I went to New York after hearing about a “turnkey situation.” That’s how my friend Jeff described it. “Lots of tunnels and turnkey situations.”. I didn’t know what he meant, but I went anyway.
I arrived at Penn Station and made my way to Greenpoint Brooklyn and it didn’t take long to know what was a “turnkey situation.” You turn the key and there’s an 8×12 paradise with a yellow cockroach stick up tape beside the door and a single stove top beside the window.
The building was big and the hallways weren’t always empty. There were crack addicts, criminals and prostitutes. We shared a bathroom and all of us were forced to vacate at the end of every month for two days. I never found out why; maybe for fumigation, but more likely as a short cut around building code violations and what not.
I didn’t care, probably to a fault, but I wanted to know the kinds of people I didn’t meet growing up. I was the one who could barely speak the english a majority of Americans speak. I was the white minority from an all white suburb. I guess the only thing I’m proud of is that I went looking for America; for that shared language and I probably still don’t speak it, but I understand a hell of a lot more now and in the process shattered many of the notions in my head and killed many of the fears as well.
I always admitted to being weak and afraid and shared some of my suffering; probably to a fault, but when someone, anyone did the same, we had a chance to build a language and become friends and brothers. The tough guy/cool facade was a different story. That scared me to the other side of the street.
The formula worked well. I was surprised to discover the America I never knew didn’t mind me being a white square from an all white suburb.We peeled away the bullshit layers of race and accent and reached that level where ouch is the same no matter where it comes from.
I always felt like my my aunt watched over me. She was raised in New York and moved to New Jersey. She had a traffic jam spinning in her mind; talking a mile a minute; a no holds barred conveyor belt of thoughts.She practiced opera scales out the window every morning and relaxed above a bowl of steaming water with a towel draped over her head.
I always have a soft spot for people who wear uniqueness on their sleeve and she always had a soft spot for people who didn’t think she was weird. We were a perfect match.
I got my bike stolen at the Green Point Hotel, but other than that, I was never bothered. The rent was 260 bucks a month so I had no idea what half the people in New York were complaining about; those ridiculous rents. I was glad to be there. The sidewalks leading up to the building were a pit stop for drunks face down on the cement. It removed the stress and pressure to not walk over over perfectly manicured lawns. The garbage cans overflowed.I started to love New York too.
The Hotel overlooked the east river and Manhattan.The cool hip New York; the talk of “right” places to hear music and drink coffee was avoided. Thank goodness because that scared the Jesus I never knew into me. I’d rather play bingo with a bunch of bible beaters than be encouraged to change my look; wear sunglasses and a leather jacket to be cool. That just lowered my self esteem even lower.
I preferred ethnic neighborhoods with men wearing long faces and talking with their hands and woman sweeping dust to the curb; Jamaican, Russian Hasidic, it was all the same to me, all the cycles of life, the loitering outside shops and kids on bicycles, all the same to me.
I worked my temp jobs, roamed around and at night, turned that key, opened the door and went to sleep and did it all over again come morning. There was Montauk Point a short train ride away and the Diamondback Turtles spawning. They weren’t afraid and I wasn’t afraid. The twin towers could be seen in the distance.
There was Avenue J in Brooklyn; home to lime green monk parakeets; brought over to New York as pets and at some point released or abandoned, but surviving and settling high above streets in nests and under the awnings of buildings or atop electric poles.
There was Coney Island as often as possible; that wonderful edge of the world; a mix of carnival and ocean and more immigrants talking with hands and those batting cages. Those old wonderful batting cages and the legend of Bobby Bonilla. More than once I heard stumbling drunks swear they out hit him. And I believed it after watching them make solid contact on 20 consecutive pitches. I payed the next round.
I thought about those batting cages last night.I was at a birthday party and didn’t arrive home until the 11th inning of the Mets Brewers game 3. The score was 1-1 and David Wright was on first base. He stole second; nobody out, rain falling, Wright advancing to third on a ground ball. Two walks. Bases loaded.
The Brewer’s Brandon Kintzler sweating through rain drops, getting close to 11 PM. Indy League Kintzler gets a ground out and then strikes out Anthony Recker who gets ejected for barking at the ump and then goes tasmanian devil in the Mets dugout; breaking bat over his knees and tossing whatever objects get in his way.
And in the lucky 13th, Brewer bats went batting cage firecracker pop pop pop; five consecutive hits including a go ahead 2-run home run by Jonathan Lucroy. The Brewers bat around and win the game 5-1.
The Brewers are 40-27.