Red Hook Summer

When I sit down for too long, my left leg gets all seized up. And being out of my regular routine these past couple of weeks has made it harder to regularly stretch my legs. I decide to go for a walk through my temporary neighbourhood.

Go Nets!

One of the symptoms of my reduced mental processing speed post-stroke is an inability to busk it. Last week I tried to visit my lawyer’s apartment. When it turned out the sandwich store I’d chosen to use as a landmark had shut and been replaced by a soup store, it ended up taking me half-an-hour to travel a block. Improvisation’s a bear.

Tightly scripted, on the other hand…

So, I’m seated at my little work station, perusing a map of the area. I’ll head straight down Van Brunt, then take a left on Beard Street. Another left on Columbia. A right on Bay. A left on Clinton. Another left on Lorraine. And so on and so forth.

I watch my brain from a third person remove a lot, and it quickly becomes clear that I’m not going to remember all of this. Around about “and so on and so forth,” I give up and reach for the coping strategies. Really, it should be a pretty simple route. I’ll just walk as far as I can in a straight line, then zigzag along a bunch of streets that begin with Bs and Cs. And when I hit a street that bears a girl’s name, I’ll bear onto that.

A boy’s name. Hi, Bruv!

Red Hook is an interesting area for me. Heading along Van Brunt, I soon pass Scooter Bottega, where our pink scooter would regularly get a tune-up from an Englishman with a mod haircut (I know — as opposed to whom?). Then, before I know it, I’m walking past the establishment where Mrs Stroke Bloke and I played pool and discussed the ins-and-outs of getting a motorcycle license in NY with the husband-and-wife proprietors. On the afternoon of the night my brain exploded.

I got your brain explosion right here!

I’m relaxing into reminiscence. I’m not thinking about taking a left on Beard Street, a left on Columbia, a right on Bay, a left on Clinton, or a left on Lorraine. And so on and so forth can fuck right off.

I take a deep breath. The scent of seaweed simmering under summer sun. And I’m transported once again to childhood summers on the Moray coast. Then something caustic touches the roof of my mouth. More industrial: motor oil, paint, iron. Long buses wander the wide streets and fill low warehouses. An old limo driver washes his car on the sidewalk with the remains of a broom. More like Granton Harbour, maybe? Ladders running up harbour walls, the rungs made of more rust than iron.

That’s not a bus! It’s only got one deck!

Thinking of those times, I’m an adventurous kid again, ready to fall into the murk of the harbour before dripping up the hill to York Road. The map is forgotten, and I follow the cyclist and pedestrian path along the edge of the container terminal. I’ll pick it up again when I hit Beard Street.

Eventually, I make it to Ikea on Beard Street. Ikea, where relationships go to die, and teenagers go for le petit mort. And of course, every street name begins with a ‘B’ or a ‘C’.

Coffey and Creamer (and Commerce)

Then I hit Sigourney Street. Is that a girl’s name? Yeah, kind of. But I wouldn’t pick it out as one. Ms. Weaver took the name from a minor male character in The Great Gatsby, after all. I know there was a big green space marked on the map, though. When I hit that park, I’ll just head a block or two west and then back up Van Brunt again.

What I haven’t accounted for is that — notwithstanding the urban farms and garden centres spouting up around Red Hook — what a big green space on the map means is that the concrete is a little lower to the ground. I’m not in Granton any more, either. Tarmacadam was invented by a Scotsman because over there you can’t smell it melting in June, and mixing with the paint and gasoline.

“I trust your Garden was willing to die [Mr. Bond]…”
But I’m not too concerned. Apart from the Red Hook Buildings East and West, few of the buildings rise above four storeys and the streets are wide, unlike where the skyscrapers line the canyons just across the Diamond Reef. Mystically surrounded by the sea, it’s suddenly easier to have a sense of where south and west are. Mrs Stroke Bloke’s feeling for Rhode Island and its connection to the coast (and even Scotland) suddenly makes a barrel-load of sense,  here in New York’s most populous borough.

