hello to all that.

The following are the contents of my head NOT currently occupied by WTF just happened with that Kanye/Spike Jonze situation (a SIZEABLE space)

NPR is warming our living room and leaking through my door, as is its wont on coze weekday nights around here. During some report or another, Brooklyn was mentioned, and Jonathan said “Brooklyn!” as I was crouching in front of the oven, checking the status of my sweet potato fries, the air hot on my face and smelling like a perfect precarious mix of something melting and rosemary.  We had ourselves a little mock “hayyy, represent!” moment and for the first time, it didn’t feel like someone else’s Brooklyn, someone else’s New York. On so many Sundays here I’ve crossed the floor again and again with empty water glasses and fresh mugs of tea, my progress marked by “It’s 2:37pm and 65 degrees in Central Park” and the two never connected, this place and that place and my place in it. They’re starting to, in their own way. There’s a lot of image and an armour of romanticism to get through here before the notion that it can hold any part of your roots can even be dreamed.

But more importantly, can we get back to those fries, and give it up for fall veggies? Way to only require an oven, olive oil, and minimal seasoning to rock out with your savory out, kids. Sliced up yam, with a garlic/rosemary corner and a chipotle powered corner, to leave the rest of the cookie sheet with nothing but sea salt and a readiness for a good slog through lots of honey? Was perfection tonight. I ate them with what I’ve been eating for a not insignificant portion of the past few weeks: some variation of brown rice with black beans and an assortment of tomatoes, peppers and onions. It is simple and ridiculously easy and reflective of my broke-ass lifestyle but I have not tired of it. I eek out as many meals as possibly from each pot of rice but when I eat it I feel rich and pleased and satisfied. I could live on the ol’ R&B, is the real truth. (I didn’t even realize what happened there, but to clarify: both the beans-and-rice kind AND the music kind.) My heart aches for famdin and ambitious cooking though. Big pots of root vegetable-laden soup are on the horizon for sure.

Oof. There is so much to say. About right now, and last week, and the past month, and how it feels like–not that things are falling into place, because that is not, of course, what things do. They scatter and surprise and delight and crush and slip and fall from edges and light up without any warning. They have no place in which to go, not for long, not now. But it feels like the right choices are being made, and that ones that were made have weathered the necessary sacrifice to end up here, almost functioning. It feels good. Most of the time lately, I feel content in a way have not in a very long time. In one minute I turn 22, and I feel good about this. I feel worlds better than I remember feeling on the eve of my 21st birthday, which just may be what now marks a solid year of uncertainty and quiet panic and a total lack of center where once thered been what I thought to be my core: contentment and a settled peace I had no idea could become so frighteningly detached.

I’ve been daunted by the task of needing to fill a space with part of you since I was handed a blank paged book with a hard white cover on the first day of fifth grade and told that this was my science journal. I stared at it and freeeekt, wondering how I would ever fill it, unable to imagine the rational, sane pattern of assignments that would follow. I felt the same way when I got here, and sat on the bare mattress of this little room, suddenly scared of it all, and unable to unpack or process until I closed my eyes, fell asleep and woke up a little while later, still addled, but able to move. It happened again with graduation, only it was you know, life. Here you go, it’s yours! We’ve handed things out and dropped you off and we’re already on the way home, but you’ve got what you need now, so see you later! I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at how I reacted, and how long I took to begin to settle and to move again and to heal, given the scale. I guess I’m at my best when I’m actively filling these things, whatever they may be, moving too much to notice until one day I am changing the paper towel roll and baking potatoes. And on my way out the door I turn to find a made bed,with shoes lined up underneath and pictures on the wall and a table with sundry receipts and menus and a tea bag drying in a mug, and veritable evidence of a life.

And so here I am. In the past two months or so I’ve felt the change in my bones. I’ve given myself over to this city and its contradictions, and the things it hides from me so carefully, insisting on the discovery that keeps me in motion each day, red cheeked and breathing hope. And then for three days I escaped it for New Paltz, for the inimitable comfort and reaffirmation of a team, for the perfect and ridiculous and so damn heartfelt girly bursts of pride and excitement for a milestone, for people I want to grab and say I live better when you’re here, for apples and ridges and hilltops and cheers and Bravo and chlorine and singing along as HARD as my lungs will allow to this and this.

When we had fires in Eva’s backyard this summer, my favorite part was watching everyone’s faces, the way they seemed to glow infinite, one after another in an invincible circle. I’ve been looking at all my friends that way lately, including the ones I can’t see. We have no idea where were headed, but nobody is going anywhere. Look how we move, look how we live.

This nasty chest cold has kept me from running for over a week, but that ends tomorrow, no matter what state my lungs wake up in. This needs to start right. I’m turning twenty two grateful.  Thank you.


