this will be the third alternating tuesday on which i've taken the train out to meet a friend at the beach, the freelance writer's amorphous schedule at its best. on the friday before last i took another train north to meet amorphophallus titanum, the new york botanic garden's stinking corpse flower (the first bloomer they've had since the late '30s, just after they had the first-ever blooming corpse flower in the western hemisphere; a. titanum's a native of borneo). staffers noticed the bud on the 15th, moved the flower to the enid a. haupt conservatory for exotic specimens on the 18th, and braced themselves for hordes of visitors (an estimated 25,000 turned up for a whiff). the gal at the ticket counter already had a haunted look in her eye when i arrived around noon; the garden had been open since half past eight, she said, and crowds had already tripled a typical friday's count. a television news anchor performed showy jaw-limbering exercises behind her as his cameraman fired up his equipment. a kid wandered around with a whole box of pizza, as if the flower had had it delivered to its waiting fans like a generous star at shakespeare in the park.
to my delight, i ended up queuing for the conservatory itself near the four twentysomething goths* who wandered into the garden just before i did (they were a few scores of visitors behind me, as they paused at the entrance to exchange corpse-flower-related exclamations with a few daywalking friends who were on the way out). this quartet had made the most of recent athleisure advances and were wearing lovely striped running tights under their lace-up boots and whisper-thin joy division shirts. and the tattoos, you guys, the tattoos! one woman's ink actually looked like tatting, a delicate layer of lace that gathered like epaulets at her shoulders, shadow at her clavicle, cobwebs at her temples. the fact that i need my tattoos to be on lines of symmetry has kept me pretty honest, but it can be hard to ignore the freelancer's amorphous dress code, sometimes. pagoda umbrella or no, the sun was too much for most of the goths, who took turns tag-teaming a place in line from beneath a shade tree. this was a popular strategy: "i'll go have a look at the peonies and you can call me when you start moving," one guy behind me suggested to another. "it'll be like the line for easter kielbasa at martin rosol's." "it'll smell like a weekend's worth of sewage. sewage on a monday," another guy said. the woman in front of me quietly caught a low-level rattata.
*one with a pagoda-shaped umbrella i must acquire immediately.