Chinatown and Back

The parade! The perspective! The joy!

It is mostly uphill from my apartment to the Brooklyn Bridge, a steady rise punctuated by a few downward slopes. And so, pedaling hard, I crested the Brooklyn Bridge laden with sweat, full of anticipation for next few downhill minutes, and ran into 10,000 people, all holding red balloons, thronging the bridge. The balloons were lit from within by blinking lights.

They were marching against AIDS. They wore shirts proclaiming their corporate allegiances: J.P. Morgan, Polo, a variety of banks. “I'm marching for Adam,” said one sticker on a chest, and right next to that, someone was marching for Steve. I shook my head.

The marchers made the bridge unpassable, so instead of my steady accelerating descent into raw autolocomotive delight, which would have delivered me and my bicycle into Manhattan like an air kiss from Brooklyn, I got off the bike and pushed like a kayaker against rapids of human beings, yelling at the marchers to let me through, and hearing them repeat, infinitely, this archetypal cleverness: “bad time for a bike ride.”

“If you put the money you spent on blinking balloons and self-congratulating T-shirts into basic care you could have saved 100 lives,” I said, but no one was paying attention. They'd raised more for AIDS than I have, so I cursed my own crabbiness, ignored the japes of the marchers, and made it finally to my friend's place on Orchard St.

There we talked about triple stores. My friend's triple store is perhaps the most beautiful, the most gorgeous of all the triple stores, and it will be the foundation for the next iteration of Ftrain, and will take away many of the burdens that my ad-hoc triple processing has placed upon me. It is open-sourced, and the arcs are typed, and it is fast. The code considers the position of the disk drive head, and caches liberally. I tell you these things so that you might come to love it as I am coming to love it.

My friend's wife came home. She teaches sex ed at a Manhattan college, which is always good for a story. Someone had mis-labeled the perineum on their test, and the penis cross-section looked like someone had gone at the beast with a cheese grater. This was fun to discuss.

I read the answers to some essay questions, and concluded that the erotic lives of 18 year olds are less exciting than my fuckmeapony@yahoo.com correspondent would have me believe. I felt bad about laughing at the students, but not that bad, and I forgave myself with a quick and efficient self-dispensation perfected by a lifetime's commitment to self-indulgence. Then it was time to go.

Helmet on, I mounted the large comfortable seat of my bike, and found my way to the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge, then huffed to the highest point of the walkway. The Manhattan Bridge walkway opened not long ago, and is fenced on both sides. At night it is mostly empty; I saw only 4 people over the course of its span. So when I crested its empty upward curve and began to let gravity pull me home, I saw only fencing in front of me, chain-link to the vanishing point, and then as I picked up speed I was flying, barnstorming over the East River in a zone of pure geometry, 25 miles an hour with the Q train rumbling past in the other direction.

Then up to the pivot around Court & President street, and then downhill all the way, sailing through green lights, all the shutters down in front of the doctors offices, restaurants, bookstores, routing around stopped taxies loosing drunks from their yellow doors. I made a wild turn in front of my house, cruising down the middle of the street, then turned suddenly and bumped the curb in front of the black door of my building, where I dismounted and unbuckled my helmet, the straps of which I have modified with paper clips so that they might accommodate the enormity of my head. Then I let out a great breath.

I wrestled the bike up the narrow stairs, trying not to scuff the scuffed white walls further, and chained it to the bannister. A sudden wave of sleepiness cut through the bliss and energy I'd collected from the city during the ride. So with a tired hand I turned the key, and entered the messy apartment, 10 miles, two boroughs, and two bridges under my feet.

I drank a great glass of water. Tomorrow I start over, and my travels will be in the past. But right now, while I am here in the apartment, I also ride towards the fenced-in vanishing point of the Manhattan Bridge, the traffic moving beside me with engines pistoning, the sound of my quick-moving bike's agitated ball bearings not quite drowned out by the wind past my ears. Now I go to bed. But I had to tell you about it first.

The Smile
Monday, October 20, 2003
Easy Way Out
Elliott Smith, and stories about music, and false connections.
Thursday, October 23, 2003
DVD Player
Buying a thing, and what it gets me.
Monday, October 27, 2003
Pulling back teeth

Notes on a big happy smile.
Monday, October 31, 2005




Ftrain.com is the website of Paul Ford and his pseudonyms. It is showing its age. I'm rewriting the code but it's taking some time.


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.


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© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


@20, by Paul Ford. Not any kind of eulogy, thanks. And no header image, either. (October 15)

Recent Offsite Work: Code and Prose. As a hobby I write. (January 14)

Rotary Dial. (August 21)

10 Timeframes. (June 20)

Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out. (April 10)

Why I Am Leaving the People of the Red Valley. (April 7)

Welcome to the Company. (September 21)

“Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings?”. Forgot to tell you about this. (July 20)

“The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. An essay for TheMorningNews.org. (July 11)

Woods+. People call me a lot and say: What is this new thing? You're a nerd. Explain it immediately. (July 10)

Reading Tonight. Reading! (May 25)

Recorded Entertainment #2, by Paul Ford. (May 18)

Recorded Entertainment #1, by Paul Ford. (May 17)

Nanolaw with Daughter. Why privacy mattered. (May 16)

0h30m w/Photoshop, by Paul Ford. It's immediately clear to me now that I'm writing again that I need to come up with some new forms in order to have fun here—so that I can get a rhythm and know what I'm doing. One thing that works for me are time limits; pencils up, pencils down. So: Fridays, write for 30 minutes; edit for 20 minutes max; and go whip up some images if necessary, like the big crappy hand below that's all meaningful and evocative because it's retro and zoomed-in. Post it, and leave it alone. Can I do that every Friday? Yes! Will I? Maybe! But I crave that simple continuity. For today, for absolutely no reason other than that it came unbidden into my brain, the subject will be Photoshop. (Do we have a process? We have a process. It is 11:39 and...) (May 13)

That Shaggy Feeling. Soon, orphans. (May 12)

Antilunchism, by Paul Ford. Snack trams. (May 11)

Tickler File Forever, by Paul Ford. I'll have no one to blame but future me. (May 10)

Time's Inverted Index, by Paul Ford. (1) When robots write history we can get in trouble with our past selves. (2) Search-generated, "false" chrestomathies and the historical fallacy. (May 9)

Bantha Tracks. (May 5)

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