On neighborhoods.
October 19, 2009, 7:22 am
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There’s something that’s been stuck in my head since before I moved here, but the other night it came back and settled into the pit of my stomach when a glass and a half of wine gave me the courage to fight for it a little, but not enough. And it feels like something needs to be put to bed, or at least needs to be a read a story before I shut the door, hold my  breath for a second, and hope for the best, for now.

One of my last pre-Brooklyn days in the Buff, I spent a couple hours helping Whit canvass on Massachusetts and it was that time of day. The time I can’t write about or talk about or gulp down enough. “Magic hour:” the end of a summer evening when the sun leans back and says Here, you there, take it. Look around. It’s yours. Right where it should be.

We wandered down opposite sides of the block to tell people about PUSH’s tree planting and I was nervous at first, to amble right up strangers’ walks and knock on their doors with no pretense but the little orange flyer in my hand. But like I have so many times before, I found my footing in Whitney’s. I watched her gait, any hesitance squashed by confidence, and her smile, with no beginning or end. So too I found my groove. And so we walked and we walked and some of the porches sagged and the wrought iron railings of front steps leaned to one side like a laugh that requires more than your mouth. Sometimes the houses were empty, windowless, and inside clouded windows you could see dried paint cans and so you shrugged, turned, kept going. And when you did  there was too much life in the way too remember the empty rooms.

Here people sit in little staggered pyramids, spilling out from the porch to the lawn, braiding hair and eating bowls of pasta and shrieking with laughter and drinking from beer cans dwarfed by so many hands. The playgrounds are full and so are the doorways. Everyone wants to know who we are, why we are there, and in exchange we always get a little of them. And it only takes a little of this to start to feel grounded in a kind of mutual knowing that feels comfortably weathered, easy. Whit and I make a lot promises as white teeth and hat brims tilt towards us to see if each of us are going to the event that weekend. “But what about you? You gonna be there?” We get smiles and questions and handshakes and we get very hungry. So we head into Allentown and devour grilled sandwiches served to us on thick wood boards and drink draft beers and one part of the night slides into another, drifting like only September days do.

I do not think what I did–what we, though Whit gets to go on baller West Side adventures all the time–should be seen as strange or brave or noteworthy, but there were certain truths I could not ignore that day, truths that reveal themselves over and over.  That the list of those who would not willingly spend two hours that way is long, that I would get more raised eyebrows than informed questions or even small talk-level interest if I told anyone I spent part of the afternoon wandering Massachusetts Avenue. Most would insist that that day was some kind of exception, and I’m sick at the thought of to what? Because when it became certain I was moving to Brooklyn, I was grilled by everyone—oh how the experts REVEAL themselves when you make a LifeChoice!–on which neighborhood, where. Two words are used there:



Oh good, they say. That’s a good neighborhood. And Can you imagine? Thank god you didn’t end up there. Everyone squishes their mouth around to fit the weight of it, We were living in a BAD neighborhood then, remember? The goal is to always get out of the bad and into the good. If you are moving or running or lost. The answer is always to face your back to the street, and leave. The cop pulls up, looks at you over sunglasses in which you see yourself, only smaller, and says What are you doing HERE anyway? Listen, just don’t ever come back this way, and you’ll be fine, OK? And you are relieved, and run into the long arms of blocks with storefronts selling coffee and flowers and live to tell the tale. Who is immune to it, the story that ends in we ended up in a BAD part of town? It’s a common trope; an accepted, celebrated one that embraces the teller back into the good. What is left never matters.

It’s the “bad” part that gets me. That the “neighborhood” is what is bad. There are bad circumstances, bad structures, bad policies, bad cycles and habits and choices and chances and no I will not say bad people. (Call it naivete, but I’m going with it.) But if there is a place somewhere: where the doors spill out into a sidewalk because doors are for people to enter and leave in a way that pushes them into one another, that backs up their stories like the lawn into the driveway where folding chairs are circled on Sundays sometimes, if there is a line of long-legged kids who run past and yell into open windows and know the corners that mark the borders of their worlds, if you can hear, on warm nights, the murmur of the lives next to you if only for proof that they are there, breathing, and if you know what the people across the street look like only by their eyes because when the snow came they stuck their shovels under your car until the icy yowl of your tires stopped, then this is not what is bad. This will never be bad.

“But if you, OK, if you had them, if you had crime statistics for a list of neighborhoods, wouldn’t you choose to live in the one with less?” He says. He’s wearing my estate sale-d floral apron, and what’s supposed to be the waistline stretches over the top of his growing beer gut, and he’s smirking, as if he’s already arrived at the punch line, already won.

See the thing is, those aren’t the only numbers that work for me. They’ll never work like the ones on the front of a house that glow when the streetlights go on just to say, We’re still here. You can’t know those numbers when you live in blank houses, on inscrutable dead end streets that end in sparse trees, planted three years ago, five years after the woods went down. So you cut whole places off of your maps until you one day you are lost. “Let’s go home,” you say. And you park you car on a dark street, never knowing.