you been here yet? It's not for everyone, but everyone should visit at least once.

December 6, 2009 at 8:51 PM  
Blogger Poindexter said...

Never been there, but sounds like a perfect afternoon.

December 6, 2009 at 11:21 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Bastard said...

I can only echo the thoughts of Pueblo girl. It's the way you describe the event that makes it an event for us all.

December 7, 2009 at 2:59 AM  
Blogger Lori said...

So glad you had the experience - thanks for writing about it!

December 7, 2009 at 8:18 AM  
OpenID hereinfranklin said...

These are the posts that make me adore you!

December 8, 2009 at 7:51 PM  
Blogger A Free Man said...

Why not slam the chains?

December 8, 2009 at 11:37 PM  
Blogger Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

I'm saving this post for when I'm in NY next year. I effing love falalalalalaffal.

December 29, 2009 at 11:05 PM  

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