Friday, April 15, 2011
"This is New York City. Nothing's free."
My family had never been there together. We'd been as a couple there twice around 1990. I don't recall much. I saw Claude Monet's "Water Lilies" at the Museum of Modern Art. I noticed the amount of pro-Palestinian pamphlets on sale at the UN. Seeing at last not only the Metropolitan Museum of Art but so much more arrayed up the river along The Cloisters turned out the high points for medievalist me.
We back then took a ferry to that same Ellis Island while posing as the tourists we were for Layne's film colleague who used us as footage with an big old stand-up moving camera on a tripod. He took us for a great Chinese onion pancake dinner. A college pal of Layne's treated us to another dinner; he was a wine purchaser, so wherever it was must have been well-chosen. You can see my recall of these two excursions remained dim; I did go to the Strand and bought a little Modern Library Synge.
We stayed both of our visits at an old hotel, with tiny elevator and operator, near Central Park. I wore my long trench coat and gloves for the first time, and the only one outside NYC (except when I took it to Ireland last visit when the ice storm hit Dublin, and one time when I wore it to Dodger Stadium and got soaked in the rain). I declined to take her on a horse carriage ride around the park on Valentine's Day night due to the frigid temperature. She never forgave me, but we did get married the next year.
When younger, my wife and I discussed vaguely her wanting to go again. Logistics, expense, and difficulty of corralling the boys dissuaded at least me if not her. But, news in The New Yorker of an Edward Hopper exhibit at the Whitney impelled her to keep sighing "I wish I could see the Hopper before I die" for what seemed endless nights, ever since this year started, into her pillow, in earshot, mine.
So, a week before we departed, we announced it to the boys. Niall has long wanted to go; Leo as predicted seemed less enchanted. But, a family vacation after so much stress had been merited by my long-suffering spouse, and the combined tickets, she assured me, were somehow in her calculations cheaper than if we'd booked the airfare and hotel separately. Despite my frugality, I capitulated somewhat gracefully.
The flight over? My wife and I sat together, the kids ahead: non-stop and seats free between us made this a quick trip and an easy one. I started the novel I'd been advised by my son to take, Bret Easton Ellis's "American Psycho." Its branding, relentlessly cynical and brutally witty accumulation of status, worry, and insanity all appealed to me as a Reagan years artifact from the city I'd visit. As my son also warned, given the explicit violence and a couple of sexual passages, I was glad nobody else sat next to me or saw the cover. My wife started the only NYC novel I could find from my stacks unread, Henry James' "Washington Square." As this was given to me, and as I "prefer not to" (as Manhattanite Bartleby might chime) read the Master, at least the book earned a reader after sitting on my shelf about as long as the time since we'd last seen NYC.
With my phone and a few music files, the arrival in Newark happened swiftly. Our driver in the shared van we'd booked looked Russian, with a silver coiffure that had to be seen to be believed, but we heard him speak Spanish. He seemed befuddled, and the passengers, a frumpy woman who seemed to have delayed our departure as she just showed up after we'd been waiting a long time, a Celtic-looking black curly-haired but American-accented guitarist, and a younger black woman headed for Long Island, took awhile to assemble. The driver kept vanishing with a clipboard; I figured people called the service just as the plane landed but then took forever to actually get to wherever they were to be picked up by the shuttle van.
The guitarist spoke on his phone the whole time, so I learned of his many cross-country friends and gigs, even if to his father he talked about two terse minutes (apologizing at one point for waking him up, so I wondered what time zone dad lived in, it being about 6 p.m. EST) compared to nearly an hour with pal(s). I am sure my sons would treat me and do treat me no different on the phone. Not much else to occupy my thoughts. The driver kept leaving with his clipboard at stops in the airport lanes, and it took a while to get out of the place, and then face a cliche come to life, a Garden State panorama of refineries, ruins (abandoned multiplex overlooking decaying multistory factories in the evening haze), and rush-hour traffic. If this was heading against it into Manhattan, I could only imagine, or I did not want to imagine, the other way out of the tunnel.
We descended into the Holland Tunnel from Jersey City, naturally. Very slowly as the radio played The Boss, Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark." I learned the other day he incorporated his nearby (but doubtlessly farther from Asbury Park than he used to be) manse as a farm to avoid taxes. Layne likes him; all I can say is that I bought some of his records back when and never upgraded from vinyl, "Nebraska" excepted.
