NYC Journal #24 – Return to the Coop / Had enough – Friday, 8/28/2020
Many details invented, because the narrator’s brain is melting away.
Gets boring when the narrator talks about his noisy neighbors.
It’s too stressful of a job. Too much yelling. He says ‘please’ to the window facing the sun shaft and the plaza eight levels below. Over and over again. He doesn’t seem to care who hears.
Why walk into the closing down convenience hot plate sandwich shop salad bar, march to that back wall with the refrigerated desserts, choose red velvet cake over chocolate mousse, wander up and down an empty line while a thin, tan-skinned 50ish year old guy about your height cleaning the sandwich and hot food area calls after someone and the someone is a 20something year old man now taller and broader than you who lays a long wide palm out for the $6.00, of which $0.50 you’ve got coming back to you? Why do that? And why eat all that cream cheese icing while walking down the warm sultry 3:48pm (at summer hours, you get to leave at 2PM on Friday, unless you’re a sucker) sidewalk as people of all shapes, sizes, and hues in T-shirts and shorts and jeans walk past you or eat inside little pens in the street but separated from the traffic by wooden boxes?
It doesn’t matter; let it ride.
Been so long since I been to the Park Slope Food Coop. Worked a shift a little before they closed it down. Got sick for some weeks after that. Was sick for five weeks. Have been shopping only at the store near my apartment since then. Don’t want to walk all the way to the coop and then stand out in line. But now I go there.
Stomach unhappy waiting in line on the wide sidewalk on Union Street. Lady ahead in colorful loose yoga sweats and a white tank top – taller than me; medium-build – sticks one arm straight out to the side and feels her round shoulder with the long fingers of the opposite arm. Slow and contemplative. The sidewalk line moves fast. It forms fifty feet from the entrance. A tall, broad-shouldered, lanky-powerful black man of about 30 with short fuzzy hair calls me forward. He waves to me from afar. He beckons. I approach. He wears a plain colored T-shirt, baggy athletic shorts, and a white cotton working gloves and some mask or other and I think of soccer goalies.
“Is it clear?” he repeats. I’d not heard him the first time and so had asked what he’d said. I crane around to see through the glass entrance door and the glass door at one side of the entryway rectangle. The lady from ahead is standing at the check-in area. I say she’s still there. He says to wait until she’s gone in (past the check-in, into the coop proper). But then she walks back out onto the sidewalk. What?! What has gone wrong? Her face is calm. I see taped on the entrance door a letter-sized sign saying you can’t enter with a mask with a vent. Does she have a vent? Is that what’s happened? I don’t look for her mask in time. (turns out vents don’t protect against the spread of covid19; what if you’d invested in a huge stock of them?)
The medium-rectangle Asian girl of about thirty with a square face and a square flattop is wearing a Hawaiian shirt, canvas shorts with square cuffs a little above her kneecaps, and brown leather boat shoes with short white socks. What kind of mask? Black polyurethane? Don’t think just because I describe everything she’s wearing, I actually remember what she wore. I can vouch maybe for something like a Hawaiian shirt. She’s at the check-in podium. It has a plastic wall in front of it. With the slightest accent she says I should let the girl who was ahead of me and who’s just reentered go ahead of me again. We’re in the lobby in front of the check-in station, behind the wall of dented red lockers, and to the right of the entrance doors and the left of the elevator and (through the door on the far wall) stairs. Did I lose my membership card? No, I just took it out of my wallet since I never come here. In the future, they are going to stop printing out temporary membership receipts – you’ll have to bring your card to shop. Please use the hand sanitizer sitting on the mini-counter in front of the glass wall.
The lady had to go first because I’d not been there in a while and had to be instructed in the new rules. The very most important rule is no more than five people in an aisle. Or was it less? I nodded in disinterested compliance. And this wet wipe is for cleaning off the part of the cart or basket you’re going to touch. Yes, do it now. Discard it in that black garbage bag in the round can set right there in front of you for this express purpose.
