Out to Lunch

The point when I realized the A train wasn’t coming was after the third, loud and completely unintelligible announcement at the Chambers station. I turned to a guy next to me, and he said, “We gotta take the E,” and he started walking to the other end of the platform. I followed, but saw that I also had the option of the 2 or the 3, so I followed the signs through the labyrinth and got on an uptown 2.
“Next Stop, Chambers Street,” was what the announcement said, and then, “Stand clear of the closing doors.”
I had walked from the Chambers Street station of the A, C and E to the Park Place 2 and 3, and now I would be completing the triangle of no progress, more or less. I sat through the Chambers Street stop, and as the doors closed again, it said, “Next stop, 14th Street.”
I had wanted West 4th, which is a local stop on the red line, so I was going to overshoot my stop and be even later for my lunch date.
I don’t have many lunch dates in New York City, because I have about as many people to see for lunch as I have fingers on my left hand. Most New Yorkers have real jobs, too, so they don’t really have time for lunch. Not that I ever aspired to be someone who goes out to lunch all the time. Wasn’t that a thing, “Ladies Who Lunch?” Isn’t that something I never wanted to be?
Express trains are good for crying, because you aren’t interrupted by lots of people getting on and off, especially if you’ve had a rough morning, and a migraine pill, and some meanness you tried and failed to correct on Twitter.
I got out at 14th Street and headed to a southern exit onto West 13th Street. I made my way down two short blocks to West 11th and then made a bad turn and went two long blocks the wrong way. Asking Google maps where the restaurant was, I discovered I was now a half a mile from my destination, on foot. I called my friend, and she was very understanding, even about hating New York. “I don’t just want to live someplace else,” I said to her. “I want to burn the whole place down.”
She replied, “That’ll take some time.”
 

A BLT

Lunch was brief and delicious and fun. I am grateful for my five fingers’ worth of New York City friends, even if I’ve borrowed them from other people or from other lifetimes. She directed me, squaring my shoulders even, and pointed me back to the 1. Even I can get the 1 right. It’s a local train.
On the platform I was asked by a confused and distraught traveller how to get on the 2 or the 3 going uptown. I explained that he could go out and up and cross the street and go down and swipe again or get on this train and switch at another station. As I did this, my train arrived, and as I stepped towards it the doors closed for it to leave.
Make no mistake: New Yorkers in general are helpful and kind and will give directions and shortcuts. But in an urban area with 17.8 million people, even if only 1% of them are complete assholes, that makes 178,000 complete assholes, and some of them might drive subway trains.
On impulse, I tossed my jacket between the closing doors of the subway train, the way you might interrupt the closing doors on an elevator. This is a stupid, dangerous thing to do because doors in New York City subway trains don’t work the way they do on elevators. They close on your coat or your bag or your hair or your purse or your arm, and then the train leaves. The driver had seen me helping that other passenger and saw me do the jacket toss, too. The door opened and I got on.
The other people already on the car might have had faces filled with concern or scorn or derision or relief, but I don’t know because I didn’t look at them. I focused on my phone and played Bejeweled, because no one needs scolding by strangers, and especially not today.
When I got off the subway, I was looking forward to a quiet afternoon writing in the apartment. From the 1 to our apartment it’s only a few blocks, and those blocks aren’t the most unpleasant in TriBeCa. As I walked, I fired off a couple of tweets about the subway train driver’s incivility and how I almost sacrificed my jacket to the 1 train, and I found myself distracted by a man standing on the curb, half-facing me, pantomiming pecking at an imaginary phone in his hand and making terrible creepy cheeping noises.  He said something derisive in his heavily French-accented English.
If my phone came with a flame-thrower app, I might be in jail right now.