We emerged already nearly at our Hilton Garden Hotel in Tribeca. It is within earshot of the Tunnel, very close. So much that the driver fooled us by pretending he was lost when we pulled up in front, clueless as to where we were. It's a great location, with a patient staff, right at the "triangle-below-Canal" Street that gives this gentrified neighborhood its name. The film festival running all month rose on a nearby marquee.
Dinner at Cinque, a menu divided into fives as choices, proved decent. As we sat down, I noticed a boy about ten chattering away in a booth all by himself on a cellphone. My wife wrote about all of our meals on Chowhound, so I will not repeat what she better documents at "Long weekend with frugal husband and hungry teens". Suffice to say this was the other raison d'être for her destination. I add only that I liked the beer better than some meals. Read her typically informative post to find out about both bills of fare.
I append that the oatmeal, at respectively Bubby's (fake farmhouse with cow outside) in Tribeca ("18th c style" as granular) with raisins and brown sugar, The Kitchenette (gingham nightmare welcome to the dollhouse) on Chambers St. in the Financial District ("Irish" as flaked) with a nice fruit compote, and at the Grey Dog's Coffee (raw walls, hip art as I stared at a large painting by Laura Cuillé, "Revolution," most of an hour, a naked woman semi-frontal, photographed in two-tone and appliquéd with her hands raised, repeated four times and then reversed facing the other four, under a spray painted descent of golden globes and blue circles. Any artwork sticks with me after an hour, especially if attractive female nudes are involved) on 16th St. in Chelsea ("Baked" as if bread pudding) turned out well-chosen each breakfast. Prices for meals and drink were about a third higher than L.A. overall. I used to eat corned beef hash on the rare times I went out to breakfast on the rare trips I'd make, but since I converted to pescetarianism, I've switched dietary allegiances. I prefer a simple, no-nonsense food to test my meals by; compare my fish-and-chips habit!
We walked down Greenwich Street from Cinque that first night to the World Trade Center site. Not much to see as the tarps around the fence obscure the view from pedestrians. But seeing St. Paul's Church with its once-ash covered colonial gravestones as the witness to death across the street reminded me of the impact.
The next day, I roused myself from jet-lag enough to wonder where to go in search of Irish New York City. A search brought up to my mild surprise no local Hiberno-museum, given that the Italians and Chinese and even Ukrainians had theirs, but I did learn where the Irish Hunger Memorial was, close enough to walk. I learned later it opened the summer after 9/11. This Wikipedia entry links to the brochure and the insightful "Architectural Record" photo-essay by Roger Shepherd which for me sums up the effect of this half-passage tomb, half-reconstructed ruined home atop a mound of native Irish flora. Together it looks as if a piece of the old sod dropped out of the sky. Which, for a few million hit by the great hunger, and then landing in the New World, it might have felt like, for both observers and participants.
As the Irish memorial's but two blocks from the WTC ruins, I walked around the site again, on my way down and around the Hudson River parkway that led me to Battery City Park's esplanade. This site was built on land excavated from the WTC's original construction. I welcomed the fresh air, the quiet atmosphere, and what I first could view from atop the Famine memorial, the prospect of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
On my way, I listened. Coming out onto Vesey St. near the Irish half-acre site, I heard a foreman tell a group of departing hard-hats: "Here's one you haven't heard for a while. 'If we ain't got it, you don't need it.'" He then went on to explain this again. "That is, 'if I don't have it, you don't need it.'"
Later, on the Esplanade, an Asian-American woman was told by her blonde-dyed companion, both in their late-twenties and in office clothes: "So I tried it out.... He was so attentive! He listened to everything!!!" She related this revelation half-mockingly, half-marveling, in a typical, slightly Yiddishified inflection that I suppose any native New Yorker or new arrival must soon enough adapt as articulated camouflage.
I kept on walking. It was less than fifty degrees; the river air revived me. It took about fifty minutes to get from my hotel to Castle Clinton, the round fort which in "The Gangs of New York" unforgettably records another throng of Irish arrivals, and their immediate citizenship and inducting into the military for the lads off the boat and onto another for the Civil War. Meanwhile, the camera tracks to show coffins of the Union casualties unloading at the port. Only Pier A remains, soon to be restored, which is where the following day I heard while in line with my own half-Irish son the line that titles this entry.
