Yesterday, invited to a friend's for Thanksgiving dinner, I stopped to buy a pie at our local Whole Foods which is right next door to a Best Buy in front of which several people were already camping out, for how long I didn't know. It wasn't that much past noon.
Today I drove into the city to pick up my older son and his son who came down on the train, then my youngest who had spent the night at his aunt's down on Avenue D on the Lower East Side. The neighborhood was pretty quiet, just the usual locals going about their business.
Then we drove to the Lower East Side skateboarding park under The Manhattan Bridge so my grandson and his uncle, fourteen and fifteen respectively, could skate for awhile (after we got some dumplings to go in a small place on Eldridge Street that my older son had gotten high recommendations for, we ate the dumplings in the car).
That neighborhood too was quiet, a few of the mostly Asian locals walking by, and otherwise a beautiful array of ethnic variety among the mostly teenagers coning in and out of the skate park. After that we headed to the Tribeca Skate Park over on the Hudson in a neighborhood that mostly didn't exist when my older son and his sister and I lived there back in the late 1970s when we had an almost two thousand square foot loft that I paid two hundred a month for.
Back then what was a vacant lot is now a community college, right across West Street which used to be a still elevated highway in disuse that we used for a sun bathing spot in the summer, now bordered to the South and Southeast by towering newish structures comprising a whole new neighborhood—Battery Park City—that back then was just some hauled in sand dumped in the river with a fence to keep people out that we climbed on hot summer nights to have beach parties on.
Both my sons and my grandson spent a few hours doing some cool skateboard tricks while I inspected the aftermath of Sandy that had closed down the kids playground still covered with river mud and plants bent to the ground from the surge and trees dead from the salt water and etc. Then we headed to a store on Lafayette just above Prince that caters to the skateboard crowd but there was a line out front so we didn't stop.
We forgot it was "Black Friday" because nowhere we'd been so far did anyone seem to be observing it. But we drove up Lafayette to St. Mark's Place and turned down the Bowery and parked and walked back to that neighborhood with the skateboard store to look for another one my youngest son wanted to check out and when we reached Broadway and Prince we walked into a tsunami of humanity bent on shopping so thick we could hardly make our way through it.
They were like ants crawling all over a stick of butter, the butter being the streets that held the stores that had the sales. We decided to walk to another old neighborhood my oldest son and his sister and I had lived in in the '70s—Sullivan Street below Houston when it was becoming "Soho"—to a very cool Reggae record store and juice bar/cafe. Worth the walk.
Back on St. Mark's we visited old friends, a family that had lived there since the 1960s and some of them still do, ran into an old poet friend and his wife on their way out, saw a newborn baby as cute as a cute baby can be, the third son of one of the family's three sons, expressed our delight at being together again no matter how briefly and then drove back to Jersey.
Heading for bed now and thinking back over the past two days I think of the warm friendship and human connection and good feeling at the Thanksgiving dinner and seeing old friends on St. Mark's and my boys having fun at the skate park and passing through old neighborhoods and seeing the changes and feel happy to be alive.
And then I think of the folks camped out in the cold in front of Best Buy here in my Jersey neighborhood and of the horde swarming all over our old neighborhood that became "Soho" in our time with galleries and lofts suddenly becoming too pricey for struggling creative folks like us and now a giant mall for the compulsion to accumulate that somehow is supposed to be the purpose of our society in many ways and on many days like this one. And I think: Really?