field notes: not-manhattan

Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, is home for the moment. “My least favorite place in the city,” said Thursday night’s cab driver, “But, eh, I’ll take you, sweetheart.”

Dedicated to the cabbie, afternoon field notes from 200-block Lafayette St.:

A child’s sticky-pink bike sits locked to a wrought-iron fence. The cable lock securing it swoops twice around the frame. It strikes me that the cable is trying to escape, rather than hold the bike, launching still-ly sky-ward.

There are seven street trees. The one I like to watch is tall with thin, finger-like leaves.  It is the most imperfect of the photosynthesizers on the street, looking as if it needs a shave and a haircut.

I salute the grass and dandelions that push up through cracks in the sidewalk. Finding life on an edge—resurrecting, really.

Passersby walk purposefully, even the older gentleman who creaks by with his walker once a day. A slow march across the pavement. Everyone is moving, moving here, focused on an endpoint, a goal, keeping up with the progress pulse of the city.

A worker in a yellow safety vest, just getting off his shift, sips water, murmurs, “How you doin’?” Nods and smiles go back and forth between us. A woman steps quickly speaking rapid Spanish, her words serenaded suddenly by the hip hop blasting from a young boy’s smartphone. A girl in hijab—electric orange headscarf that glows in the afternoon light—has soft footfalls, thwap thwap of sandals. There is a symphony here. Basketball, bike tire, rapping along to a song only you hear, sighs, then a child calling. One-two-three. Pause. Cue car engine.

Are humans made to move in linear fashion? I certainly am a circular one. I find the warmth and sun and people presence of the block comforting as they swirl. Perhaps only the hard-lip of sidewalk-meeting-street makes the motion seem straight-line-like. Each step is really a fiesta upon an arc of ground, rotating toward heaven.


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