NYC Journal #22 – Back to the Garden – Saturday, August 15, 2020
Written the day after, and so basically a quasi-historical account, like you might get if someone had researched the styles, manners, and circumstances of the time/place.
A note on the order of this journal: There’s a few pieces we wrote but never finished between #21 and this #22. So if we end up finishing them, they’ll be kind of out of order. But we may never finish them and would like to get back to journaling. So for now we’ll just press ahead.
Journal Entry Begins:
We’ve had all these problems with Covid-19. We had to kind of shut the city down. Now we’re opening it back up, but slowly, in stages, and with masks and social distances.
In August 2020, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden opened back up as part of Phase 4, which allows for the opening of many cultural venues.
But not even members of the BBG are allowed to just show up, flash their card to the guy standing behind the steel entrance podium (it’s always a black guy like 30ish of at least average height, in a black uniform dress shirt and black slacks – so far, anyway), receive a gentle nod, and perhaps even a “thank you, member”, and move off to the smell garden (to practice smelling flowers and picturing the smells – so as to improve your sense of smell, which was woefully neglected by the gods) and then along to the biodomes (where you can first and foremost pretend for a moment you are back in the dry Arizona sage-brushed air, where lies a crystallized collection of your dead-but-living younger days).
Members must sign up for a ticket like everyone else. And, like everyone else, members’ tickets last three hours, after which time – I don’t know what happens; I guess if you go out and then try to go in, you’re told that you can’t go back in.
So you signed up but by the time you did the first weekend was booked solid, so you said find you’ll take the second weekend and the computer doesn’t care so it tells its friends and they (other computers in other worlds) send you a text with a link to a square scan-code.
On Saturday, August 15, 2020 at like 2:15pm you walk with the laundry bag out front a few blocks under clouding but not overcast skies. The guy there is a short, slight black man in a striped collared short-sleeved soft-cotton shirt. He’s about 40s with an accent perhaps African but you don’t really know because you can only pay attention to India Jones and the Temple of Doom overhead with that pale willowy blond girl despairing that their ride’s left them and the square-jawed, steely-eyed Indie saying, “from here we walk” while the camera pans and the jungle sprouts and curls all around some giant thumb-shaped rock formation. Actually, that might be wrong too. What did you pay attention to?
Just take the waxy yellow ticket and go.
Another few blocks to the garden. I don’t know why, but when you get to the steel-bar fence along the art museum’s Washington Avenue side, you kick off your flip-flops and walk along the bottom of that fence, which is a steel retaining wall a couple feet above the sidewalk. You have to twist your torso, otherwise your shoulder would hit the fence and you’d fall down onto the sidewalk. No one cares that you are weird, but they do look up and see what you are doing and notice all the particulars.
Are you interested in the tan-skinned (Indian? Hard to say. Maybe rude to bother speculating) in the purple dress sitting at the steps in front of the garden’s Washington Avenue side? No! You are just eyeing that spot because you’d planned on sitting there yourself, but she’s managed to take up the center both horizontally and vertically and so the mind wonders if you can also sit there without encroaching on this large territory she’s amassed for herself. OK, maybe she’s kind of cute and you notice that, but not in a way that’s going to lead you to any kind of action. Unless she stood up and waved and invited you over and said that she’s been waiting there so long for you without quite knowing who you were but now she sees you and she knows and … If that were to happen, then you’d have to try to get to know her. But she’s not doing that. Are you right to believe she’s looking at you menacingly? As if to warn you off from any visit? Where do you get that idea? Has she narrowed her eyes? Has she winced her face? Aren’t you just paranoid? She’s looking around for someone; not you; she’s looking around and her gaze slips beyond you.
There’s a tall retaining wall facing a sidewalk, some benches, a little strip of shrubbery, and then the museum parking lot. You put your flip-flops and bookbag on one end of an empty bench (no back; just several beams of wood held by steel and lined up an inch or so apart from each other, creating a flat wide surface), and pace up and down in the shadow of the wall, even though there’s so much cloud coverage in the sunny sky that scarcely any shadow’s cast. You’re reading something on your phone. An essay.
