Sunday, January 24, 2016

Go East, Part Two

Whatever it was I caught on the plane coming to New York had dissipated by the end of last week, and Monday, since it was a holiday, my friend, the street photographer/union activist Mike Lee, came to visit. Mike used to live in this neighborhood, and we took a long walk, talking about this and that, catching up over lunch at the most wonderful old-school Italian joint imaginable, which we just happened to walk into. Both watching our carbs, or I would have suggested splitting a pizza, but as it was, I had mixed shrimp and scungilli (that's conch, folks) in a Fra Diavolo sauce: it doesn't get more old-school than that. No, I'm not going to divulge the name of this place yet because I'm going back for dinner this week.

We walked as far as Caputo's, an Italian deli that makes its own mozzarella daily (except Monday, when it's closed) and then we cut across on some side-street and headed back to the apartment. It was sunny, but cold, and with a lot of wind, making it worse. I saw places I hadn't seen before, the famous Brooklyn row-houses, one after another.

I was trying to figure out what this all reminded me of, and then it hit me, later: this was like Greenwich Village's pleasanter quarters in the years I first discovered them, but at a (relatively) affordable price. I probably still can't afford to live here, but it feels comfortable, and the mixture of hip (but not hipster) and family and old-time Italian is very appealing. Maybe it's time to play the Lottery. 

Tuesday was about packing: I'd bought a ticket on the Acela, the so-called high-speed train Amtrak runs between Washington and Boston, to spend a couple of days seeing Boston for the first time in oh, maybe 40 years. An old friend from Austin, Stewart, had moved there and fallen in love with the place, posting odes to cold weather and snow on Facebook that would've gotten him lynched back home. Turns out this may be deep-seated with him: doing research, he discovered that his first ancestor in the United States had a farm in what is now Harvard Yard! 

Well, I packed, but I also panicked. I'd used Amtrak's phone app to buy the ticket, and then couldn't get at it. I had apparently forgotten the password, and repeated inquiries got no help from Amtrak. Fortunately, there was an e-mail, and when I found it, I discovered the train was at 3, not 3:30, as I thought. This was going to be the test of my new iPad Pro, which is like my laptop but lighter and with fewer apps, but suitable for the Web and e-mail, as well as having the New Yorker and a bunch of Kindle books to read: a perfect travelling companion. Which I dutifully put in its bag and left on the couch, as I discovered as I was entering the subway station. 

The train trip was uneventful, with some immensely fat guy asleep next to me the whole way. Of course, you never see the most scenic parts of where you are, but I was fairly thrilled by the maritime activities in New London, Connecticut, and a sand beach a bit further up the route. We crawled a lot of the way -- word is it that Amtrak doesn't have much in the way of high-speed rails on this leg of the route -- but as soon as we got a glorious scarlet sunset, we started jamming. 

Best I could do
Boston was even colder and windier than Brooklyn, but the subway stop I needed was only a couple of stops away from the station, and then there was what seemed like an interminable walk down Charles Street to the hotel. 

But what a hotel! Only a dozen or so rooms, and Stewart (a chef by profession) told me he'd heard good things about the restaurant. It hardly mattered: I was so cold that if I'd been told the hotel restaurant was awful, but the place across the street would give me the best meal of my life, I'd still have dined in. It was cold out there! And as it was, I got the best meal I've had all year, although I did remind the staff that the year was only 20 days old. There was a charcuterie plate with a homemade pâté (served too cold, a common failing, but time will take care of that) that I loved and a duck liver mousse that was extraordinary. Then I had their take on what's becoming a welcome cliché, the iceberg lettuce with blue cheese dressing. This was little gem lettuce with various add-ons and a "blue cheese compote," with a bit of what they described as Serrano ham subbing for the bacon that's usually there, and which I don't think was Serrano ham. Whatever, it was good, and I was getting stuffed, so I was happy that the portion of leg of venison with "heirloom carrots" and mushrooms was as good as it was -- and enough to finish the job. With it, I had a Languedoc wine, Chateau L'Hospitalet, that matched everything perfectly. (I know, Gérard Bertrand is not a well-loved figure in Languedoc wine, but there's a pretty stellar wine list in this restaurant and this was a good compromise between affordable and correct). This was an expensive meal, but well worth it, and well worth having to subsist on celery sticks for the next week if I have to. 

