NYC Journal #21 — Friday, 7/3/2020 — Beer #1
The best thing about being sick with Cov-id19 for five weeks is quitting drinking.
So why would you go buy a six pack of crisp, refreshing pilsner? Why would you turn on Pet Shop Boys Radio, sit in a sweltering muggy apartment round about overcast-90F, sipping Pilsner Urquell over ice with a lime? Why would you risk your life like that?
There’s a sound rumbling in the distance. The day is overcast and I walked down the scene. Lots of people out. Everyone’s 30, or else they own a shop, or else they lie in worn-out threads and a layer of dirt against a wall, but no not here, not in this glamorous stretch. The Crown Inn is not open. Yesterday evening the several tables penned in by a wooden gate sitting out in the street where in old times a car might’ve parked — yesterday those wood-slat tables were full of revelers, and the backyard that’s always there was probably full too. All along the street, people dined and drank on tables on the sidewalk or sprawling out into the parking lanes. Everyone was happy. I noticed that everyone eating and drinking at the Island Cz Cafe was black. Is it always like that? Most everywhere else was more mixed in its sidewalk life. I waved to a superintendent I used to know. He had on a flat-rimmed ballcap and said, hey, hey, how’s it going? I don’t know if he was watching the guy with the knee-length square-cut baggy shorts rolling two red dice on the sidewalk. It was quite a few people in a ten foot long stretch of sidewalk but he had steps rising above it where he could sit up on a solid stone post and smoke a blunt and wave to me down there as I walked past.
Chavela’s is on the corner of Sterling and Franklin, and now people are seated on either side under big canvas roll-out awnings. They are all 30 and one girl was pale with a few friends while she held her young baby. The blue oval baby buggy, also covered with its own an awning, was parked on the sidewalk next to her. That 30ish guy alone with the stubble and the slight but perpetual tan, his hair buzzed really short on the sides and pretty short but tumbling suavely over on the top, in pink jean shorts and a white with blue print button up, tight-fitting short — he said to the dark-masked waitress that he wasn’t sure as he pulled the bright laminated menu across the wobbly stone-mosaic-topped little round table. I don’t know. I don’t know what he ordered. I didn’t see what anyone was eating. The three white guys — 30ish — were drinking a beer with their comida and were all sweaty; the one with his back to me had a long shard of damp down the center of his nice blue soft-cotton T-shirt. I don’t what know their exertion was, but they looked flushed with it. Maybe just because of the heat and their bulk; they weren’t that bulky though; so then I don’t know again, which I never said I did know anyway.
I think of both events; I think of them as one even though they are separated far by time and space. I think of them always cloaked within each other. I don’t like to. It makes me uneasy. It is Germany and I don’t know where I am. How am I lying in a nice, clean, well-furnished apartment? Who does it belong to? And where did I find that glossy, playbill-shaped street paper? So there I am reading it and I guess it must be written in German, unless I misremember and this actually happened in the English-speaking world. And it is about Leonard Cohen and he’s quoted as saying that someone said it to him before and it still is true: we all suffer, but none like the poor. But then almost twenty years pass, and I don’t know that I ever mention that stray comment but sometimes I reflect upon it, sometimes it comforts me, like it proves I’m where I would suppose I am: with some issues, but kind of doing OK, since I have a roof and a job and food and people who will act like the things I say are worth consideration. And then one day in the midst of this conversation I forget the details and I don’t think it had to do with race but with this conversant I felt always that it was always on his mind and so then when I mentioned this comment of Leonard Cohen’s (that’s my recollection, anyway), I thought his eyebrow slanted in a flashing annoyance and his, “yeah?” was particularly noncommittal and so I pictured that he was thinking that it was not fair to clump everyone into either not-poor-and-so-struggling-but-OK and poor-and-so-drowning-beneath-an-avalanche-of-compounding-misery — that he wanted to say white people don’t suffer like black people in this society, or something like that. But I don’t know, since on the one hand maybe I pick up on other people’s obsessions but on the other hand maybe I’m forever obsessively inventing other people’s actually-secret minds. And the two pieces float around in my mind, circling each other, ducking in and over each other like playing and/or squabbling birds — those tiny brown & white winged birds with the round white bellies that have lived everywhere I ever did, who today were snuggling and wiggling into the dry dirt beside street-lining trees.
