Prospect Park, Brooklyn
This afternoon I am in Prospect Park sitting, reading. I got myself a bagel from a deli round here that I like, and I don’t have any real plans for the day. You know, I was never much for bagels before. Truthfully still don't understand all the hype, but I will say that a toasted bagel dipped into some strong coffee is as good a thing as any to keep a guy warm.
It’s Autumn again. Ghosts are creeping back into the world. They’ll hide in store windows until the snow comes to drive’em off for another year. This is my favourite season to walk. In the summer we sit on patios in the hazy evenings, feelin hot. In the Winter we huddle in wool and down, and watch shifting snow-light in our windows. In Spring we look at life, we anticipate in the rain, and we remember we’re getting old. In Fall we walk. Now it’s October and I’ve settled into my slow stride. Like I said, I had some free time today—(A free Saturday, can you believe it? Luxury, I’m tellin you)—so I went to Brooklyn. I ain’t got no money really, not till next month, but I had enough for the day, for this bagel and a cuppa coffee and a cheap sandwich later. Good way to spend a day, right?
I like going to Park Slope. I like walkin around and looking at the beautiful houses I'll never be able to afford—cheap as just four million, whata deal!—and I especially like it now because people have put out pumpkins and skeletons and plenty of other things that remind me of how much fun I used to have fun in October when I was a boy reading Bradbury—a boy picking pumpkins and getting lost in corn mazes—a boy dreaming bout witches.
The bagel place has become one of my special favourite places. I’ve only been there twice, but both times I got the same thing: a toasted whole-wheat bagel, a cup of coffee, and a big square slice of pumpkin crumb cake. It is this crumb cake that’s the real reason that I took three trains to Brooklyn this morning. Crumb cake is everywhere in New York—not sure why exactly… I think it might be from a Polish or German tradition that came over through Ellis Island—and it’s delicious! Picture a sheetcake bout as tall as your thumb, something similar to the texture like a coffeecake, sorta dense, but not heavy. On on top of that, and at least as thick, is a layer of this crumbly streusel stuff that’s all butter, sugar, and flour——delicious!
The two times I got it from this bagel place, the guy there cut me a piece big as my face easily. Then he wraps it all up nice in a sheet of waxpaper, so it don’t fall apart in my coat pocket. Heaven, man, heaven!
Why I’m in Brooklyn, aside from the cake, is all because of yesterday. This week has been quite a week. At school everything was all due at once, and work has just been meeting-after-meeting-after-meeting-meeting-meeting. Friday, yesterday, there was a big party, right. The party wasn’t really for anything in particular, other then maybe just cause all us students were weary and worn-out and we needed a break. The party ended up being a much smaller affair than anyone expected. I think most us were just too damn weary to actually show up!
I went though. I got all dressed up, black jeans, black t-shirt, my shiniest leather shoes—this has become my uniform for parties and other such places where a young man should look respectable.
It was a dull party that started out dull and only duller, and I took it as my cue to leave when this fella started trying to pick a fight with me cause he didn’t like that smart-ass look on my face. I wasn’t wearing my glasses, so I guess he meant me squinting and looking round all confused. I left, and I’d nearly got away when one of my friends—guy named Tommy Pascarello, Tommy P., a good guy, you’d like him—caught up with me and told me that Everybody was headed to a bar a block away and I should come. I don't know who “Everybody” was, but could I go for another drink—sure, why not! Everybody turned out to be a group of students, mostly Columbia but with a few NYU mixed in, who I didn’t know at all. They were a herd of writers and poets and other profoundly brilliant young creatives and they were all... very hip. The plan was to go to a nearby bar, just a few blocks North on Broadway, and I overheard someone saying that it was a gay bar. Fair enough. The thought of some nice young guy buying me a drink seemed a mightily appealing change.
Everybody walked together arm-in-arm through the bright Upper West Side night, talking about politics and music and the latest good book—and Everybody was a merry winesoaked lot. When we got to the bar, it was busy. Real busy. You expect a bar to be busy—Friday night after all!—but this was so overcrowded that holding a drink would steady woulda been unlikely. Drinks be damned, there was no way I was going in.
I used the overcrowd as a good excuse to slip away from my artistic and surely intellectually superior cohort. Unfortunately though, before I got even five feet away I was swept up among Everybody again. Before I knew it, I found myself crammed around a painted wood table with a dozen or so people I didn’t know at some other nearby bar. My buddy Tommy P. had vanished—(I found out later that he had made it into, and become trapped in, the first bar)—so I was stranded alone among strangers. All of them were poets, and poets—no offense, good buddy—have to be the worst kind of people in the world. All they talk about is poetry! Poetry, Poetry, Poetry!
I didn’t stay long. Still, I’ve had worse Friday nights.
I woke up this morning, not hungover exactly—more just tired, soul-tired, brain-tired, mind-tired—because of this I decided to go to Brooklyn. It’s quiet in Brooklyn, and I wanted a quiet day. I wanted no more talk of poetry. I wanted to sit on a park bench in a place when I wouldn’t run into no one. I wanted cake wrapped in waxpaper. That’s why I decided to get up early and take three trains all the way down here—here to this bench in Prospect Park where I will sit for the next little while watching everyone and enjoying the fullness of October. Ain’t life grand!