I feel like Mrs. Dalloway, but without the party to prepare for or one lost love to ruminate over. But there is a war. There is always a war.
Maybe it is all of this walking around without a destination on a gray day, feeling somewhere in between places. I’d like to get lost. I mean, really lost. But I don’t have the money for a sherpa, and I like mountains as backdrops but not as actual terrain. So I choose city streets and fake architectural canyons, which aren’t anything like real valleys. That suits me just fine.
Now it’s past all of that and into something more industrial. A stretch of buildings that remind me of the shore of Lake Michigan from runaways to Milwaukee as a teenager. Or later to Detroit with a boyfriend when I was seventeen. We lived in the old Polish neighborhood. We were pilot fish of the gentrification to come. As pilot fish go, we were quite colorful.
There is Gretchen Bennett’s junk yard dog stenciled on a wall, a sliver of a thing, safety orange, hunted and hunter. I saw her real-life junkyard dog in her Brooklyn neighborhood on my last trip there. He wasn’t as big or tough as I’d expected. It was like spotting a celebrity. Just a sad, little guy panting in the morning light. There is something about him that always stays with me.
The street sounds of Brooklyn are filling my ears and making me think of living in Spanish Harlem when I was a teenager. The streets looked like photographs of Dublin in the ‘70s. Trash strewn everywhere. Misery catcalling from every other alley. I remember seeing “Anarchy” graffitied on a wall and thinking, “What a luxury.” I suppose that kind of rebellion takes a real middle-class idea of destruction or lawlessness. I just wanted a home.
I’ve always been like this.
The sounds shift again and there’s another orange flare like a landing strip on a sidewalk. This place is everywhere. This place is nowhere.
I look off in the distance. That mountain is regional. If it existed outside New York it would be a national monument in every other movie. Scorsese would have murdered multiple characters there. But it’s here, not there.
People I love are here and there. I’m carrying them around. Like shrapnel. It only hurts when it rains….so I moved to the Northwest. A cab driver told me that joke.
A car honks. Is it here or on the Brooklyn soundtrack?
I wish Yann Novak could get in my head and take the field recordings of my memories and make something of them. There are just so many places I don’t want to go now.
Continental drift. Wisconsin’s driftless region, where the ice didn’t iron the land flat but left it with a gentle ripple, a wave. For me, it waved goodbye.
For a long time the four walls around me didn’t matter because if they did I knew that I would lose them. You can’t take away what doesn’t exist.
Actually you can. Absence is a tricky thing.
Down here by Uwajimaya there is something too. A glimmer of an orange futon. It’s a folding star of trash and dilapidated comfort. If you come to this market on Tuesdays it’s Seniors’ Day and there’s an ambulance parked outside. It’s waiting for somebody’s impossible to come true. It’s a safety precaution that feels like a premonition. Inside, elderly Chinese women perform water ballet with shopping carts, grocery lists in hands, turning in perfect circles.
I move somewhere else. I stay put. Brooklyn rushes past me. I can picture the East River and it’s view. And here on this street I can feel as strange as I did that day. Like anything could happen. Maybe anything but the things I’d like to have happen.
Presence is tricky too.