How the other 1% live

So I head west and hit Van Brunt again, then turn north. Scooter Bottega confirms that my bearings are right. Outside, a bunch of moped aficionados are enjoying a cook-out. I think of stopping and saying Hi to Robbie. But this isn’t my home any more.

That’s some Total Recall shit. Well, kinda.

Then, like that kid dripping drops of the Forth up cobblestoned streets as if they were breadcrumbs, I turn back onto Tiffany Place. It was a slightly discombobulating journey, but everything was fine. Now, I’m home.

Speaking of everything being fine, and getting home….

When I got back to the apartment, Friendoftheblogpaul’s orchestral remix of @NerdBaitBand‘s Yes, Ricky was waiting for me. Way back when we first discussed the idea of The Treacherous Brain, I said that In my head, the finale should kinda sound like the closing acts of 2001? Ligeti optional. Paul later responded, regarding Wrong Word Write Time:

We need three concrete ideas around which we could form a short essay on word games. Ideally kind of like Auster’s New York Trilogy. Ricky — can you get on that? #LigetiRevenge

Now Paul’s got a hold of a full set of orchestral samples from @EastWestSounds, and he’s totally aced it. To my ear, anyway; he says it’s more like Richard Strauss or Wagner, but he’s just being modest.

Guess I’d better get on that Brooklinburgh Trilogy….

[P.S. Friendoftheblogjen recently introduced me to the great work Red Hook Initiative are doing in the community. Please visit their site and learn all about it.]

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18 thoughts on “Red Hook Summer

  1. To avoid any doubt my comparison of my weekend noodling to wagner was a joke, Ricky. It’s about as likely that I would compose the ligeti piano etudes as a chunk of the ring cycle, I suppose, in that the likelihood is basically zero

    Lovely post about the hook though. And your internal dialog about your navigation strategies makes me wonder about how we approach our brain in every day life. Fascinating.

    1. Shh! Deadpan. That’s why it’s funny enough to be quoted verbatim.

      But my response is sincere in how much I love this choon in all its guises. Bands say they never listen to their stuff once it’s done. I listen to Yes, Ricky a bunch.

      Also, there’s a book about how my brain gets me round Red Hook (don’t forget it’s Independent Book Store Week, folks). It’s to do with the sun and the Earth’s magnetic field, I think.

  2. And my favorite walk probably never happened. But on it I’m 10, and my Dad decides he’s going to take his 3 kids on a walk up and over the coal banks near my house, which are themselves as large as mountains. (See picture of these here.

    We pack sandwiches and climb the coal dust. It’s quite slippery and dusty and hot, but it’s a new perspective on the town where I live – which I think taught me to walk and walk and walk and look around as a diversion and as an anchoring.

  3. I’m a big walker. Don’t have a favorite walk. But I like to get lost in cities.

    I will also sometimes walk home ridiculously long distances that normal people wouldn’t walk, or I’ll walk absurd distances in cities I’m visiting instead of taking a subway/cab/etc. like a “normal” person.

    Alias: Giancarlo. That’s my go-to in Starbucks or any similar place that requires a name for your order.

      1. Unfortunately, names like Giancarlo and Francesca Hildebrand don’t quite carry the same bizarre-factor here. They’re just as weird as any other foreign name. We’ll have to use our aliases in the U.S. or Edinburgh.

        1. At my old job, my email began “ribrown”, ‘cos my name is so common. My best mate at the firm took to calling me “Ribba”. Being tickled (ribbed?) because this is Czech (his wife’s Czech) for “fish”, this morphed into “Fish”. All delivered in a New South Wales accent. So that was bizarre.

          I like the obscure and winding ways in which nicknames and alternate handles can develop.

    1. Heh. I hear ya. It’s like finding oneself at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge as a able-bodies person. What are you gonna do? *Not* walk to Manhattan?!

      I’m enjoying Colombia’s James or Hamez or Haimez Rodriguz. Haimez Brown…?

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