But that first day, there were no lines. The last ferry, I'd learn the next day, for Ellis Island already had departed, leading me to a false expectation that there'd be no wait. I didn't know "airport-style security" loomed as well. So, another Mick newly docked gets fooled.
Speaking of half-Irish, I wondered around there if the Mitzvah Tank might pick me out on this lengthening pre-Shabbat afternoon (it was getting late for driving if you're Orthodox, but I suppose Chabadniks had all the getaways covered). I'd heard an amplified "yay-yay-yay" blasting the intersection where State St. and Broadway and Battery Place meet, near the Museum of Jewish Heritage (which seemed more like a Holocaust one, given the empty Student Workbook I found on a bench from it). Before I saw the Tank, I wondered if it was that (I'd never seen one in L.A. given I live far from any Jewish neighborhood) and not somebody cranking up reggae.
It stopped at a light, and a tall, fit, thirtyish man with a shaved head and a very slight beard walked by. He could have passed for a M.O.T. A young man with payes leaned out of the passenger window to ask him in a loud, inflected (that accent) voice if he wanted to lay tefillin. The man declined, the van turned, and I lost whatever nuances might have been exchanged due to traffic and those "yay-yay-yays." The man walked towards me and told his petite female companion about what that conversation was all about, at least from the snatch of speech I could pluck from the air full of that tune, as annoying as an ice-cream truck's jingle.
I told my wife this as I'd been speculating when hearing the tune before I even saw the Tank, what if they saw me? What would I say if asked? "Not Jewish enough for you?" But she insisted they'd never pick me anyway.
In front of the Castle, a group of black men, in their late-twenties or early-thirties, gathered in a half-circle. They appeared to challenge one of their own. One man posed as if beating down on another unseen figure. "I saw it. You were punchin' rocks through his head when he was down." I kept walking, head down.
The next day on the Ferry as it left the Statue of Liberty for Ellis Island, the seats were still few and the standees many. I offered twice my seat, but each time the elderly women declined. One confided, if in a loud local accent redolent of a character in, well, any Woody Allen or Martin Scorsese film: "you're a lost breed." She went on that such chivalry had ended partly as "they"-- her fellow feminists of the days of rage, I suppose?-- "really brought it on themselves," so that we gentlemen felt as if we offended the fairer sex if we implied they couldn't stand on their high heels or sensible flats as sturdily as we oafs. I thanked her for her courtesy as she had my attempted display of chauvinist etiquette, and I agreed tactfully.
On my way to Battery Park that day before, still, I did three good deeds. I say this not to appease my Recording Angel for the Book of Life, but to assure my doubting wife that I am not always the misanthrope I seem, at least out of her purview. An Irish-looking gent in his sixties asked me as I left the hotel where Walker's Restaurant was near Varick and Moore Streets. I knew already where both were, and I gestured to that location a few blocks away. I was not positive where the eatery itself was, of course, as I'd never seen it, so I took him back inside the hotel with me to confirm with the helpful bellhop.
(We'd go to Walker's with its worn wood floors, friendly staff, and packed tables for decent fish and chips with a good local Blue Point Spring Fling pint, a great Original Sin bottled cider for her the following night, as the alternative, a greasy if genuine dive bar across from the hotel, Nancy Whiskey's Pub, from my net research appeared too insulting and too much attitude. I feared they'd spit in my Guinness. They had but five dull other brews if a couple bucks cheaper. I figured the nearby NYPD First Precinct, whose van we saw pulled up two nights later, could keep their haunt to themselves if they wanted to mock us blow-ins.)
Anyway, I also helped an elderly Chinese lady whose groceries spilled out as she tried to cross the vast expanse of West Street on my way back to the river after seeing WTC following the Irish site. I caught her apple rolling down the crosswalk, others picked up other sundries, so all was restored to her sack. I then crossed against the light alongside similarly wary pedestrians under the "go ahead, I dare you" eye of the policeman doing traffic duty.
On my way up the river walk from Battery Park, I tossed back a large rubber ball. A Chinese-American man had been hoisting his daughter up on a wall above the esplanade. She'd been waiting, I guess, for somebody to come along and see it and retrieve it. I obliged.