The next day, I met Stewart to hit a couple of art museums. The first was the Isabella Stewart Gardner House, site of the largest unsolved art-heist in America when a couple of guys disguised as cops lifted a Vermeer and about 39 other paintings about 40 years ago and a scandal erupted when it was discovered that security was virtually nil in the place, a sprawling pile designed after an Italian villa. Mrs. Gardner was left $1.5 million when her father died (not such a huge amount in today's crazy art market, but this was the late 19th century) and immediately decamped with her husband to Europe to start buying art. She got decent advice and went back year after year, stuffing it in her villa willy-nilly. When her husband died she came into more money and continued collecting until she died. Her will stipulated that the house be open to the public, but there would be no rearrangement of anything at all, no labels on the works, no change of any kind. The minute you step into the place you can tell one thing: she was mad. Some of the art is good, a lot is mediocre, some is just plain bad. There's a Rembrandt self-portrait that's more important for documenting the way he looked when he painted it than for any particularly artistic merit (mind you, I'm not much of a fan of his, and I do wonder how the "cops" missed this one, because I identified it right off). The place is dark, disordered, claustropobic, and I was happy when we headed towards the door. 

Except we didn't, and I'm glad. The place has an active trust that's bringing in money, and at one point they had Renzo Piano enclose it in a sort of glass box, as well as create a second building in the enclosure. This has a gallery that pays host to travelling shows or shows curated by the foundation, and at the moment has a show dedicated to the Italian Renaissance artist Carlo Crivelli, aka Cucumber Dude for the number of cucumbers that appear in his paintings. I'd read a rave about it in the New York Review (or maybe the London Review of Books; I can't find it in either), and was happy to catch it. His weird gourd obsession aside, he had a masterful eye and sense of color, and although there aren't that many paintings of his surviving, the bunch here are lovely, and, given the chaos next door, well-displayed. It closes tomorrow, so I'm very glad I saw it. 

Next up was just around the corner -- well, nearby, anyway. Stewart is a member of the Museum of Fine Arts, and breezed us past the admission desk with his card. I'd still have paid, I realized as we were leaving. This place is as chockablock full of great stuff as the Metropolitan Museum. Its collection starts later, with the Italian Renaissance, its Egyptian collection isn't nearly as big, but although I'm not sure I saw everything I would have wanted -- the building is in a confusing shape, thanks to a rotunda whose ceiling is covered with a huge John Singer Sargent fresco. Its American collection, particularly from around the time of the Revolution and the early days of the Republic, is, unsurprisingly, tremendous, as (also unsurprisingly) is its collection of Sargents, including "The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit," which Stewart tells me was as controversial as his "Madame X" in the Met. It's displayed flanked by the gigantic Chinese ceramics it portrays. And one of the coolest things in the museum is a humongous Roman statue of the goddess Juno -- well, it wears her head, although that seems to have been added later, albeit during Roman times. Juno stood in a garden in the Boston suburb of Brookline until it was donated to the MFA, at which point it was transported by helicopter and deposited, through the roof, at its present location via a nail-biter of a helicopter ride, all documented at her base. 

I wish I could be as kind about its contemporary collection, but there are very few first-rate works in it, if what was on display is anything to go by. Of course, I was also experiencing art burnout by this point in the afternoon, as any reasonable person would. Clearly, this is a collection shaped by the Boston Brahmins of years past, with an admirable spirit continuing into the present, but perhaps without the vision of the Met or the talent of MOMA and the Whitney. 

Thursday was my last day in town, so Stewart showed me some of the tourist attractions which, it being colder than humanly imaginable, were pretty thin on tourists. I realized that I had a strong affection for pre-Revolutionary and Revolutionary tombstones, dating back to family vacations in Vermont where my father became convinced that where Revolutionary War veterans were buried there'd be copious blueberry bushes. This is irrational, but he was right almost all of the time, and he had two willing helpers with kid-sized hands to harvest them. Needless to say, there were no berries out at this time of year, and in Boston probably at any time of year, but we tromped through the Old Granary Burying Ground and I snapped away. 

All manner of famous people are planted here -- Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, John Hancock -- and as you can see it's quite a collection of funerary art, American style. 

After I dragged Stewart to another graveyard, he insisted we go warm up at the Boston Athenaeum, just up Beacon Hill. He's a proud member of this, too, and spends some of his days doing research here. What, exactly is it? The best I can do is that it's a venerable private library with impressive holdings of periodicals (I saw bound Harper's and Atlantic Monthlys going well back into the 19th century, and no doubt they have the entire run) all housed in a building dripping with art (part of the reason the MFA was built was to house the Athenaeum's collection, which it then grabbed when it became a separate institution), serving, for most of its existence, a rarified stratum of Boston society. After all, a lot of people in Boston have access to libraries at Harvard and MIT, whose collections must duplicate some of this stuff, and there's also the Boston Public Library, which probably has a book or two. And, in fact, the membership at the Athenaeum was literally dying off when the trustees mounted a membership drive that coincided with the digitization of the collection (a mighty undertaking, I bet) and a revamped lecture and concert series that seriously lowered the median age and boosted the membership rolls. It subscribes to a huge number of magazines, which was heartening to see for an old magazine-head like me, including everything from Toad Suck to One Story (which prints one story per issue) to Petite Propos Culinaires (the number of scholarly food magazines was impressive, too). I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. 