Less people. The tag hanging from your cart makes them know which of the thirty-five (is that the right number?) guests you are. So they can make sure they don’t go over their limit. The produce area can have up to
Here is where, at around 6:30PM, the author, overwhelmed with exhaustion and the congestion in his chest and mucus that flows then up into his mouth that he then plays with a moment before swallowing – this to varying degrees for six months now – goes onto his hard bed and collapses. He is awoken by a dinner party full of twenty-somethings outside his open window. The landlord has given them the roof for their patio and it is a floor beneath his unit and it is as if a college dorm had events inside his living room several times a week [Sat 8/29 update: it’s not several times a week]. They don’t blast the music as much as before he began screaming; they are not malicious; but there is no way they could ever be as good as they were when they didn’t exist. Now their merry chatter in voices infinitely young and carefree have ended his nap and he wakes up drowning in mucus and so-tired all through. He wishes they would leave but all he really needs is the funds to take himself elsewhere. Take himself some place quiet.
You can shut the windows. It isn’t so hot. You can pray it will rain and maybe even create a tidal wave to wash them out onto the street and on and on they will flow out beyond the worlds you recognize, leaving only a quiet residue behind coating those lands you know and belong to. You can put on the machine-shop ear protectors with Pachebel’s Cannon in D circling on earbuds, and so barely hear their carryings on. You just need money and health so you can be happy in the absence of considering whether or not 25 year olds should gather beneath your window and, if so, how much they should damp their enthusiasm in deference to your distemper. You just need to leave. There’s anyway this omnipresent metallic squealing gyrating noise floating in the air around your building. There’s anyway just no point in pretending you have anything that needs doing here.
The coop is much changed. The glass walls in front of the reduced number of checkout lines. The prices up not too far from what you’d pay anyway. For example, didn’t the almond butter used to be $7something? Now it is $10. I guess it is $12 at the regular grocery store. I can’t remember. And now the people working there are no longer from all walks of life and many of them more affluent than you; now they are paid $15/hr, so that is minimum wage, so that’s not how it was. Young tall pale kid maybe 16. Short, compact Asian guy maybe 30. Who else is there? Quite a few. Twenty-five paid staff? There’s ten in the checkout area, I’d say. and then there’s the stockers.
I guess the staff still makes an amazingly good salary for retail workers in the USA. There seem to be less of them, just as there are less workers and less shoppers, and less food on the shelves. You cannot say the coop is worse; you can say it is a shadow of its former self; and the situation is kind of sad; and change is painful. It used to be like an ant hive, so jam-packed with workers and shoppers and staff with their belted or shirt-clipped walkie talkies striding about, nudging the cajoling chaos towards order.
I should’ve bought an AC. Now I’ll ride this year out with shut windows, drinking lots of fluids, with Pachelbel’s Cannon looping around and around underneath the kind of ear muffs my dad used to wear while testing locomotives. I’ll still hear their enthusiasms curling at the edges of my consciousness and in the center of my thought there will remain this slurry of spit and phlegm, a never-ending spring gurgling up my throat from soggy lungs – well that’s the phlegm part, and then in my mouth it mingles with saliva and then every so often I swallow it down, but often in that motion I roll up a little tube of the salty slime and roll it around the top of my mouth and then float it in my mouth and then swallow it down. I don’t like the music they pick all that much and generally music only works when you are there in it.
I’m tired. My shoulders are sore from stress and from heaving the two canvas bags laden with my coop winnings down Union, up Seventh Ave, down Flatbush to the B/Q stop, place the bags in front, fish out wallet, run card, hurry and spin the turnstile forward (hold self up with the turnstile arms and cycle through with a leg as both legs bicycle over the bags), and head down the grimy stairs and the screeching of the train is part of the noise walls of noise all around and it is getting hot in this living room. After awhile earmuffs with earbud cords running under them hurt your ears/heads. And you can’t sleep with them in.