Cat Panic: Part 2

The next day, I woke up after having hit the snooze button on both alarms. I had to rouse The Battlefield and deliver it to school by 7:28 am. I had to rouse the Middle Child and deliver it to the train station by 8:24 am. I had to rouse the dogs and walk them up and down the driveway. I did the dishes, fed the cat, and looked at my arm.
Was it even puffier than the night before?    Was it turning red?
It certainly was very tender. None of the wounds themselves looked like anything, but my left arm was painful and swollen.
I cancelled my plans and called the doctor.
Of course, having only moved here in September, I do not yet have a cat-bite-doctor. I have a women’s-parts-doctor, and a dentist, and a dermatologist. I called the Middle Child’s internist’s office. I explained that I had an animal bite on my arm, and that it was swollen and painful, and I wanted to get it looked at that day so I could avoid going to the emergency room.
The nurse on the phone replied, “You need to go to the emergency room.”
To me, the emergency room is for people who were run over by a car, the kid who fell off the monkey bars and broke his arm, the rider who came off her horse, the sous chef scalded by hot oil. You know, emergencies.  “My cat bit me yesterday” is not an emergency, it’s a thing to take care of, today if possible. But not an emergency. An emergency is falling off a ladder, it’s a venomous snake-bite, it’s a tornado, it’s a heart attack, it’s a stabbing. Yesterday’s cat bite is a stupid emergency.
Northern Westchester Hospital (which I passed three times the day before without realizing) is doing some construction in its parking lots, so when you go to the emergency room there these days you get valet parking. Hospital administrators everywhere need to know this important thing: valet parking at the emergency room is the best thing since sliced bread, since the germ theory of disease, since the agricultural revolution, since Skype, since the birth control pill or even since the invention of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.   You drive up. You’re having an emergency! Hurry! You are greeted by a fellow who opens your door, and in exchange for your car he hands you a valet ticket.  You can even leave it running.
Inside, the Northern Westchester Hospital emergency room has a huge waiting area, with chairs for at least 75 people by my estimating glance. Behind a counter sat two pleasant, cheerful staffers, one of whom took my name and summoned a nurse. I sat in a chair and started to wonder how long the wait would be in a suburban emergency room at 9:30 am on a Tuesday. I never got to finish wondering, because Tammy, the nurse, had arrived to take me to a room.
Mine was room 15, though the door never closed. Tammy took my story, my name, my vitals. She told me they were very busy and to be patient.  Within the next half an hour I had seen the nurse who gave me the IV and the doctor, talked about what happened, and heard about other people’s cats. It was agreed all around that cat bites are nasty, and decided that IV antibiotics were warranted. I tried to read the paper, but never really had time. I was out the door again by 11:30 am.
I still say it was not an emergency, and that IV antibiotics could be administered in a doctor’s office.
A day later, my arm was still sore but no longer as swollen.  The cat seems to have resumed a normal activity level, though his toes bother him noticeably.

