I Own It With My Eyes

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.

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First Annoyingly Bloggy Post

I give in. This is my first “bloggy” blog post. I have not quite sunk to the level of, “I am cutting my toe nails while talking on the phone to Philipa about The Sopranos” / “my daily post-prandial poo had a nice consistency”, but I’m getting close.

Writers’ delaying tactics have manifested as multi-tasking (i.e., watching The September Issue on Netflix while eating french bread and shop-bought humus (no chance that I would have cooked it: since moving to NYC, my store cupboard has been old Mother Hubbarding, and the fridge, with its unidentified secretions and green stains from dead vegetables, hasn’t been the most attractive place to put food. Solution? Spend around 10$ at lunch for expensive posh sambo and coffee, and 10$ to 15$ to dine alone at Dojo at Washington Square, on yakisoba, another 10$ for two pints of Japanese beer – it has to be done.) – so: eating humus at my desk with a cup of coffee; pausing film to check FBk, emails, blog stats, and if there were any other networks, pulse flickrs or twitters, I’d be checking them. All the while listening to Grant Hart of Hüsker Dü fame.

(“Why don’t we put it on Facetube?” I heard Irish poet Gerald Dawe say at the Patrick Kavanagh weekend in November 2008; an ironic twitter went through the technophiles in the audience, and panel members. Someone pulled out their Iphone and put it on twitter.) Since 1 p.m., a coolly-sinister breeze has been blowing, within, or threading through, the carpet of dirty humidity that has held over the city the last two days, rain and heat in equal measure at this late date in “autumn”: fall failing to materialise. I have just checked weather.com, and verified a comment overheard from the balcony – “yo! We got a Taw-nay-do comin’, bro!” “No shit, Anthony? You fuckin’ with me.” (I’m exaggerating – they weren’t mafioso.) – “AN ISOLATED TORNADO IS STILL NOT OUT OF THE QUESTION. A TORNADO WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 6 PM.” according to Weather.com.

In the shops of Ditmas avenue, Jewish women in headscarves who looked like cancer patients – due to shaved heads – were conscientiously shopping for vege, and saying “Doris, we got a big taw-nay-do comin’; how much is dat? Oh, I tawt it was .99 cents?”; the daily scene of Hassids brushing shoulders with Mesopotanian, totally-burka-ed women; in the hardware store, someone was talking Brooklynese to the shop owner, while two ferociously-bearded Orthodox men in black wearing what looked like brown, furred lamp-shades from my 1970s Balinteer Dublin suburban childhood stood by, waiting, talking together cautiously, maintaining their conscious separation via the low tone of conversation (idea: perhaps Bin Laden is hiding in plain view, as an Orthodox Jew?)

I was (1) bringing 2 weeks’ worth of laundry to Laundrymania!, a 30-washing machine operation run by Latin American women under pictures and shrines of the Virgin of Guadalupe, clashing with broadcasts of corny, breast implant soap-operas from Colombia and Mexico. I left my 16 pounds of dirty socks and jocks with them, went to various 1$ shops to buy Woolite (because the laundry ladies shrink anything they possibly can with their high power dryers), bleach (because the fruit flies, according to Katie, are breeding down the sink again), and various cleaning items to do, some day, the big clean on the general manky-ness of the public spaces in the apartment. (I had intended to get up early to write, and then do the clean, but since I woke via the snooze button at 1 p.m., the clean must go by the wayside in favour of delaying-to-write.) I also braved the crush of “Grannies of all nations”, the united front of all forms of headscarves (from the Silk Road to Asia Minor to the Near East and indeed Middle East) in the vege shops -“the ubiquity of sparrows” is what one learns most from travelling, wonderful U.S. poet Craig Arnold has noted; I notice the ubiquity of the Pushy Granny. In Spain, France and in the boroughs, the guild has mutual respect and, per capita, more influence and power than the white-vest wearing Yakusa. Shoppers, particularly men, from outside the guild, are invisible, and can be gone over like tank fodder: ethnic grannies as a form of subtle tank.

So, I returned an hour ago loaded down with vege and fly-bleach; and after I finish this post, I’m going to delay a little longer, and then write. Finally. After pouring another cup of coffee, and watching another 10 minutes, no, 15, of the film. The sky’s clearing now. Looks as if the potential tornado is dissipating.