We only come out at night

6 04 2020

The walking has become a thing.

I started the night-walks as a distraction from myself, thought I’d go out every once and awhile, but it’s been every night since that first night—with the exception of this past Saturday, when I day-walked.

Mistake.

It was sunny, and while I only hate the sun in July and most of August, it was all wrong. Too bright, too hard: everything was too distinct.

I was restless at home, and thought, what the hell, get my walk in now, maybe venture down some of the alleys I had spotted in Crown Heights.

Aside: Yes, alleys! I love alleys, but Brooklyn is not known for them, and I pretty much assumed you could only find them in a few, tv-famous areas of Manhattan, but one night-walk through CH and I spotted alley after alley after alley.

First thought: Am I going to go down there? Hell, yeah!

Second thought: It’s dark, and this is still New York.

So I waited until Saturday, and as I was making my way back through CH, I glimpsed down those alleys and thought: No.

We’re all mostly confined to our own patches, and for me to have strolled through that back patch would have felt like trespassing, like I was impinging upon what little private space those people had.

I don’t know if that makes sense, but that is the sense I had. We’re mostly tethered to those private spaces, but to have walked—in a public lane, to be sure—in the back of that space would have seemed a violation.

Anyway. Back to the main drag: Not only was everything too set apart in the day, it was also much more obvious that the city was shut down. Empty playgrounds on a sunny day are not normal, and all of the shops which should have been open were instead gated, some with signs saying Sorry. . . COVID-19. . . .

Those signs are still there at night, of course, but pulled-down gates at night are the norm.

Is that it? That night-walking allows some normalcy that the light strips away?

Eh, I don’t think so. My area of Brooklyn is a social place, and were it not for this virus people would be out on the corners or stoops just hanging out wherever; now, there are few of us out.

More likely is that that initial night-walk awakened the memory that this is something I can do; whatever else happens, this I can do.





And the beat goes on

30 03 2020

I am slowly going mad.

I like being alone. I like choosing to be alone. To be alone because I can be nothing else is. . . too much, not enough. Not nearly enough.

How are you?

~~~

I used to walk at night, when I was younger. I walked around Falls some, but this really took off when I lived in Madison. Over to Lake Mendota, out to Picnic Point, or back behind Breese Terrace, looping around the chancellor’s house, sitting on swings in dark parks in neighborhoods built for kid-kids, not college kids.

This continued in grad school, Minneapolis. Walks through Loring Park and the sculpture garden and down Nicollet and to the river, bridges over the river.

I wasn’t well, then, but I can’t fault the nighttime roaming. And my sorrows got some airing-out.

I still walk, of course, but in New York, the walking is always to and fro, from here to there. And almost always during the day.

~~~

But I am, as I said, slowly going mad. I have work—teaching at a distance and still the second job (also at a distance)—and we are not literally locked down. I go across the street for milk and yogurt, over to Flatbush for bagels.

We can still run. I still run.

Here to there, here to there, and home again.

~~~

So, tonight, a night stroll, just around, just to see.

I live near central Brooklyn’s hospital complex. I’m used to ambulances, so I can’t say if there are more; there are plenty, regardless.

East down my street. There were few of us out, some of us masked, some not. The closer to the hospital, the more scrubs, the more masks. Across the street from an ER, in one fast-food place, everyone, workers, customers, wore masks; in the other, none did.

Further east. It’s so quiet. Usually in a damp night sound carries, but tonight, the silence carried.

Turn north, past black women in blue scrubs, bonnets, masks; past the psychiatric buildings, high fences all around, light in every window.

There’s a school, half-lit and empty, classrooms above in a long slow curve around the side, like a weary spaceship waiting for its crew.

Down past the handball court, I notice the one-story railroad apartments. This is low Brooklyn, hidden behind the height of the hospitals and the arch new buildings for the nursing students and medical residents.

I pass a couple of men, one offering the other gloves. Nah, man, he says, holding up a roll of paper towels, I got this. I lose that thread as I notice a building that looks abandoned, but there’s a red blip for keyless entry.

Crabwise, west now. A man stepping off his stoop smiles and says “Make it home safe, mama.” I half-say “You, too,” before realizing he’s leaving his home. “Have a safe night,” I call instead.

Down Nostrand, the noise picks up. The usual ambulances, and the one alarm, a block away? that sounds like a whole building yelling out a London OO-EE! OO-EE!

The women waiting at the bus stop wear masks. I check the driver; he’s wearing a mask.

My laundromat, usually open, is closed, gates where windows would be. Gates up and down the street.

I forget to look up to the sky before heading in.

~~~

I have to remember, there is more than just me, more than the texts and the emails and the voices in the radio. We are not abstractions.

Brooklyn is right here, it’s all around me, a real place.

It’s easy to miss this, during the day, when it all seems like a backdrop, mere scenery on my way to somewhere else.

I forgot that I can see so much better at night.





Elizabeth Wurtzel, 1967-2020

8 01 2020

Elizabeth Wurtzel is dead. Cancer.

