When you walk along the Brooklyn waterfront, you pass between pretty little chichi parks with shiny new paving and ice cream vendors, and shaded lookout points. In the less open places, lovers come to hold hands and rest their Reeboks against each other, their 4x4s comfortably snuggled in the parking lot, and hipsters come to strike poses: last time I was there someone was artistically photographing a deck chair; the time before, two guys on skateboards arrived and began a photo shoot of a girl wearing an elegantly draped black cotton bag.
Along the waterfront you can look across to Manhattan and watch the sun drift down behind the looming towers. The cars look like tiny robots, rushing to do the city’s bidding. The wash of the river and the distance mask a wall of noise. You could imagine that you are staring at a painting, not the real live animal.
I mean, you know, it’s really quite nice. That’s what I’m saying.
Metropolitan Avenue just stops- peters out,at the edge of Brooklyn, in a haze of broken Tarmac and rubbish.
There’s all sorts of pretentious things one could write about seeing this. “It was then that I realised I was at the end of my own personal road…. And New York City had helped me see it.” That’s not what happened though. (And aren’t you awfully glad I’m not about to write that blog?) Here’s what I thought: “This would be a totally awesome location for a final scene in a zombie film where a main-ish character- probably the grumpy, intensely bearded scientist whose stupid idea it was to try and resurrect dead bodies using Unobtanium and the Book of the Dead – stumbles and falls, to be overcome by a ravening horde of the undead while screaming his gurgling last.” Can’t you just see it?
I seem to keep on popping out for evening walks as the sun is going down in a big dramatic haze. It’s like living in one of those awful paintings you get done on silks in South East Asia, but it’s most relaxing.
And in my new neighborhood (Bedford Avenue environs, Williamsburg: where the hipsters roam, the fonts are vintage and the bars have no names, because you just… “Have to know”), evening walks are what the place does best.
It’s actually very busy, but my pictures capture a bit of the general sense of emptiness of purpose that prevails in a place where everyone you talk to is writing a novel, or a screenplay, while toiling on other peoples film sets or magazines or websites for little money; and staving off the fear (the one that comes to all of us; those fun 3am moments that bring one, wide eyed, face to face with the vast crushing void) by sandpapering one’s skateboard, learning the banjo on YouTube, or buying really cool retro candlesticks at the flea market.
I love it. It’s like going on holiday from the real world. Coming home from my 8-7 job (9-5 days feel like a hollow joke) is great- it feels like living among a crowd of gentle, meandering, peaceful animals who have chosen to accept me as their own, even though I sometimes feel like I’m awkwardly sticking out, like a big tetchy-looking vulture in a field of lambs. They’re all so beautiful and stylish that I don’t even bother trying to dress well- you can’t outcool these people. I just sit in their bars, and listen to their stories about the film shoot that unexpectedly turned out to be a porn film (apparently some of the actors were surprised, too) and try to play up my British accent- at least I have that. Last time I went to a pub I had this conversation:
“Your accent is cool. Where are you from?
“Bristol. England. It’s in the South West.”
“Oh really? Cool. (Pause). I’m writing a book about Belfast.”
Having these sorts of connection-free conversations is fairly common. We’re not talking; we’re opening our mouths to reinforce our ideas of ourselves. Of course this is how most conversations go; it’s just that in Williamsburg the veneer is a bit thinner than usual.
Anyway, my apartment is comfortable, and I laugh a lot right now, and the iced coffee is good. And there is a cat. I could not want for anything else.