A man of 20s or 30ish in turban, and a woman with long straight black hair; both taller than you; and a thin youth of maybe 12, not yet taller than you but on his way. They stand a five or seven feet from you, but you pay them no heed. You are working on this essay and waiting to be allowed in to the garden, so you can stroll around a bit there and then sit down somewhere quiet and work on this essay.
The light-skinned black girl with the curly hair poofing out on the sides is one of two young women (20s) is one of two young women within the long, enclosed shiny-steel-walled ticket window room. There’s chairs for many more people, but those chairs are empty. You say you don’t know if you’re too early; your ticket’s for 3pm. She says, still smiling, but with a slowed cadence what time is … — and looks down and sees that it is 2:52pm and looks up merrily, “You’re good!” She’s inside the glass, holding a scan gun. You are holding your phone, cracked and taped over for years now (what is your problem? why can’t you just get a new one? you’ve paid your penance for breaking it; that penance was paid a year ago) and are twisting it around a little to demonstrate that you don’t know what to do with it, but would comply with any directive. “Do I … ?” She says you just hold the screen up to the window. And then you do and you scans the code and the scanner beeps and she, who is young and happy in the power, beauty, and comfort of youth, exclaims with generous vigor, “Thank you, enjoy your visit!”
The guard at the podium nods you by.
The problem is this: The scent garden is almost completely barren!! There’s just a little section between the Shakespeare garden and the smelling garden with fragrant plants. You test your nose. You do your best.
The tall black guy with a shaved head, light blue khaki shorts and a button-up short-sleeved navy-blue collared shirt is following his little girl up the steps. She’s like four and thin and wearing a purple dress. He’s ten feet behind and calling up after her, asking her where she’s headed and what her plans are. She doesn’t look back.
People wear masks except sometimes alone or in little groups on the lawn. The lawn is also called the Cherry Esplanade, because of the cherry trees planted in rows on either side. You can sit on a worn-out, stained Park Slope Food Co-op canvas bag, your back leaning against the silver and brown soft but in places split and cratered bark of a cherry tree. Your feet are bare in the grass. You are hunched over your phone fixing an essay you’ll probably end up discarding. Is this the way to relax?
Off to one side the 20s Asian-American kids fit several to a bench. A male voice laughs and says now they know who makes the money in the relationship. A female voice is quick to sally in with a merry, “for now!” Mostly you miss all the words said around you.
In the rolling grass divided by benches and a sidewalk from the Cherry Esplanade, and which is bordered on the other side by the woods around the Japanese Garden, sit two young women. Maybe 20s; maybe 30ish. The tanned purple dressed girl is opposite an even more petite pale girl (dirty blond?) in a pretty plump-sleeved red summer dress. Young and pretty, they sit on their rears, one knee up, the other leg straight forward, facing each other, smiling and laughing. The naked toes of one almost touch the thigh of the other. Oh, so that’s who she was looking around for.
A young African American couple, both taller and broader than you, also want to check out the narrow little neck of fragrant plants. I guess they’re 30. I guess everyone is. Up ahead the dark-skinned girl with smooth long limbs in red shorts and a short tight white T-shirt with a rainbow or something on the front, seems to flow forward like a smooth river. Her hair is long and crinkly and energetic. Not quite an afro because it falls down a bit on either side, divided in the center by human or divine art. I guess she’s thirty too.
She sat down for a few minutes on an old weather-worn wooden bench at the top of the Shakespeare Garden. Then she got up and left. I guess she’s a little taller than you. Her breasts are small and high and her thighs strong and lean.
Author: Jonathon Vander Spoett
Editor: Bartleby Willard
Producer/Snacks: Amble Whistletown
Copyright: AM Watson
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