Monday, March 24, 2008

Transition

















Kristen
Brooklyn, NY--Williamsburg neighborhood
August-September 2005
Studio (loft) apt, occupied by my then-boyfriend and I

August 1, 2005
I have a new address--for another two months. Honestly, that'll just barely be worth it, considering what a production this move ended up being. You'd think that living in this city all of four months--that living in 100 percent furnished quarters--I'd hardly have had time/need to accumulate much of anything. Ah, you'd think.

I bitch/moan, when really I'm just excited. The space has already endeared itself to me (the tenant's book and music collections--amazing!), and had we gotten here earlier this evening than we did, the rooftop would've won me over just the same. Tomorrow. Come 7:00 p.m., armed with portabellos, zucchini, red onions, orange peppers, and fresh peaches for dessert, I'll capitalize. One of those Webers has my name spelled out in charcoal.

And you know, as I sit here looking at the saucepan that'll cook my eggs, the forks that'll spear my takeout, and the striped bowls that'll hold my Cheerios, I'm surprised at how normal it all seems. A credit to our last (and first) sublet, I think I've started getting used to the idea of a home not my own.

August 8, 2005
I love this half-finished studio. I love its exposed pipes and mottled cement ceiling and cheap latex-painted floor. I love this building, w/ its creaky elevator, its layers of weird tagging, its busted-out windows and floor-to-ceiling ivy, its varied cast of people, from the off-kilter ‘resident IT guy’ who hooked us up w/ wireless Internet to the woman I just met in the elevator who, on seeing my seahorse necklace, recommended an exhibit at the Coney Island Aquarium. I love this neighborhood. I love its heaps of decaying garbage, tossed car parts, bike wheels, old batteries, 151 bottles, beat-to-hell couches, shredded lawn chairs, surprise coffee shops, creperies, and bodegas that pop up every few blocks amidst deserted storefronts w/ 60s-era signage. I love imagining how Sorley's Family Thrift did back in the day, what kind of business Frank's Corner Auto pulled in, the stories told w/in any one of the long-gone drinking holes around here. On a good day, that is. On a less-than-good day, the whole scene disgusts me, or makes me blue. Yep, that's my early analysis of my new neighborhood, insofar as how it impacts me personally. Mood depending, I either love it or, well, hate's too strong a word, so I either love it or I love it a lot less. More often, though, I love.

Running around here has been really engaging; I've definitely run down Kent Avenue more than I've crossed the Williamsburg Bridge into Manhattan, and w/ good reason. It's eye candy aplenty. The other day I found myself in the heart of Greenpoint, which is a predominantly Polish neighborhood. Two blocks later, a mini Japantown. Ten more minutes and I was thick into brownstones and heavy tree canopies. Neat. I've also gotten a lot of pleasure in walking home around dusk, along either Kent or Wythe. Kent, closest street to the water's edge, runs for blocks w/ nothing but quiet loft spaces--large windows open, leafy palms moving in the breeze. The occasional gallery pops up, lit softly from w/in, the back of a person visible, brush in hand (really). The blare of the city is hardly audible, making these walks some of my most peaceful since moving here. People stroll past every so often, sometimes alone, sometimes w/ a companion or w/ little dogs in tow. They almost always smile and say hi. I have yet to feel threatened, as--thank you, Hasids--security cars flank the sidewalk at regular intervals.

Again, it's early, but so far so good.

--

March 24, 2008
It’s been almost three years since the Williamsburg sublet, the final day of which resonates with particular acuity.

The then-boyfriend (D) and I, making a series of trips down to the car of a friend who'd agreed to drop us at our next stop (two Brooklyn neighborhoods over, two weeks' duration--absolute last resort), were picking up on a heady smell that bloomed more offensive by the minute. Thick, oppressive, sulfuric... It seemed to hit strongest on our own floor.

Neighbors were clearly privy to it as well: doors cracked, heads poked out, "what the fuck?"s were muttered. At some point, word started circulating that plumbing work was being done in the basement, that perhaps this explained a stench now rivaling a steaming cauldron of shit. In the end we didn’t care all that much; we were out of there in a matter of minutes, anyway.

A week later, we got an email from our freshly returned tenant, who thought to inform us of the recent death of C--the IT guy, our slightly 'off' yet kind neighbor. Immediate neighbor, as in, we'd shared a wall.

In the coming weeks, I played back through my (limited) interaction w/ C. The longest stretch of time I'd spent in his presence was one Saturday afternoon, when D and I had gone over to thank him for our newly minted Internet connection. (He’d come by our place once about a week earlier, D inviting him in, not realizing I was in the process of changing and thus half naked. But, courtesy of a nearby blanket and some clever draping maneuvers, I managed to conceal my shirtlessness, chatting amiably all the while.) He'd invited us into his apartment, dressed in the only thing I ever saw him in, which was sweats and flip-flops, his longish silver hair slicked straight back with some serious pomade, or maybe just grease, and a few features stood out immediately: a decadent leather couch, a large oil portrait above it, and computers and switchboards and network cabling crowding a console-type unit at the beginning of a hallway lined on one side with industrial cooking equipment (think: restaurant supply store). I remember crumpled fast food wrappers and a stuffed ashtray. The place reeked of both.

We didn't stay long, maybe twenty minutes, but it was long enough to learn that his father (or maybe his mother--damn hazy memory) had painted the portrait above the couch. He didn't go into detail, but it was clear that their relationship had been a complicated one.

And then he wasn't around. But neither were we--no longer at that address--and, combined w/ the fleetingness of our acquaintance, this made it hard to feel and say anything more than "god, how sad." And it certainly was that--sad and strange, not to mention the first of two such experiences in two years' time. (Detecting the expiration of neighbors is now a lamentable part of my skillset.) And that Williamsburg place? Woefully ill-fated.

2 comments:

Litsa Dremousis said...

K, nicely done! Best of luck w/ the new venture. L

Kristen said...

Thanks, Litz!