We then took a leisurely stroll up Beacon Hill so I could see where Stewart lives, and as we passed one building he noted it was subsidized housing and he was on a list to get into it. It was astonishing enough that he could afford to live on Beacon Hill at all, but I was flabbergasted that in this age of real estate greed the city of Boston would have this large, beautiful building available for lower income residents. After all, right around the corner are some of the older buildings, one of which houses John Kerry and his wife. 

Next up was the show I most wanted to see. The Institue for Contemporary Art is way the hell out on a pier (don't worry, it's being developed for high-dollar residences with breathless marketing hype on the fences keeping people out of the building site) with a commanding view. Leap Before You Look is an exhibit about Black Mountain College, and back when I was being pressured to figure out what college to apply to (despite mostly mediocre grades), Black Mountain was my choice. There were great composers, painters, and not so many writers, but it seemed like a place where I'd meet the kind of people I wanted to meet, some of whom, I devoutly hoped, would be girls. And I would have, had the institution survived past 1957, when I was in third grade and not thinking much about girls at all. One of its first stars were Josef and Ani Albers, on the run, as were several other early faculty members, from the Nazis. The Albers were Bauhaus veterans, and it shows, not only in their work, but in the way they and the other faculty approached the learning process. The college wasn't very rich, and students helped grow their own food and constructed some of the campus buildings while learning painting, dance, design, textiles, and pottery. John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg, Elaine and Willem de Kooning, Merce Cunningham, Buckminster Fuller, Lou Harrison, Ruth Asawa, Robert Motherwell, the names go on and on, a roll-call of '50s avant-garde luminaries. Which were students and which were faculty? One takeaway from this show, which it's at pains to point out, was that it destroyed the hierarchy of the arts, and, along the way, the teacher-pupil hierarchy. In the end, a very Bauhaus idea. I'm sure I would have loved it, but experiments like this don't last. It sure looks like it was, well, not fun, but something bigger than that, while it lasted. Later, I went to the bookstore and they had a Black Mountain college pennant and a t-shirt, but at $40, that was a lot of mazuma for a t-shirt, so I let it sit. And as we left the Black Mountain show, we were presented with this installation:

Just what I needed. 

Dinner plans were to go to Legal Seafood, a Boston institution that, according to a friend of Stewart's, was good despite its having turned into a chain. I wanted good old New England Atlantic seafood, but hell, it wasn't even 5:30. So we jumped onto the MTA and headed to Harvard Square, where there was a branch of the restaurant plus The Harvard Bookstore, which Stewart assured me I'd like. It's not the official university store -- that's the Harvard Coop -- but an independent book store with everything from a zillion new and used books to a machine that can access obscure books and print and bind them right in the store. Much as I love Book People in Austin, I wish we had something like this there, too. We spent tons of time there and when we emerged from the used/remainder section in the basement, an author was giving a reading/talk. Right then and there, I decided I want to do one there when my book comes out, although I doubt my publisher will do much in the way of a tour. I think I'll be coming to the New York area, though, and this is just a train-ride away. 

We managed to spend enough time at Harvard to work up an appetite, and Legal was only a few icy blocks away. I had a kind of Yankee cioppino, where lobster replaced the crab. Most of the shellfish in it (as with the steamer clams I'd ordered for an appetizer) was overcooked, sad to say, but the broth was great -- I got tomato, white wine, and herbs -- and there was enough left over for Stewart to take home for lunch the next day -- and to torment his cat with. 

The next morning I hopped on the Acela, and saw the stuff I'd missed in the dark. This is the part of the country in which I grew up, although time has done a good enough number on it that it doesn't twang my heartstrings with nostalgia, and I doubt I'd want to move back to it. Brooklyn, however...

I had been following the news, which told me that a gigantic blizzard was coming, so as soon as I got home I put up enough food for two days -- or so I thought -- and hunkered down. The first day was no picnic, and I didn't go out into the blowing mass of snow, but today's okay if you're not going to take a long walk, and I'm sure tomorrow will be, too. 

Plus, I've got another week here!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Announcement

I've been waiting until the publisher said it was okay -- and then I went off to Boston without the only device that had this beautiful cover on it, so I had to wait til today.