Passing Stuyvesant High School as it let out, I heard a girl shout "Taylor, call me later!" Given the prevalence of that name for this cohort, I wondered how many heads would turn. A student's frisbee slid perfectly into my foot as I waited for a light, legally. I bent to pick it up but a boy politely apologized and came over to grab it. Along the way nearing and past the school, I noticed the crowds of young people out of school: chess, handball, basketball all occupied them, and Indian and Asian faces predominated the ranks, with few white and fewer black faces. Throughout my stay in Manhattan, the number of Indians stood out, far more, or at least far more concentrated, than I'd see in Southern California. Not to mention nearly every taxi driver.
Speaking of cabbies, I passed the Irish memorial on my way back up the river and I visited it again. Then, just north of it, I noticed a "Relieve World Hunger Action Center" building. Coincidental? It promised that whether one visited a few moments or a few hours, one could help. Scientology?
As I mused about this juxtaposition, a cabbie, I presumed African from his demeanor and features, made a sharp and sudden u-turn in front of me. He hit the sidewalk at the next building, sharing space with the Hunger one as Poets' House. He mounted the curb in his hasty move. I heard a loud pop, and it looked as if the front right tire had exploded, but I could not see that side. I glanced at him with a sort of "wtf?" look, but he just acted as if it was a normal event in his daily commute. Yet, the taxi slowed in front of another one as I walked past both. I passed the taxis and didn't look back. Scientology?
After breakfast at The Kitchenette late next morning, Niall and I decided to walk down to go to Ellis Island, as we were halfway to Battery Park already from Chambers St. It was noon by the time we started. We stopped at St. Paul's and took in briefly the 9/11 memorials accumulated by the volunteers and firefighters who camped out there in the aftermath. Photos of the lost and missing and dead filled one display. I felt then a glimmer of what the city had endured. So, it was half-past by the time we got tickets at the Castle Garden.
Our wait crept by inch by inch, a quiet, genial black man from Texas in his thirties ahead of us (his elderly mother had sat way ahead before the railings and lines narrowed), and three loud Turkish men in their twenties yammered incessantly behind me, raucously laughing and doubling over every other second. They'd replaced four aging walrus-mustached somewhat still muscular ruddy men of a certain age, one of whom flamboyantly boasted of his unemployment and his desire to take a cruise to Italy and then the Greek islands on his income. I'm not sure if I'd have preferred hearing them emote for two hours compared to a language jabbered incessantly and shrilly from leather-jacketed louts from a nearby sun-baked nation less touristed. Maybe that scene in "Midnight Express" dissuades most today, despite Giorgio Moroder's disco-era score.
Not much to report otherwise; the busker entertaining the inching throngs made up a ditty for those near him after he asked each group their civic or ethnic origins. Luckily I got past him as he inquired from a pair of British students on the other side of the line. Reflecting the city, we were from everywhere else, it seemed, once again on the dock.
Ellis Island, after we passed but passed up the Statue of Liberty while I crouched down to see it from the window, proved as interesting as the first time. Nearly three o'clock by the time we disembarked. Thanks to an excellent guided tour, by park ranger Victoria B. Scott, Niall and I spent forty-five minutes learning about the luggage sorting, the medical inspections, the lines and sorting, the myth of the name changes, the future of those 2/3 who never landed in NY but went straight to Jersey's shore for trains inland, and the fates of the 2% who were eventually sent home for mental or physical or financial limitations.
A chart in 1900 tallies 15% of Jewish arrivals as tailors and seamstresses, while the same percentage of Irish toiled as "laborers." Song sheets regaled us with images of what the public bought as caricatures of every ethnicity, or a few popular (or unpopular?) varieties. I could have stayed there all day.
We ran out of time, literally, from the detailed exhibits on immigrant life, to catch the ferry. Ahead of me, a young Indian pair. Behind me, four Italian students. Then, young Canadian Mennonites, the girls in modest wear, the man with a closely trimmed beard without a mustache. More Indians, then Spanish-speakers. All in line fondled cellphones. I tugged mine out to check e-mail while waiting for the next ferry. Globalization. I was third in line when the gangplank gate had slammed shut, so I stayed to think about my fate on the docks, in sight of Lady Liberty. I wondered who in my family had immigrated exactly when, as I remain clueless and likely given current states of affairs will go to my grave now as such. Niall went back in to try to look up records on his maternal side. Another ferry, the last. We neared Battery Park and watched the skyline grow.
