Late September, 2010
Brooklyn Heights. Such a strange lull. I’ve walked all the way from Red Hook’s decomposing, rusting, Captain Hook sea-going charm, to above the Brooklyn Bridge. Some beautiful red brick 19th Century houses in their own grounds, with mature trees. Today’s one of the first days that feels like autumn, accentuated by an orange sun going down in the Hudson, or is it the East River? – The Jersey side, over there; today, leaves, not many, lie in the monied gardens of Brooklyn Heights like gold coins. That is what the houses are, must be: monied, though that isn’t primarily what I think of when I look at them.
But you see, I own them too, with my eyes, for a second or two (“that’ll be 250$, please!”). These houses with their gardens remind me of aspects of London: West Hampstead, the same red brick churches with old gardens, and those cast-iron benches overlooking the sky scrapers of lower Manhattan. With their night lights coming on, the lines of the black buildings are stirring, but leave me cold, like a Blade Runner tableaux. I turn back to the houses, where you can see people preparing dinner in kitchens the size of whole studio apartments. But it isn’t economics, primarily, that it’s about, even though I am a snob. It’s what we all aspire to – the idylls, if not of a king, then of – a squire? Knight of the Realm? – or a Man at Arms: to belong somewhere concrete, have a measure of peace somewhere, “Un Lugar en el Mundo”, as the classic Argentinian film put it, “a place in the world”.
But I possess that right now, in this little promenade among trees and benches that remind me of my French and Spanish Europe, and houses matured through generations of money. Well, they’re still here, bougie though they may be. Peaceful, though. That’s the main thing: as valuable in this city as a quadruple-distilled drop of a precious liquor, or restorative cordial.
There’s the sound of kids playing, and footsteps passing, as the sun sets and silhouettes the people against the always-on skyscrapers’ electricity bill.
What a fool! I was in a nook of Brooklyn Bridge park, saw a black helicopter come in to land on some heliport pad across the bay, walked towards the view, and the whole thing opened up, as far north as the Empire State with white light consuming the top 6th of it, the Chrysler Building, the Bridge lit white, yachts like Junks in the water, and, is that Ellis Island? The Statue of Liberty’s red torch, and the rusting blue-grey gantries of Red Hook to the left.
A woman in tracksuit and baseball cap passes talking on her phone, afraid of loneliness, maybe; maybe afraid of being in the moment. A well-dressed middle-aged couple is getting their photo taken by a passer-by. The woman’s New Yorker-ness struggles to break through: “are you done?” No, the kind girl will take another. “‘Kay. Okay.” The woman repositions herself, shakes herself off, smiles, breaking free of Pavlov, realises that there’s no rush. Her tall, patrician escort with the yellow button hole and grey suit elegantly thanks the photographer. He has a better grasp on time. I almost have a stress-by-association heart attack watching the transaction. Back, as quickly as possible, back to that nook where there’s only the view of au pairs, or maybe the women and men of their own houses, preparing dinner. The view, maybe, of an illusion. In Spanish, “ilusión” also means hope.