"To The Bay"
Reflections on my teen years in the Bay (if you'd like a hard copy of this, simply email me)
I’m not going back to Coney Island of the mind today. Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Great writer, still above ground at 99 beat-years young. Where is his statue in our parks? Why only War makers?
No, Coney is too sad. Rochelle Farber, almost an older sister, seated beside me on some spinning chair, high in the summer night air, throwing up, or down as it would be, from nausea, won’t be there. She died in her sleep (unlucky angel) a few decades ago, leaving her Long Island family shattered, I’m sure. As her father, Irving, was when I spoke with him briefly on the phone several years later, unable to finish a sentence for his one beloved daughter had been taken from him. Irving had a pencil-thin mustache and somewhere in his Brooklyn life had worked with eggs or chickens because one time I found a bird egg and my mother told me Irving could tell if there was a chick inside. So Irving held up the tiny shell to the light in my bedroom closet, the closet where I once went to genuflect in secret like I had often seen the Christians do in movies, and being a Jew I didn’t want God to see and be mad at me. I don’t remember what happened with the egg.
But Rochelle won’t be at Coney, and I won’t pay $10 for the Cyclone unless Preston is sitting in the front car with me and that ain’t happening, and the mechanical horses of Steeplechase were retired long ago or melted down for Vietnam bullets. And the poor forgotten Aquarium still sadly sucks and waits for a savior. And a few miles away in Seagate a couple of lifetimes ago I first kissed a girl whose name I can’t remember, but I do remember she had pictures of the Monkees on her wall and when I arrived she was scooping up her dog’s shit with a broom and whisk pan and sometime a bit later we pressed our lips together by the water and I crossed some invisible hurdle. And was that her years later at Bert’s house, older with another boyfriend?
And the archery place is long gone and only the young people merrily troop there to be Brooklyn and be cool. But Brooklyn was never about being cool. It didn’t have to be. It was above cool. It was Brooklyn. But then it broke and they put it back together with a brand name and, me, I think it tries too hard. Never attractive, that trying too hard business.
I won’t suffer the pain of long gone Coney.
No, today I go home. To the Bay.
I had the afternoon to myself yesterday and I could go home from Union Square dentist visit and do the laundry or go to the Bay. Once every three or four years, while in Brooklyn, I might drive around my old streets and bore my puzzled family with a couple of anecdotes about this place or another. There are the homes I lived in on 19th and 17th streets (I’ve always appreciated the weird symmetry that I lived approximately seven years in each of my three Bay residences between the same avenues, X and Y...cue the “Twilight Zone” theme music). I have very positive remembrances of those safe, warm walls. And then there’s the house on 18th (from age 13 to 20) that in my heart is like the Polanski Death House that should be leveled, as it was so emotionally damaging for me. Yesterday, I didn’t even visit it. My anger, I’m sorry to say, is still so fresh. Not good and I’m attempting to fully unearth, exorcise and shake it off before, when that hopefully far-away day comes, my ashes are dumped in Sheepshead Bay, my sincere, sober wish that I fear my kids and wife have not yet agreed to.
But I have not taken the train to the Bay and walked around in more that thirty years at least. It happened to be a lovely fairly mild afternoon and I had the very rare luxury of time and a calm mind. It was a really amazing day for me. Of course, Preston’s recent death has knocked me sideways, more than I was prepared for and without wanting to sound stupid, more than I imagined it ever would, in those very brief moments when your mind asks “what if.” And his poor widow had no funeral, no visitation, no nothing, yet. And so I know my compulsion to reminisce was for some sort of connection to him and the ghosts that wander those streets and back alleys.