Our trek up Church Street let us look east down Warren to the gleaming gold-statue topped City Hall. A demonstration had ended, full of gray-haired activists, many women with close-cropped hair, wearing vests with badges and slogans, in their sixties and seventies boarding a pair of coach buses (oddly labeled limousines). Their placards stacked up in the holding bin: "Stop Islamophobia. Israel out of Gaza. Free Palestine. End Zionist Apartheid." (I learned today in the Forward how Judith Butler, a queer theorist from Berkeley of Jewish descent, praised Hamas and Hezbollah as "progressive" organizations of the "global left." The paper's contributors, two LGBT campaigners, wondered how Butler'd fare under a Muslim theocracy.) With more hair, if dyed of course golden, we passed a worse-case scenario. Botox, nose job, and tanning straight off of Real Housewives of Jersey Shore: strutting and yapping as she strode out of a hotel, logoed bags filling each hand, proving there's always a sequel for coiffed and scary admirers of "Sex and the City."
Speaking of earlier civic demonstrations, we wondered how close was the old Irish ghetto Five Points, featured in "Gangs of New York." We saw a good deal of the Financial District. This was Niall's favorite area, being an intrepid walker while his brother slumbered, as I predicted. The next night, they opted for Katz's Deli despite or in spite of combined parental warnings that it'd not live up to their expectations, as they'd feasted at Langer's in L.A., which we all know's the best. (For once, Mom and Dad proved right, as the boys confessed by cellphone during our own, considerably more refined, fare that following evening.)
After the ferry, the four of us ventured to the former Meatpacking District at the West Village's north border. Two Indian women, early twenties, wrangled drunkenly with an Indian man about the same age. "I love you more than both of you," he shouted in equivalent powers of control as they bumped and ground lasciviously against each other, one up against the wall, the two women grappling as the man egged them on. They were loud. It was seven p.m. I realized I did not get out much on the town. I never get out much in any town.
We were there in this hip, but somehow appealingly gentrified, stretch of the beautiful and the damned to meet Layne's film colleague Rosemary at La Gazzetta. Even though I noticed we'd been seated at the back booth next to another family, while blondes and babes filled the window tables and a considerable din, alcohol-fueled, increased as our meal and their cocktails continued from a party of six single white females, I resigned myself to my elder statesman eminence grise. I found no Italian beer that appealing, so I was happy to drink the tap water again as throughout my stay. It lacks the sediment that makes L.A.'s sink drainings so unappealing, and my hair turned out much better under the shower, as it does anywhere else but at home.
Leo and Rosemary talked impressively about cinema, and Niall and I tried to hang in there. Later, we walked starting at Gansevoort St. on the High Line, a former railroad used by the warehouses, now an urban mini-park built on the right-of-way. An elevated promenade for about eight blocks, this impressed me. We could see the dark Hudson, of course, and lit skyscrapers peeked above silent apartments. The photo above taken by Leo's my favorite from many that night there, as if the viewers silhouetted can see the "picture" glass framed as city life below the line, above near16th or 17th Streets, as an endlessly changing flow of images.
Later, we took a cab slanting to the Village's other edge, past Henry James' Washington Square all tree-lined and silent, past NYU, into the once beatnik still hipster enclave. Leo noted Justin Theroux, who happened to be in the just-released dreadful stoner flick "Your Highness," sitting in a cafe window. Along such beats, there I suppose the just-deceased former girlfriend of Bob Dylan depicted on the album cover, Suzi Rotolo, had strolled with the troubadour (about as old as the guitarist on the shuttle bus?), arm in arm, nearly five decades ago. Caffe Reggio (1927), all green paint, was too jammed; Caffe Dante (1915), down MacDougal St. past Bleecker, drew us in. My first cannoli, recommended by our Boston Italian-raised host, pleased me there.
My third full day in the city, hammered by three nights of shouting and carousing by hotel guests slamming doors and yelling guffaws deep into the night and early into the morning, my sleep was off. But, off we went via the Grey Dog and two subways to the MoMA, as I've written about separately so you can see the eight works of art I liked best. After a rest in the hotel, time for our final meal (see my wife's post linked above for a rundown) at Colicchio's and Sons in that same High Line-adjacent district. An appealing place to watch the river and ales both flow. Our waiter, Ryan, was training as a "cicerone," a counterpart to a sommelier, so he knew his brews. We overlooked the river, and sunset accompanied our lovely salmon and standout beers.
