Date: October 28
Time: Around 2:28 p.m.
Location: Columbus Park, entering the park through the northeast entrance, sitting on a south-facing park bench near the mahjong players. Briefly, in the northwest entrance of the park while observing an arrest.
Weather: Unusually dark, heavy clouds, windy, cool.
Background: In the week following our first day in the park, meteorologists predicted that a major hurricane would strike New York. Sunday afternoon, we took the A train to Chambers Street and walked past City Hall, where preparations for Hurricane Sandy were already underway. Lower Manhattan felt abandoned, desperate. We had dumplings at [name of restaurant here] and proceeded to the park.
Transcript of observed events:
Dictation: Windy and cold at 2:30 p.m. Fewer people, fewer children. Hurricane preparation underway (audible sounds of wind). Soccer game, leaves falling on the ground, goal scored, no, out of bounds, goal kick. Mixed ethnicity of players, attractive female players, one overweight white guy with a cast on his arm. Wind seems to be coming from the north, same number of card games, fewer tourists, Chinatown denizens carrying on, acting the same [this observation would later be reversed].
Photographer: “How was it?” [accepts to-go bag from Writer].
Writer: “Super fast and super good.”
Photographer: “The email I got from [name redacted] this morning about Joe’s Shanghai—”
Artist: “And it’s not great?”
Writer: “I think it’s just kind of mediocre.”
Photographer: “Chinese people come from China—they go there.”
Artist: [points] “This guy was definitely here.”
Writer: “That tiny guy?”
Artist “he was one of the—” [stops as Little Man Guy walks by mumbling to himself.]
Dictation: 57 degrees at 2;40 pm, October 28, 2012. Significantly darker at the same time, same low light, fewer tourists, rain expected, hurricane preparation has begun, overcast. Barometric pressure [tries to look up on iPhone].
Photographer: “Evening to cozy up and watch a movie.”
Writer: “We’re going to watch the World Series at my buddy’s place. Giants up, three to nothing.”
Photographer: “Did you grow up a Giants fan?”
Artist: “Yeah. I was Will Clark for Halloween like three years in a row. The As were cool for a bit, too. When Jose Canseco got hit on the head and the ball bounced over the fence for a ground rule double. Ump had to make that call—” [interrupted by black man making very large bird calls.]
Chinese man: “Hello.”
Dictation: person came up and engaged; Chinese man came over to observe the Artist’s drawing.
Artist: “I wonder if they remember us. They might remember us.”
Photographer: “Do the bird calls have to do with the coming hurricane? He began at the jail. I walked behind him, making sounds.”
Dictation: Oregon Ducks jacket. More North Face down jackets. Man over there is playing a recorder (the kind that we played in school).
Artist: “That was an unsuccessful attempt to teach music.”
Writer: “Every public school in America got a grant for a thousand recorders.”
Artist: [laughing] “—trying to play it through my nose.”
Photographer: “Where’s [name redacted]?”
Artist: “She had a brunch today, with the art editor of Stonecutter.”
Dictation: According to NOAA, barometric pressure is 1008, wind is, hard to read.
Writer: “Thought there would be fewer people.”
Artist: “Everyone’s carrying on about their business.”
Dictation: Weather.com says high wind warning for New York, flood watch for New York, 59 degrees, cloudy, windy, coastal flood warning. Mega gusts while walking over from Subway. Seventy-two percent humidity. Twenty miles an hour.
Artist: “I love a good hurricane.”
Photographer: “Our super came and knocked on our door and said ‘make sure you have your windows shut’.”
Dictation: Obama hat. Police sirens at 2:45 p.m. Man blowing snot out of his nose and examining contents. Man sprinting into bathroom jingling keys. Cackle of old Chinese ladies. Another snot rocket. Handrolled cigarette. Calm before the storm. Man wearing plastic fireman helmet. Man lighting a Marlboro Red.
Artist: “In China, everyone makes custom jackets, with different levels of stuffing, different birds.”
Dictation: Man slapping the checkers timer. Diabolical laughter by a man to the right, and a woman to the left. White man pushing his Chinese baby in a stroller. Audible sounds of frustration over checkers game.
Artist: “There’s that same hand stance, left hand holding the right wrist, behind the back.”
Dictation: Angry screaming, a different energy, more aggressive, angsty, more people yelling and screaming at each other over the games. Angry Chinese man with little wisp of hair and hipster glasses, alienates the others at a table.
Writer: “They’re going to fight.”
Artist: “Getting into a fight over a checkers game.”
[Angry Chinese Man With Hipster Glasses walks to adjacent table].
Writer: “They’re appealing the case to a higher authority.”
Artist: “It’s more obvious that we’re watching them, they’re more aware of our presence. The guy coming over to look at the drawing, very aggressive, very unusual.”
Writer: “To be that intrusive—”
Dictation: Little boy screaming something happy in Chinese. Gatorade hat, Nautica jacket, Crocs. Lots of those black hospital shoes, orthopedic shoes, more than the sneakers we saw last time.
Writer: “How’s your stomach?”
Photographer: “It hurts, it feels like heartburn, indigestion.”
Artist: “Smells like urine.”
Writer: “What’s that snapping noise?”
Artist: “It’s the people doing the martial arts.”
Dictation: The Angry Chinese Guy With Hipster Glasses is aggressively arguing about his checkers game.
Writer: “Look at him standing on the table!”
Dictation: Angrily slamming his mahjong tiles down, slamming them down again. Cop car driving by without siren but with lights on, turning right on Bayard, parked the car.
[Writer moves to northwest corner of the park, twenty-yards from bench, continues dictation].
Dictation: Intersection of Bayard and Baxter. Two cops getting out, opening the backdoor. This is an arrest, someone in the backseat. Cops waiting for perp to come out of car. Perp smoking a cigarette. Chinese Hispanic man walks by.
Dictation: Black guy asking cops for directions. Another cop slows down, speeds off, with sirens on. Around 3 p.m. Chinatown man dusting off his own shoes, taller man, nice looking jacket. Cop takes the suspect out of the car, takes the cigarette out of his mouth, takes him across the street.
Dictation: Do not enter until instructed by officer sign. Cops buzz the man in, after letting him finish his cigarette in the backseat of car, disappears into booking. European-looking tourists stop to ask for directions. Black guy who asked for directions, passes the cop car, keeps walking.
[Writer returns to bench.]
Dictation: Chinese man still angrily fighting over mahjong
Artist: “The purple jacket guy came back!”
Writer: “The cops just held a cigarette to this guy’s mouth before leading him into detention. A criminal. They opened the door, stopped, lit a cigarette and held it to his mouth while he smoked in the backseat of the cop car. Clearly someone who’s agreed to testify or something, then the guy we were talking about walked by, the purple jacket guy.”
Dictation: Temperature dropping. Detectives now. People looking for a place to shoot a movie. Obese white man, small Asian woman, walking past detention center with a baby.
Writer: “Central booking? Not sure about the terminology. Makes me think of the Biggie song.”
Artist: “A lot of different activity today, a high octane day.”
Writer: “Clearly handcuffed.”
Photographer: “It’s 3:15. Should we start our walk?
(This is Part 4 of a nine part series. To read the Fifth Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Chinatown click here).