Sunday, June 26, 2011

Manhattan of Dreams


I was in Manhattan. Not the real one. I was in the Manhattan of Dreams.

I've been here before. Remembering one dream was the key. Let me describe a few places I have been.

There's a department store there. It's multiple stories and yet each floor is not large. The corners are not right angles. It has escalators.

Up one or two levels is a book department that has the kind of books I like. Sleepy brain might not fill in for me the specific titles or authors, but they're the ones I like. This place has books I don't find in other stores, so I like to go there. I think I've usually gone there with Helen.

One time I was in the store with Helen and we were looking for something else on one of the upper floors. It was a Christmas present for somebody. We found part of one floor emptied out, with marks on the floor where the shelves and counters used to be. There was a story to this that eludes me now. Then we found the department we wanted. I don't remember what we bought there.

I haven't been to that store in years. Maybe.

There's another store that sells records. It's on some side street in Midtown that Sleepy brain knows. It has imported records and out of print records. I mean vinyl. I would find records there that I'd only heard about. Sometimes I'd even find records I had not heard about. There were stores like this in Real Manhattan, but in some way this one was better. I haven't been to it in a very long time now. It's probably closed.

There are overgrown parts of Manhattan of Dreams. When you go between Downtown and Midtown and the Village by road— I would usually take the subway— by road you pass through blocks without buildings, blocks with trees and weeds and dirt fields. The avenues curve a little as they go through those areas.

When I take the subway, there's a place where the train enters a very large tunnel for a short distance. You can see it out the train windows. It has strange tiles on the wall and arched passages off to the sides. It's the remains of something unfinished and I don't know what. I feel I should know what it is. That book department probably has a book that describes it, that I should get.

Way downtown there are stone-cobbled streets and stone block buildings. They're all old, as if people are not allowed to build down there any more. I've been through there on my way to the Bridge. There's something about the Bridge that is still hidden from Waking Brain. I know I've been there a few times trying to solve something about it. That's all I can tell you.

I've been in the Manhattan of Dreams many times.

And now I was there again. It was good to be back. I never felt totally at ease there, and yet I was sure I'd found my way around before, and I was ready to take it on once again.

This time, for the first time, I was there to be in a 5 K run. I had running clothes and shoes on. I was explaining this to somebody. I looked at the time on a clock and knew that the run was going to begin in a half hour, about 20 blocks away. I considered running there. But I didn't know whether it was a good idea to get there by running, right before I was going to run the 3.1 miles of a 5 K. Maybe I should take a bus or a subway.

The person I was talking with asked me when I had registered for the run. Well, I hadn't. I was going to do that when I got there. The person thought I couldn't.

The start place was somewhere on the far west side of Midtown. It isn't one of the overgrown places, but when you get that far west, it doesn't seem like Real Manhattan either. The avenues are paved with concrete, and they have two-way traffic with a lot of trucks passing through, like you see on main roads well outside the city. Yet there are also traffic lights at every corner, and the usual New York flow of pedestrians.

On the far west side there is a huge shopping mall with curving streets inside it, and maybe a railroad station. I didn't go there this day, but I've been in it.

I found the start of the run, in a vacant parking lot on one of the avenues, and it was just as the person had told me. The organizers had enough runners and no more were being accepted. I didn't feel very bad about it though. It had just been an idea. I wasn't dead set on it.

Somebody I knew was there. Sleepy brain didn't tell me who it was. This person might have been thinking of running too. I don't know why else he was there. (Why am I trying to apply logic?)

He said I should see what was down the street. OK.

Down the end of the block was the Hudson River. I mean the street just ran right to the edge of the water and ended. There were boats on the water, and across the river in New Jersey I saw buildings and the Palisades. I hadn't seen this street before.

I wondered where West Street was. I tried to remember whether they had put some portion of it underground when they rebuilt it. I couldn't remember that. But it wasn't here, and there was the river.

The buildings lining the street had given out in mid block, leaving empty lots. I could see across to the next street, which also ran to the water's edge.

Between the streets was a large empty field. The ground was partly covered with grass and weeds, and the rest was just dirt and rocks and broken bricks. There are lots like this where a buildings have been torn down and they've backfilled the former basements up to street level.

The object of attention was in the center of the field. There was a large square hole in the ground about twenty feet on a side. A stream of water from the river was flowing into it.

Sleepy brain tried to make sense of this. The Hudson was at sea level, it knew, so how could water be flowing to some lower level? No matter how deep a hole this was, wouldn't it fill pretty quickly and then just look like a pool of water? But the water was pouring in.

My friend was smiling. He knew I'd like this.

The square hole was obviously man-made. I could see a little of the far side and it seemed to be lined with cut stone, and there was even an alcove just below ground level topped with a pointed arch. It was old.

I started walking across the field. The ground became wet as I approached. There was a little spring on the side of the field away from the Hudson, and a little stream flowed from it toward the hole. Near the hole, someone had made a little footbridge over this little stream. I saw that it was actually two wooden window shutters resting across a pair of two by fours parallel to the stream. Someone had just used what was lying around to make the bridge.

I didn't want to get much closer to the square hole. The ground was level, but I still felt as if a slip might take me over the brink, and there was nothing to hang onto. I could hear the roar of the water flowing in, but no splash from where it was going.

I stared at the water flowing in, fascinated. It was like looking into a fire, and just as mysterious. Where did the water go?

And I woke up.

I'm sorry. But that's the only reason I remember any of this. Something woke me up.

Maybe I will go back there, and I'll remember it. I'll let you know if it happens.

The map is from The Official Maps of New York, published by The National Survey Co, Chester, Vermont, no date. Needless to say the maps were not deemed official by any authority other than the small publisher. I'd say the date is about 1920.


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