The flight home was preceded by a very officious gatekeeper scrutinizing our carry-ons. This would be repeated before we re-boarded in Chicago: neither departure was particularly soothing. I felt sorry for the woman in a wheelchair moved directly in front of me into the "airport-style security" line. That we all had to subject ourselves to such patting and pawing makes me wonder how Professor Butler would lecture us for our imperial, Zionist sins vs. the sacrifices inflicted as well as endured by indigenous, "progressive" saints.
I'm reviewing Atheist Manifesto: The Case Against Christianity, Judaism and Islam. French philosopher Michel Onfray argues that God won't go away soon given our wish-fulfillment fantasies. But, monotheism based on denial of the material and flight to the spiritual should erode: lest we increase ignorance and blood sacrifice. Onfray contrasts how monotheisms born from desert sands conjure lush paradises. Celestial visions lure crusaders, raise or raze walls, seduce suicide bombers. "By aiming for paradise, we lose sight of earth. Hope of a beyond and aspiration to an afterlife engender a sense of futility in the present. If the prospect of getting taken up to paradise generates joy, it is the mindless joy of a baby picked up from his crib."
One worker I passed as he left his shift from the WTC site had embroidered on his day-glo green safety vest over his heart and flag patch "9-11-01: I didn't forgive. I didn't forget." I watched a composed young woman, resembling Natalie Portman, davening out of a tiny blue book she held near her face as she recited softly the prayers for over half an hour; the flight from Newark had many travelers in full Orthodox garb.
I sat next to a man in a modest suit, aging, white, silent. I figured a businessman. No word the entire flight, no book in his hand. Near the end of the flight, he pulled out a humble, stapled booklet in three dozen languages. No illustrations; brochures stuffed in showed a colorful message aimed at passersby or children. One looked as if titled in Tagalog; another for all I know Albanian, Esperanto, or Ruritanian. Vaguely Slakan cognates stumped me. Each page of his polyglot pamphlet repeated an appeal for a Jehovah's Witness to recite while proselytizing. Even Hebrew. The script in English to which he turned was composed in a confident, confiding tone. The last paragraph had a place for the speaker to tell the listener his or her own name, and then to ask the listener for his or her name. This led to an gentle invitation to learn more about the missionary's message.
On the second half of the flight home, I was set among a hijab-clad contingent from O'Hare to LAX. Albeit randomly, this may have marked me as undesirable if not alien, Ellis novel in my hidden hand. Certainly this narrative's devoid of God, but no better for it. A swarthy, bearded but in that icky hirsute way, hipster lay ostentatiously on his tray table a new copy of the late David Foster Wallace's unfinished "The Pale King," all about alienation in a midwestern IRS office, all 560 pages cobbled together from thousands of scattered notes when the author committed suicide. Wallace would have been exactly the same age, born the same year, as Patrick Bateman, Ellis' protagonist. The chairman of the elite college English department where Wallace had tenure (replaced now by Brooklynite fabulist Jonathan Lethem) was a few years ahead of me in grad school, anointed for his ability to charm his elders if not his classmates. The bearded one did not get very far into Wallace's evocation of acedia-- it was bookmarked at the start-- before opting for his I-Pod.
I thought about my wife reading James's droll comedy of mores 150 years before "American Psycho." It's set near the end of the 1980s in that same city. The callow, well-educated but callous (a challenge to convey) protagonist-- in all his pornographic paranoia and grim greed, if leavened for a discerning few who might endure this impersonal, dehumanized, incisive (yes, all the more for its alienated rhetoric and numbed litany) tragicomedy of terrors with deadpan dialogue and gobbets of gallows humor-- turns out to be born a year after me. A terrible story of inflicted pain and endured estrangement, told chillingly and tautly. Its anomic plot unfolds around the same time my wife and I met, ending a year or so before we first landed in Gotham.
A crowded way, both ways. Chicago's layover however brief did not endear me to an airport I've suffered before. The trashcans still had the old mayor's name on it, not the newest, whose profanity levels exceeded even those yuppie scum as Ellis's preppie brokers. But, I was happy to sit next to Layne again the last leg. I ate my pistachios. I piled up the shells neatly bagged in my empty plastic cup for the dour blue-nailed stewardess to pick up with a sneer, as Ellis's narrator hacked up and jacked up his body count in Manhattan.