Swimming to Manhattan

A personal journey to Spalding Gray’s Memorial Service in NYC
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
April 13th, 2004

by John Boland (aka ‘Ratz Garcia’)

Dedicated to Kathie, Melissa, Theo, Forrest … and Spalding

Day 21 – Wooster Street

(suggested music – (Saving Grace by Todd Rundgren)

Let me loose from my prison cell, I’ve got my NYC legs! Next stop Wooster Street. That’s where Spalding had his office and sometimes lived. Just a fairly short walk into that spiritual triangle called Soho. At times, that word would allow me to imagine great heavenly arts. Mind you, if I had an extra three or four mil US, I saw a nice 3 bedroom brick townhouse…

The street turned out to be amazingly hard to find even with a map and friendly New Yorkers to help. There were a few perfect moments however. Now before we go any further, I’d like to comment on this perfect moment craze. I read Spalding say that first, the stuff about perfect moments in Swimming to Cambodia was mostly made up, and that to look for perfect moments was not the same as when perfect moments happen spontaneously. Sort of sounds like a zen small satori – a brief moment of perfect clarity brought on in deep mediation or by random occurrences in New York.

So, first perfect moment. I stopped in front of a café and asked a man where is Wooster Street? He wasn’t sure so he asked another New Yorker where it was. Total New York ignoring. So the only time I saw the unfriendlyness that NYC was supposed to be infamous for was a New Yorker to another one. My new found friend laughed and told him to fuck off.

Second perfect moment. For some unknown reason a cab was driving down a semi deserted street and honking like he was in Time Square at rush hour. I was just walking by a couple sitting on the front steps. The guy called the cab driver every nasty name he could think of in the split second that it took for the cab to speed by. I turned around, and had to give my new found friend a high five. Perfection and clarity.

My third perfect moment was as I walked around Soho semi lost, I saw a health food store coming up. The first one I’d seen. You see my spouse wanted some special amino acid that was banned in Canada by the drug company cartels but was available in the US. And my new found friendly store was on the corner of Wooster!

In took some pictures of the building from across the street. I took some close ups. I took a close up of the apartment listing. It had Spalding and Kathie listed twice – once under Spalding Gray and once under Spalding Grey. As I was laughing, a tenant came outside to check up I guess. He didn’t think it was funny at all. He was a good friend of the Spud and was one of the last people to speak to him. He said Spalding was very despondent that day and that the last thing he said was in reference to psychiatrists. ‘They don’t treat the pain. They’re all pharmacologists.’

Wooster St.

I walked back to the Bowery. My mind was reeling. ‘But Spalding, I know I’m not a shrink, but I was there…’ Mourning was a speeding freight train on Bleeker Steet.

I had about 30 ounces of Cointreau left – no ice available – cold pepsi. As far as I could remember a Swedish friend had 4 ounces and I drank the rest in quadruples. I guess that’s more than 6… I was completely fucking hammered. And tomorrow was brunch! Shit…

back to Days 19 and 20 | on to Day 22