Saturday: This morning, I kitted up for an expedition out of Manhattan, to stay with friends overnight in Long Island. For the past five days, ever since I've been here, the local media has been obsessing about security arrangements for the Republican Convention due to begin tomorrow (or Monday -- but the major protest march is scheduled for Sunday, so in a sense that's when the convention begins, I guess). There are cop cars swarming the streets -- these streets which are already awash in audio signals that range from minor wailing to whoop-scream-musicalmachinegunrattling -- and burly armed security men patroling the feminine hygiene aisles in the local Duane Reade shop I went to last night to buy a RubberMaid wash basin and an iron.
It is typical of me that I would come to the industrialized West in order to flex my hand-washing laundry skills but ... so it is. I bought five pieces of clothing at Anokhi in preparation for my trip, and -- just my luck -- all five turn out to be printed in genuine indigo dye, which of course runs like a river in spate even before it's washed(no jokes -- my underwear is now all the same subtle shade of blue. My skin too -- sudden flash of inspiration: maybe THIS is why certain Indian deities are blue-skinned? They wear indigo-dyed clothes). I didn't want to risk filling the basement laundromat with dark blue suds, perhaps staining every white garment in subsequent washes for decades ahead. As is well-known amongst us laundry afficionados, there is no colour so permanent as the one that runs off one garment onto another.
Anyway, so today I ventured out into the mild sunshine, heading for Penn Station. That's pretty much ground zero for the convention, because it's at Madison Gardens, right next door. According to this week's TimeOut, if you're not a protester or a conventioneer, you don't want to be anywhere near 7th Avenue and 34th street. I put on my patented Non-Aggressive Middle-Aged Human mask, hoisted my Fab India Pacifist-Deluxe backpack on my back, smeared my face and neck with sunblock and headed down 12 floors. I thought I'd have no choice but to take the subway, but the friendly doorman in the downstairs lobby assured me that 'walking is okay -- today. Tomorrow, I don't know. You'll have to ask the people at Penn Station --'
There seemed to be less traffic on the roads, and from Madison Avenue onwards, the streets were being lined with barricades. But there were pedestrians strolling about, everything looked normal and peaceful, no Republicans in sight, no protest marchers, no tear gas or smoking corpses in the gutters. At Penn Station the ticket salesgirl said the station would be open tomorrow too, but they'd block all but two entrances.
I need to explain the sunblock. It has nothing to do with politics. The past four times I've been in the US, I've had a skin-rash from being out in the sun. According to two skin specialists I've been to, it's a 'sun-allergy' -- which sounds about as likely as a black polar bear, considering I'm SUPPOSED to have built-in radiation protection in the form of my brown skin. Alas, someone forgot to inform my skin of this situation, so it has been misbehaving. You'd think, considering I spend a large part of my life in the 100% tropical city of New Delhi, that my skin would have given notice of its sensitivity long before this. It turns out that what saves me in Delhi is ... the pollution! Or anyway, that's my explanation. Three months ago when I went up to the hills for a week, one hour in the sun without benefit of the petrochemical soup that enriches the air of the plains, caused my skin to break out in the same red splotches that appear in the US. Most piggy-hooli-arrrr, to quote Enid Blyton (the French girl in Mallory Towers).
And that's all I have to report re the convention, until tomorrow, when I return via Penn Stn. and may have more news to share about which types of WMDs are most effective against sun-allergies.