I saw three people standing outside of a taco place. Or was it an Asian fusion place? Or was it I don’t know what it was — a bright red door in a bright mural, out of which float square-bottomed paper bags, folded over and stapled at the top, looking like little barns. And then these three young people — about 30ish years of age — walked along together, each swinging their own paper bag, talking through their masks to one another. The two guys in front, the girl behind in the center. The one guy in athletic shorts and a sporty T-shirt with a buzzed head was a head taller than the other guy who was dressed similarly. The girl was a little shorter than the shorter guy, and her hair was brown and short like a bowl? I don’t remember. Is there a diamond-shaped tattoo high on her back? That you see because her T-shirt is held up by thin shoulder straps? I can’t remember. They were caucasion, and I don’t know what they were talking about, but the tall guy was side-leaning a little towards the other, saying something about how this was such and such Crown Heights, and the other guy was like, “Oh!”, but I can’t imagine what could’ve been interesting enough to elicit that “Oh!”, and I cannot help but surmise that the enthusiasm was mostly a display of polite attention, and nothing real, certainly nothing you could sink your teeth into.
A tall thin woman with light-chocolate skin and curly black hair in a black tube dress walked past a couple guys standing at the back of the wide sidewalk near an apartment building, smoking cigarettes and not standing up quite right. The woman was 30s to 40s; the men were 50s to 60s and their heads were held cocked to one side and lower lips jutted out twisted and eyes bulged forward and they were bent over a little to one side and I think they were under the care of a young man who at that moment was helping another man who was standing similarly affected in front of an open suitcase, his shirt half pulled up by an unnaturally twisted palm, but frozen in that position for the duration of my walk-by. The two guys off to the side in front of a gray-brick building gave some weak but audible hubba-hubbas and ain’t she fines to the woman herself and then to each other once she, who barely deigned an eyebrow-twitch in their direction, had passed. The sidewalk is always so ragged and worn in these parts.
Lots of people sat outside of Domo Taco. They have a backyard too. Well, a wooden patio with umbrellas, wooden tables, wooden benches, also single tables with single chairs for couples and lone wolves. Out front of Domo Taco, I remember noticing only a dark skinned black guy with a shaved head and big shoulders in a short-sleeved shirt. But there were lots of people and I don’t know why I only remember him. I guess he was in his 30s, but maybe he was in his 40s and still hadn’t found anywhere else to go yet (I know the feeling!). Was he wearing baggy shorts and wrap-over plastic sandals? Was he seated with his legs apart, leaning into a little table, talking something to somebody? I don’t know. I can’t remember anything anymore.
It’s cool to be angsty at 23. At 42 it doesn’t add up to much. I’m floating out the window, I’m a cloud that’s gathering and splitting and dissipating, I’m a ghost light-stepping above the graveyard where lies my earthly remains. If only I’d’ve lived a better life! Good souls go to heaven; bad souls go to hell; iffy souls roam the earth, gathering up karma like cockroaches gather dust on their hairy little hind legs scurrying beneath these brown domed oval carpaces, scurrying through the world, fearing the light, darting in and out of dark corners, lonesome, driven on and on, without fellowship, without a wherefore or whereto.
So that’s about the end of the beer. Lots of ice with it, so I’m hydrated. Switched to Portishead’s song “Glory Box”. She just wants to be a woman. That’s how it is. And a man just wants to be a man — slip away from the noise with some woman, play out the roles where find our toes and release our demons, purifying the tumult through interaction within the animal sphere. Let it be. Let it go. The rest is padding. Of course, I must disavow this position, and even more forcefully reject any talk of ghosts and goblins. Such dogmas contradict the higher and holier one of Something Deeperism.
Author: Sam Spade, PI & Small Shovel
Editors: B. Willard & A. Whistletown
Copyright: AM Watson
Worlds: Forgetful, wide apart and expanding and thus separating more and more.
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