I read Prozac Nation, of course—what fucked-up self-involved late-twenties white woman didn’t read it?—scarfing it down with enthusiastic horror, but begged off her after that.

She was too too too too too much. I couldn’t bear it; what if that was me?

That was the horror, of course: that I was too much.

(The enthusiasm? Oh, “fucked-up” and “self-involved” cover that.)

I was too much, at least when younger: too enthusiastic, too emotional, too attention-seeking, too serious, too much of whatever adjective can be wrapped around a bright and yearning girl who only wanted everything.

That was okay (for me; it must have been exhausting for others) when I was very young, but as self-awareness sidled in I began to question what I could want, what I should want, whether it was okay to want anything at all.

And, eventually, I concluded it was not. If I was not to want, then I was not to be so much, too much.

In retrospect, this was not the best decision, but fitting, nonetheless: from too much to too little.

Wurtzel apparently found a way to keep going amidst her own storms by celebrating them: “I hate anodyne. I hate that word. … I am baroque. I am rococo. I am an onomatopoeia of explaining away.”

Sitting in my small life I can finally appreciate her largeness, admire her willingness to embrace the messiness of her life, and wonder at her refusal to renounce herself.

If she was too much, then so be it.





I owe my soul to each fork in the road

28 11 2019

So I was talking to my folks earlier today and my dad said Hey, do you remember Thanksgiving from years ago?

And I’m thinking of how we all used to get together at my grandma’s, my brother, two cousins, and I happily at the kids’ table, the walk after dinner in the cold  Sheboygan night to the bridge we all spit off of, . . .

No, not that memory. Wasn’t that when your apartment was broken into?

Yeah, my first year in Montréal! Thanks for the memories, Pop!

Eighteen years later and I STILL double-check my windows and locks.

Anyway, may you all have had as boisterous or as peaceful a day as you desire.





I wandered out in the world for years

4 11 2019

Apparently, a show I never watched and have no opinion about featured a Waterboys tune in their finale.

Which is as good a reason as any to showcase that Waterboys tune.

It is, like so many Waterboys songs, too too much.

The relative restraint of Fisherman’s Blues arguably made for a better record, but there is something so wonderfully everywhere-and-everything to This Is The Sea.





And kingdoms fall

21 10 2019

I’m not a hipster, although I do admit to sharing the annoying trait of establishing my bona fides that I listened to something before it became cool.

Not liking something once it gets popular? Not me at all: I’m thrilled that others can confirm my good taste.

Still, it is the case that with some long-running bands or authors, I just get sort of tired of following them. It’s not even that they get bad or boring—although they sometimes do—but that I’ve just had my fill.

With U2, it’s both that I’ve had my fill and that I just fuckin’ loved their early stuff. Boy, October, and War never fail to yank me by the short-hairs, even today, as does Wide Awake in America and “Under a Blood Red Sky”. I really liked Unforgettable Fire when it came it, thought Rattle & Hum was okay, and while I think Joshua Tree is amazing and, like the early work, still listen to it, it was also the end for me.

They changed their sound and focus, which, honestly, if you’re gonna stick around, is better than just revisiting the same old shit. But as they moved hither, I went yon, and the messy, raging, joyous U2 I adored then and now is the one they left behind.

Anyone, the song that gave the title to October:

Overwrought? Maybe, but sincerely so, which was part of the beauty of U2 back then.





Baby, baby, please let me hold him

16 10 2019

Yet another absurd (-adjacent) baby: James Mark!

Like his big brother (my habibi Henry) and cousin (the angry spud Lyana), Sweet Baby James decided to pop in on the world a bit early. This necessitated tubes and lines and monitors, and after a week he’s still in the NICU, but as he’s now merely a “lazy eater” (per his mum), he should be heading home sooner rather than later.

Henry is apparently anxious to meet SBJ, and told his pop he wanted to get a toy for him. (According to my sister, the last thing that household needs is another toy, but whatchagonnado?) Let’s see how long before he wants to send the baby back.

~~~

Two things:

One, I am deeply grateful that my nieces were able to avail themselves of the best that medicine has to offer. There’s more to these birth stories; suffice it to say that what was merely momentarily dramatic could have been tragic had they not been at the hospital.

I get why people are leery of medicalizing birth—goddess knows I’ve voiced my own critiques—but it’s not 1968, women aren’t being knocked out before delivery, and birthing rooms, midwives, and doulas are now an ordinary part of the hospital birthing experience. And good medicine saves the lives of mothers and babies alike.

Two, I’m thinking of going to the Twin Cities in January to meet these new babies and reacquaint myself with Henry (and see some old friends).

I know: the Twin Cities in January?! But the flights have gotta be dirt cheap—most folks aren’t scrambling to travel to the below-zero—and I’m not teaching then, so why not? Plus, I want to see if I can still handle the forsaken cold.

Y’all know I dig New York (most of the time), but winters here are often merely dreary. I look forward to the bracing.