[Fearing noise in your day-to-night: In your bedroom you don’t see what’s going on outside. All day and night someone drives up blasting their music (usually hip hop) into your life. And now you never know: is this a car that will drive away or a party that will last all night?]
A soggy 76F outside. A slowly rising and narrowing sauna inside. Time to go.
ah, and now at 8:41pm the party is in full swing and there’s nothing you can do to escape it. Close the windows. Readjust the earmuffs. Turn up the Mozart. It doesn’t matter. Their electric beats and baselines will bore into the center of your thought. You’ve resisted going into your room and shutting the door. You thought with the windows shut it would be too hot. Just take a lot of hibiscus iced tea. Who can complain about their life when they can’t describe it without mentioning hibiscus iced tea? But make money, please: buy yourself the freedom to decide what is outside your window.
Yeah, see, now all you hear is Concerto No. 20 in D. If they were malicious, you’d still hear their funky repetitions.
After three glasses of hibiscus tea your feel better; the whisper of phlegm continues, but within a more contented biosphere.
It’s really hot in here though.
You should’ve bought an AC.
But the season is almost over.
Maybe you’ll stumble upon a cure:
Sit in a too-hot room, swilling glass after glass of hibiscus iced tea while listening to Mozart and the last remnants of your Covid-19 will vanish faster than you can say, “jackdaws outside my window!” or your money back!
The produce area can have up to seven people at a time.
While shopping I gave no consideration to the number of people allowed in each aisle. We probably stayed within the bounds. There weren’t too many people there shopping. We were all subdued, silent behind our various masks.
Now it’s 10:33PM. With the door shut in your bedroom, you hear only damp sounds. See, you’re just a baby. A baby who can go to bed in his quiet crib now.
Well, you can put in the silicone earplugs, that will probably work.
Update 1AM: Wake up hot and dehydrated. Ears hurt from silicone. Remove but music loud. Replace. I don’t understand this music. I guess it is new. It is relentless. I don’t have the energy to yell at them. I need money so I can move somewhere quiet.
Pound pound beat. Fast rapping up and down. Eyes scratchy from hot dry air and having slept with a pillow on either side. Ears hurt because the round silicone digs into them when pillow pushes. Must drink water. The music is empty self-contesting noise like two waves slamming into each other. The highlights come when sometimes the one wave crest spills over another. It is a yammering tossed against a yelling, with a messy hammering all through.
Strange dream. Invited to a party by some face I’d not seen in 15 years that I’d happened to glimpse on FB before sleep. I offer to bring some non-existent clear liquor and am surprised at the enthusiastic assent. The dream seems to be me sitting on the ground, leaning against a the narrow, cabinetless end-part of a kitchen island. Am I making these party plans on the phone or with telepathy? In the dream, I can’t believe this person wants to go to a party with me. I guess they wouldn’t particularly, but what does the dream-me know about it? The dream seems to be shot upside down or seasick-on-rolling-seas with a grainy-lens camera. When I die I might ask the God: isn’t life weird enough without dreams?
Congested. Music stopped, For real?
A few 1:40AM headlines:
Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman dies of cancer at 43.
Top US general tells Congress the military won’t play a role in 2020 election.
Jacob Blake’s father says speaking to Biden and Harris was like ‘speaking to my uncle and one of my own sisters’
Also one about Leonard Cohen estate trying to figure out what they can do about the RNC using “Hallelujah”. And a picture of a black woman above something about NYC residents saying they were tricked into being on a Trump campaign video. And some stuff about covid19. And I don’t know what all.
Except for some large idling noise coming across kitty-corner.
I didn’t know Chadwick Boseman was sick.
Or that we were almost the same age.
I’ll disappear please now from all mistaken identity. We none of us exist independent of the tumbling surf.
Author: Skiff Biff McLean
Editors: It has to be BW/AW
Copyright: who else but AMW?