22nd Street, between 4th and 5th
The last time I visited Brooklyn was in April, my brother lived on Classon Avenue, and we got together with the folks for a nice weekend, but that’s a different story. A shady trend was growing in his area (sky-boxes and stained brownstone buildings), and he took the move as a blessing.
Now, on the corner of 22nd street, between 4th and 5th, my brother adjusts to a life with his girlfriend. She’s a great girl, and they go well together. They love all the same things, and they even apply to the same jobs. There was nothing out-of-place in this scene, nothing except for maybe the scene itself.
“The house used to be all red, like these stairs,” my brother pointed out as we walked towards it. I was surprised not to walk up the stairs, but instead beside them to the garden-level entrance left of the house. A cozy barbecue patio looked at us as we stepped down into the apartment. It was a unique world underneath a gay couple’s paradise. The bathroom looked to be carved out of a cave, and the radiator (after an interesting story of breaking down and leaking) had a burly towel covering it.
There should be no expectations of greatness, I thought, other than the greatness you make for yourself.
My bed was the floor where the coffee table rests. There was no rug, but they prepared for me a sleeping bag and several warm blankets. I slept like a baby that first night, but not before checking out an art gallery (Under Minerva) we passed by earlier on a walk around the block. There was a painting in the front of a DJ in layers of orange and blue, playing records and mixing it up at a club of diverse colors in the background. The basic colors of the DJ washed over the pretty lights, and it truly stood out from afar.
Over ATM slips and Grizzly Bear, I was enjoying the taste of sugar on my tongue, making a list of songs I had recommended to my brother. It was appreciated over drinks and jazz in south Brooklyn on Saturday, with him and his girlfriend and two of her friends from Pratt. For moments during the show, I saw a notebook passed between the two of them, collaborating in silence while the rest of us watched and listened.
I sat behind the piano player, and on occasion he would look back at me with an odd smile. I didn’t know what to think, and continued drinking my double of Scotch, next to the Cosmopolitan and Brooklyn Lager, Mai Tai and Gin & Tonic.
The show was good. The quartet of drums, piano, bass and trumpet were like four young wolves on the street. For an amateur show, the buzz of the evening revolved around the trumpet player, an awkward sixteen year old with short black curls and bifocals.
There was a saxophonist; his instrument rested casually to my right for a long time. His wine glass was on the table we took when we first arrived, before he came over and took it away himself. He did not play with the group until much later in the set, and his cameo appearance upped the quality dramatically. The trumpet and saxophone ran together, picking up on each other’s vibe as if they knew what the score was.
And then there was that pianist. I don’t know what I did to provoke him, but he was enthusiastic, keeping the melody and giving it his all. There were times when he stood up to bang down on the piano, as if he really needed to let it out that way. Perhaps he just didn’t give a damn.
When the show was over we walked up 5th Avenue and landed at a bar called Commonwealth. It had a nice outdoor patio, with bench-tables and umbrellas. I remember red tables; a tall boy of Anchor Steam beer; the bottle so cold it had icy condensation on it. We were talking about the music and the people at the show. Art-speak and journeys and briefs on photography and music and television were shared over nightcaps, and quip upon quip upon quip… I told them about Boston, and they told me about New York.
My brother mentioned taking shots in the subway tunnels. The empty tunnels of Brooklyn are vast and incredibly dangerous to explore on your own. There is something alluring about the darkness within, and it has my brother’s lens fixed. He tried to explain it to me, but I was too concerned about his safety to go on with it.
It’s just like a butterfly and its fleeting moment in the sky.
We walked up 5th Avenue, passing the famous pizza shop Adam Sandler ate at in “Big Daddy”. I stopped at the all-night bakery ran by some lovely Hispanic ladies who enjoyed my company at 3am, in such a state, ordering cannolis and donuts and cookies and such. We laughed and smiled together for those five minutes before taking it all back home.
I slept on the floor that night, on top of a sleeping bag underneath four warm blankets.
Sunday felt like waking up without a care in the world. In a good way, I felt free to do anything. I had but the clothes on my back. One of them was my Plaid Weekender jacket, and it kept me warm during the walk down to Bagel World, a bagel shop my brother swears by. I went by myself this time to enjoy south Brooklyn’s sights and smells. I bought one of my all-famous egg and pastrami bagel sandwiches in addition to garlic bagels and cream cheese. There was a produce stand across the street, so I waited in line to buy two Macoun apples and a pint of fresh apple cider.
We spoke about music when I got back. The third roommate, PK, was making egg-shaped plaster molds on the kitchen table that looked surprisingly like mini-cities. “Don’t burn me out of your picture,” he said as I got ready for my train home. I think he made his point.