Java jive

1 12 2008

Bit by bit. I keep forgetting that, but it’s bit by bit that one’s life settles into the ground.

I was in GradCity for over a decade (w/a year’s interlude in SouthwesternTown), and didn’t really notice how much I adapted to that city until long after I left it. The bus routes. The running and bike routes. This restaurant and that diner and the coffee shop on the corner and bourgie co-op and the militant co-op and the hidden beach with the nudists and the punks and the families and the men in suits (really!). My loop of used bookstores (starting at the cheapest one first, of course) and cd shops. The old Nat and the new (hated because new and then Oh My God It’s Fantastic!) pool and gym. The cheap movie houses and the really good-not-horribly-expensive theatre and the dive bars and wine bars and bars for groups and bars for couples. Mexican and Thai and Caribbean and Vietnamese and American soul and American diner food.

And friends. Pla and Pl and Pt and J and C and D and K and I and L and T and S and C and Js and R and Jn and god, I must be forgetting some.

Nostalgia? Not really. I didn’t like GradCity at all. Okay, my last two years there weren’t bad, especially since I had finished my dissertation and was lecturing or post-docking, but I used to complain (LOUDLY) of how much I despised the place.

But I had a life there. Bit by bit, I put together a life there. And now I live in a city which drives me around a freakin’ bend but where I really really (mostly) really want to make my home, and I haven’t yet figured out (switch to rock climbing metaphor) where are the cracks and footholds. Why not? Because I’ve been so busy trying to live in the entire freakin’ city that I’ve forgotten that I live in it in pieces.

I have tried forcing things, eagerly looking for ‘my’ cafe or park or neighborhood, but these things can’t be forced; they have to come on their own. They come when I go back to a cafe or shop or neighborhood because I’m drawn there—when the place catches on me, rather than me trying to grab on to it.

When I was a teenager my family travelled to New York on vacation, and in the midst of one of those scarifying bus tours (‘Look to the left, people, look to the left. If you don’t look to the left you won’t see it.’), we stopped at this amazing Episcopal church. I remember poking around and glimpsing, through a door, this stoneyard out back. A stoneyard! All of a sudden, the guide’s comments about this church being a work-in-progress slid into a literal, concrete, reality. This old craft in this becoming-building in New York City.

I remembered that when I moved to New York, and on a both very good and very bad day I took the train up to the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine and rested in this large, still, space.

There’s more to be said about that, but I mention it because that’s one piece. (I have also tried forcing a relationship with this place as well—that’s a part of the more-to-be-said—but St. John’s stays with me, regardless.)

And there is another piece, as well, a coffee shop I found courtesy of Rod Dreher at CrunchyCon, where I can buy my dark roast free trade coffee—Porto Rico, on Bleeker just off W 3rd. It sounds dumb—why not just buy Paul Newman’s coffee at Target?—but I love the act of making these people, in this place, a part of my life.Yeah, it’s a wee out of my way, work-wise, but why let the work commute dictate all? Plans, and all that. . . .

Bit by prosaic bit. The poetry rises out of this.