My partner's dad died suddenly a week ago last Friday. Not unexpectedly (four cancers in 4 years) but when the pneumonia struck, it was over in three days. So it was off to NYC on Sunday, the funeral on Tuesday, and back to Sea-Tac on Thursday.
The newly deceased was Jewish and his bereaved wife (his third) is Italian, so you can imagine the funeral: a cross between Seinfeld and the Sopranos. Since I've been lately thinking that New York is synchromystically New Jerusalem, the trip began taking on a symbolic aspect - a sort of pilgrimage.
Why do I think NYNY is the new Jerusalem? Because archetypes repeat themselves, and Jerusalem is the archetype for the City of God - YHWHville. Getting past the bizarre idea that God even HAS a city, some may insist that the Jerusalem sitting in ersatz Israel is the "real" Jerusalem, but I say that even THAT city isn't the real one - being merely symbolic of the true, heavenly city. Symbols are pointers to a spiritual (trans-dimensional if you prefer) reality, they are not the actual reality.
The river is the key. The Hudson River (like the Jordan) flows directly south to end at the island of Manhattan, upon which sits Jerusalem. In order to enter the U.S., immigrants were obliged to disembark on Ellis Island, sitting in the Hudson River. Immigrants literally cross the "River Jordan" to the "Promised Land". We even have New Canaan lying across the river in Connecticut!
The Chosen People live in Jerusalem, and there are far more Jews in Manhattan than ever lived in old Jerusalem. Besides Jews, New Jerusalem holds Italians, Irish, Puerto Ricans and every other race and creed on the planet. Even queers are counted among the Chosen People. Maybe especially even queers.
Even though NYC is technically Holy (set apart), it is hardly righteous. It sits in roughly the same condition as Solomon's Jerusalem: apostasy, "Mystery Babylon". Marduk currently rules New Jerusalem, but I have hope that it won't be that way forever. God will redeem his holy city.
So with all that in mind, let the pilgrimage begin!
We flew Continental Airline's nonstop to Newark (New Ark), which was routine except for a moment of transcendent coolness. We were flying high above the clouds, in the company of two other airliners on the same route. What made it cool was that the atmospheric conditions caused condensation trails to form behind the planes, and I never knew this, but when they form, they create a brilliant white cloud aft of the wings. This makes the jet look like a comet or meteor, and we became three comets streaking east at 630 mph.
Our flight touched down safely at 3:00 in the afternoon, and after much confusion on the "Sky Train", we finally made it to the Payless car rental, where we picked up our H signifying Hyundai chariot. Apparently you need to pay more to get a car with a functioning suspension in NY. We stayed with friends of the family in Piermont, NY - on the Hudson.
On Wednesday we were let out on our own recognizance, so we took a morning commuter ferry from New Jersey to Manhattan, landing downtown at the World Financial Center. Ground Zero has become a gigantic construction project - the base of the Freedom Tower (of Babel). I would love to be a fly on the wall at the ritual laying of the cornerstone of THIS building.
We found ourselves in this interesting courtyard, I think it was the Winter Garden of 3 World Financial Center. The orderly rows of palms represent Egyptian temple columns, with the altar obscured by a massive emerald green curtain, conjuring the throne room of the Wizard of Oz as well as the Holy of Holies in Solomon's temple. What's behind the curtain?
We meandered to Wall St. and marveled at the temple-like buildings of the Lords of Finance. From there we trudged NE to the Southstreet Seaport, which is a cheesy tourist trap with one redeeming feature: a checker chariot catamaran water taxi offering rides around the Isle of Isis.
Super heroes are everywhere in Manhattan, especially Superman. Besides Jerusalem, NYC is also Metropolis and Gotham, and according to Disney's "Enchanted" (which I saw on the flight home) also Andalasia. Is there another city on earth where the mythic dimensions pile up so precipitously? Maybe one.
We took the A train north to Greenwich Village - the symbolic birth of gay consciousness. A lovely neighborhood, but gentrified to the point where only old queens can afford the rent now. Not much to see but nice brownstones. We stopped for lunch at a cheap but cool vegetarian burrito joint - I had the Route 66 burrito - yum. Next up, the Empire State Building!
I've been to the top of the Empire State once before - 25 years ago. Since then, it's made frequent appearances in my dreams. Usually, I'm in a valley, trying to get to the hill where the Empire State stands (in reality, Manhattan is flat as a pancake). I don't know exactly what the Empire State symbolizes for my subconscious, but I'll take a wild stab that it represents a father figure. In any case, going to the top was important to me on this trip. The journey wound up being remarkably unpleasant, because:
- The queues were long, but you expect that in NYC.
- The building was in the process of being renovated and most of the fabulous art deco/Emerald City detailing was hidden behind plywood and tarps.
- We were driven through an airport style security checkpoint!
- The monetizing of the captured audience was intense. Our serpentine course led us through a photography booth, a gift shop, and past NYC skyline map sellers who made carnival barkers look refined in comparison.
The Empire State is obviously a temple of sorts - a Masonic cathedral. I get the same feeling when I enter the Catholic equivalent. Interestingly, there is not one word in the entire New Testament about erecting great buildings to worship God. The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, not brick and mortar. Whatever spirit motivates the construction of these monuments, I doubt its holiness. But somehow, the Holy Spirit MAKES these structures holy... at least in my imagination. I imagine the Empire State as a symbol of my God, and the map sellers become the money changers, defiling the temple.
The view downtown
The view uptown
When we finally DID make it to the top, the view was magnificent, which made the trial almost worth it. I noticed that a blind man had been lead to the top by his guide, and I wondered what that was all about. NYC sightseeing tours for the blind. Now that really IS hell.
After the Temple of the Sun, we continued north to the Temple of Mammon - Macy's. The miracle on 34th St. I've never been inside the real Macy's until Wednesday, and being the proper country bumpkin, I was suitably impressed. There must be more money flowing through that store in one day than the Seattle Macy's gets in a whole year.
A real cash cow
Grand Central Station was next, which has a fabulous Byzantine-Mithraic feel. We walked into the catacombs and rested our weary feet in a subterranean diner, sipping a beer. Subways and trains are the veins and arteries of the city, and I felt like a red blood cell taking a quick breather in the left ventricle.
After Grand Central, we walked through Rockefeller Center, which has even more gilded gods and goddesses on display. Hermes and Ceres adorn some side doorways.
"Zebras" grazing in front of "church".
The final destination of our pilgrim's walk was the Church of Knowledge: the Apple Store on 5th Ave & 59th St. a brilliant glass cube. The Adversary is called the Prince of the power of the air, so of course the latest Apple computer is called Air. Come to think of it, Nike also has a product called air - Air Jordan. Hmmm.
Ascension. All it takes is a Mac.
At 6:00, we caught a bus heading back to the midtown ferry landing, and returned to Piermont. On our way we stopped for a slice at Rudy's, and I noticed a decal on the front door - from an outfit that calls itself Hold The Door For Others.
Does the door close on 2012?