Cat Panic: Part 1


A housecat, when provoked, can make at least three different liquids, and mine did not want to be confined to a crate and driven in the car from New York City to far Northern Westchester County, so he promptly made all three in that crate.  At that point, he panicked, and who wouldn’t? Trapped in a plastic crate with an inch of three nasty cat liquids is horrifying. Schwartz started thrashing and tearing wildly at the metal bars of his crate with his claws. Soon he was bleeding as well.  
I was liberally splashed with the nasty cat liquids while I drove, and so was the interior of my (then) brand-new car.
When we arrived at the Big Red Barn, Schwartz got a bath before I unloaded anything else from the car.  It was early September, so he dried pretty fast on his own.  I was able to clean the dashboard and window and seat and steering wheel of my new car. Schwartz had damaged a nail which ended up taking months to heal, but it did heal after all that, on its own. I unpacked and got busy having this long, bad vacation.
Schwartz was due for shots this week, and even though he is an indoor-only cat, he has a talent for slipping out the door as you bring in the groceries, so I keep him up to date on all his vaccines.  Did I know what I was getting myself into yesterday when I headed out to the vet? I certainly had not forgotten the cat panicking in the car in early September, but I must have indulged in some magical thinking: “He’s been good, he’ll be good,” or “He’s forgotten,” or “It’s not that far.”
I was wrong.
This time, I put the crate in the back of the station wagon. This time, I put an old towel in with him.  This time, I covered the crate with an old blanket, in case of splashing. This time he behaved in more or less the same way he had behaved on his last trip.
It was raining very hard, and in my distraction with the ruckus going on in the way-back, I drove past the proper exit. I turned to my car’s built-in GPS for help, and it disagreed with what Google Maps on my phone was suggesting. Three miles and fifteen minutes later, I stopped in a park to call the vet. “Oh, you have to tell your GPS it’s Bedford Road, not North Bedford Road.” As I drove out of the park to re-trace my route for the third time, I saw a family of Canada geese enjoying a pond that had jumped its banks in the torrential rain.  The adult geese looked like they were having trouble getting the goslings together.
At the vet, it was agreed that they would take Schwartz to the back to do the exam, give him his shots and clean him up. We had brought two stool samples, one planned, and another was Schwartz’s spontaneous contribution in his crate. He had torn out two nails this time, and so along with the planned vaccines, he got a shot of antibiotics and some Buprenex, for pain.  We were late picking up The Battlefield from school.
Wet cat is freaked
Once home again, I felt that Schwartz needed another bath. I was reacting to the third stool sample he had produced which was stuck to him. I scooped him up, and began the bath routine.  By the time I realized that the traumatic vet visit, sandwiched between two terrifying car rides and including several shots and a dose of pain-killer, might induce some unexpected behavior, I was forcibly opening his jaws with one hand in an effort to get his teeth out of my left arm. He scratched my arm and my back, and gave me two cat bites, one of which drew blood, the other just left marks.  The frenzy of his panic and the ferocity of his attack were unlike anything I had ever seen him do.  I left him alone and wet in the bathroom for a couple of hours.
The scratches hurt more than the bites. My shirt was torn. Poor kitty. Poor me.

Barcelona #5: Barcelona 3, Me 0

Finding the zoo was pretty easy. A change of train lines, from the L3 (green) to the L5 (yellow) was required. Emerging from the station we located the Parc de la Ciutadella, where the zoo lives. We found a sign and followed the arrow…to another sign, with an arrow pointing back to the first sign. It was funny. We distracted ourselves by exploring the gorgeous neo-baroque Cascada fountain and laughing at the fact that we could see the fence enclosing the zoo but not the entrance. Settling upon a direction, we circumnavigated the walls of the zoo, emerging at the entrance roughly 100 meters from where we entered the park. When we attempted to buy tickets, we were informed that the “animals are closed at 5,” by a woman who blinked at me furiously, as if to remind me how stupid I am.
My Traveling Companion announced that we needed to go back to the hotel. I insisted on Plan B: we could go to the MUSEU MARÍTIMDE BARCELONA.  One of my books calls it “the most fascinating museum in town.”  Another says, “These royal dry docks are the largest and most complete surviving medieval complex of their kind in the world.”  The third book describes it as “excellent…well worth the visit.”  The fourth, “one of Barcelona’s finest Gothic structures.” Nowhere did it even hint at what we were told when we entered the building, which is that it is closed for renovation for two years.
At this point I had lost all credibility with my Traveling Companion, to the degree that he wanted to take a taxi back to the hotel. I insisted on the subway (having at my advantage the view of the subway station and knowing it was on the L3 (green) line).
I dropped my Traveling Companion at our hotel and told him I was “going shopping” before dinner. Shopping is something I find difficult in all circumstances, and I am no better at it with the anonymity of being a foreigner. I did manage to buy some tights (which I badly need back home but have little need for here), and a pretty lilac linen scarf. I asked clumsily to wear the scarf out of the store despite the fact that linen season is still months away. I had not traveled much more than another block when I realized my mother would have liked it, and it made me sad.
My Traveling Companion suggested dinner in the hotel: a fine idea after a day of failures.  The restaurant is on the roof, with a limited menu and one charming staff member in attendance. I drank local beer and we stuffed ourselves on ham, followed by sandwiches and ice cream. At the end of the meal I asked my Traveling Companion what he thought we should do tomorrow, our second to last day. He suggested the zoo, but with a different Plan B.