Enough leeks to coat all Fifth Avenue with vichyssoise.
A Good Humor bar gooily obstructing Park Avenue.
A violin crafted from wood from an old house in Elizabeth Street.
The Library lions refuse any longer to guard people who believe that wisdom lies in
books and vow that they’ll repatriate themselves to Africa, “where there is still some
The statue of Father Duffy in Times Square, mummified on his pedestal by a shroud
of plastic sheeting, bundled in his sacking against his cross, against a sky of streaming
neon and balletic peanuts.
When the south tube of the Lincoln Tunnel was officially opened on December 12,
1937, it had already been sanctified by the legend that its glass roof was intended to give
travelers a good view of the fishes in the North River.
On Sutton Place a man fishes out his eighteenth-story window for eels.
If it were blood pouring out of the hydrants, would people stanch the flow?
A naked butcher on a roof in Hester Street.
Dogs wag their tails up and down instead of sideways in the Flatiron Building.
Sea monkeys from a curio shop peddling twentieth-century Americana, and these sea
monkeys mutate into King Kong-sized jumbo shrimp that almost destroy the futuristic
city of New New York.
An urban science fiction.
A thick-hipped and swollen-breasted nude ignores the snow on the Museum of
Modern Art courtyard, tilting her pelvis at the muffled landscape.
Cloud-descended, these Venuses in transit between the sky and the streets land on the
What is a ship, in fact, but the great skyscraper turned upon its side and set free?
Los Angeles is just New York lying down.
skyscrapers / filled with nut-chocolates
An evening on up on the Empire State roof—the strangest experience. The huge tomb
in steel and glass, the ride to the 84th floor and there, under the clouds, a Hawaiian string
quartet, lounge, concessions and, a thousand feet below, New York—a garden of golden
lights winking on and off, automobiles, trucks winding in and out, and not a sound. All as
silent as a dead city—it looks adagio down there.
The Seagram Building fountains dissolve into snowflakes, I enter a revolving door at
twenty and come out a good deal older.
The buildings, as conceived by architects, will be cigar boxes set on end.
Dalí’s New York is a laboratory of intensified entropy, where things become surreal
in a thermodynamic malaise.
One of Oldenburg’s 1965 projects was an ironing board, canopying the Lower East
Side. The board replicates the shape of Manhattan and with its shadow blesses the former
ghetto. Its baldachin testifies to the “million miles of devoted ironing” done beneath it by
immigrant mothers sprucing up their offspring.
He would love to pad Central Park and the slope of Park Avenue with green baize, in
homage to the grass of the former and the merely titular vegetation of the latter, and to
use them as pool tables. Colored balls would be sent bumping through the park to roll
down the declivity of the avenue. They’d be collected at Grand Central and shipped back
uptown on the underground railroad tracks. At 96th Street they’d pop into view again,
ready to resume the game.
Christo during the 1960s planned the packaging of three New York buildings, 2
Broadway, 20 Exchange Place, and the Allied Chemical Tower in Times Square.
Bill told me he had been walking uptown one afternoon and at the corner of 53rd and
7th he had noticed a man across the street who was making peculiar gestures in front of
his face. It was Breton and he was fighting off a butterfly. A butterfly had attacked the
Parisian poet in the middle of New York. (cf. Federal Writers’ Project: “An occasional
butterfly pirouettes through Wall Street’s canyon.”)
Breton continued to live in New York City; he remained totally French, untouched by
his residence in America, almost as though he had never left Paris.
As reality goes into hiding in the prudish city, realism becomes an illicit art.
Sometimes Marsh was denied permission to sketch in the burlesque houses, so he taught
himself to scribble on paper concealed in his pocket.
He wishes that some aesthetic tyrant would make amends for the grayness of New
York by decreeing that all the avenues be painted in contrasting colors.
The patterning of tracks in Washington Square after a blizzard is decorative rondure.
Surreal New York is a pornotopia, a jungle of regression or an infirmary of the
Invading New York, the modernists put it through a succession of iconographic
torments. It’s demolished by the cubists, electrified by the futurists, sterilized by the
purists. Cubism piles up New York’s architectural building blocks only to capsize them.
Surrealism carnivorously interprets its stone and steel as flesh, of which it makes a meal.
Inside the body, the surrealist city rots; purism arrests that fate by setting its temperature
at a sanitary degree zero. But the radical muralists, unrelenting, inscribe on the city’s
walls a prophecy of doom.
Tex Rickard built a giant swimming pool in Madison Square Garden in 1921. The
giant white-tiled pool was 250 feet long by 100 feet wide, two-thirds the size of a football
field. The water tank held 1,500,000 gallons of water. The ends of the pool had a depth of
three feet and sloped to the center for a depth of fifteen feet, an area that served amateur
and professional swim and dive competitions on Thursday evenings. A cascading
waterfall was incorporated into the design at one end.
On the side of a blazing warehouse is a proud advertisement for the food products
manufactured therein: “SIMPLY ADD BOILING WATER.” And the fire occurs, to
make the joke even crueler, on Water Street.
Astronauts from the future discover that the mysterious world on which they have
landed actually sits atop a post-apocalyptic New York—the ruined Grand Central has
become the temple for a future race; a wide, double staircase serves as the altar. Like
Luthor’s lair, this set is not a reconstruction of the real building, but a rather free
interpretation that takes advantage of the enormous familiarity of the station’s design,
manifested in details as simple as the shape of an arch or a style of lettering. In such
details resides Grand Central’s power as an almost universally recognizable “place,”
even as it offers a superb springboard for fantasy. How many other structures could be so
universally identified by a few fragments of their graphics?
Stephen Crane’s description of the sensation of riding in an elevator, written in 1899:
“The little cage sank swiftly; floor after floor seemed to be rising with marvelous speed;
the whole building was winging straight into the sky.”
Transference of night imaginations to the daytime world—a way of forcing the
impressions gained on the radically-changed night streets back upon the “real” world.
The city is a built dream, a vision incarnated. What makes it grow is its image of itself.
I am going to carry my bed into New York City tonight
complete with dangling sheets and ripped blankets;
I am going to push it across three dark highways.
A dream, not a place.
These New Yorkers are often shunted to the margins of a spectacle that is half like a
poster and half like a dream. They exist in an urban-scape made up of just bits and pieces
that have little in common but their amputation by the frame.
Sleep… is where you find it. But the other fire escape is somewhat overcrowded…
it’s not so bad sleeping that way… except when it starts to rain… the back to the stuffy
Both Kansas and Oz, both black-and-white and technicolor, with wicked witches on
both sides of town, and good ones too, showing up in bubbles every so often—if you
know how to blow them.
Battery Park, the rendezvous of dreams.
Absent-minded city of unconscious revelations in our mental age of the nightjar and
I stopped in this restaurant down on 2nd Avenue, sat at the counter for a moment and
ordered a cup of coffee, feeling kind of warm and happy, the remnants of some dream
from that morning still in my head.
There were tracks of iron stalking through the air, and streets that were as steep as
canyons, and stairways that mounted in vast flights to noble plazas, and steps that led
down into deep places where were, strangely enough, underworld silences. And there
were parks and flowers and rivers. And then, after twenty years, here it stood, as amazing
almost as my dream, save that in the waking the flush of life was over it. It possessed the
tang of contests and dreams and enthusiasms and delights and terrors and despairs.
Through its ways and canyons sand open spaces and underground passages were running,
seething, sparkling, darkling, a mass of beings such as my dream-city never knew.
Here, in this ever renewed dreamland of the city, the comic-book shadows and
cinematic styles of 1930s Manhattan are always present, always available, beckoning us
to a mythical past.