But in "Fall" 2016, a rather indeterminate term used by the publishing business, Flatiron Press, a division of Macmillan based in, yes, New York's Flatiron Building, will bring forth this book:

To deal with the FAQs that have already been asked on Facebook in the couple of hours since I put it up there:

* No, I don't know exactly when copies will become available.
* Yes, you can preorder it on Amazon, although to be honest I'd rather you buy one at your friendly local independent bookstore.
* I'll probably be able to order some copies from the publisher for those wanting to have an autographed copy, and I wouldn't be surprised if I did a few readings where you can buy and get signed a copy of the book. I'm fairly sure Book People in Austin (maybe in cooperation with Waterloo Records, across the street) will have something, and I'm hoping for a few other dates, but it's waaaay too early to tell.
* Stay tuned here and to other social media for further details and announcements.

I'll be blogging this past week, which has been great fun, over the weekend, since I believe I may be snowed in.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Go East, Part One

And so it came to pass that I got tired. Tired of waiting for a number of things that were, it's true, in the pipeline and out of my hands, to happen. Tired of Texas, a place that seemed insane not just to the elite snobs on the coasts, but to an increasing number of its inhabitants. Tired of Austin, a place I used to know and now don't know and where I hardly know anybody. So when a friend posted on Facebook that he was looking to sublet his apartment in a historically listed building in Brooklyn Heights for six weeks, I offered to rent three of those weeks starting on January 11. A check was mailed and, in return, some keys were also mailed. I really had no plans, but I knew I'd make some.

I had to get up at 5:15 to make my plane, but I figured I'd rather get there early than wander the streets of Brooklyn after dark looking for a street. I called Uber for my transportation, because there is no way to get to the airport from where I live unless you or someone else drives. The driver was a cheery guy who told me the minute I got in the car that David Bowie had died. A great start to a trip, right? (Of course, the punch line was delivered by e-mail when I set up my computer once I got in: unlike the $26 trip to the airport the other time I'd used Uber, this one cost $42. I already had moral compunctions about using this service, which is battling background checks -- very routine ones -- for its drivers in Austin with full-page newspaper ads, but an inquiry to customer service indicated that I had chosen a deluxe version of the service without knowing it, hence the higher charge. There was no appeal, and their doom was sealed by a text to my phone: "Your Problem Has Been Solved!" Sad to say, theirs has just begun, since I'll never use them again; I'll get Lyft after the return flight and delete both apps.)

A boring flight, a boring subway ride, the requisite getting lost when I got to the subway stop (a tradition with me), a chance encounter with a mailman on his rounds, and I found the house. The apartment was very nice, the kitchen tiny and rather underequipped, and a block away was a street with everything I needed, from a branch of my bank to a magnificent grocery store, to a friendly wine shop and a number of restaurants, all of which I'd been cautioned by my host to avoid. There was another couple of long shopping streets nearby, Atlantic Avenue and Court Street, which I needed to explore, but as for Monday, despite spending close to $100 at the Garden of Eden, the supermarket, I still didn't have dinner, so on friends' recommendation, I went over to Court Street and began the hike to Rucola, a small restaurant on a back street.

Now, these days, my mealtimes are fraught. Some months back, my doctor informed me I had diabetes, a diagnosis I still don't understand fully. In response, I've cut back the carbohydrates, including such favorites as pasta and fruit, taken my glucose readings four times a day, and ingested a pill called metaformin. I read the nutritional specs on everything I buy, and exercise rigid control when I eat out. I've also started exercising regularly, walking small streets by my house as humongous vehicles careen past me at extra-legal speeds. It's worked: I've never exceeded the maximum glucose numbers except for one time I knew it was going to happen (I was making a beef stew and hadn't read the recipe right and at dinnertime still had another hour and 45 minutes to go so I drove to the supermarket and grabbed a package of frozen fried shrimp which were delicious, but broke the bank utterly), my hemoglobin numbers are in the safe zone, and I've come to hate dinnertime.

No worry at Rucola: a salad and a serving of what they called porchetta on a base of white beans which were delicious but which I avoided (foolishly, as it turned out) for the most part was excellent and affordable. Still, I was going to have to try to cook in a kitchen with no equipment to speak of unless I won the Powerball. People who weren't talking about David Bowie were talking about the Powerball. Sometimes both. I dedicated Tuesday to exploration.

Court Street seemed the best bet, and this time I walked it slower. Food discoveries included Shelsky's, a famous delicatessen that was like a museum of traditional Jewish fish with traditional high prices and a friendly guy behind the counter (the bigger guy on the homepage there), and Union Market, a Central Market/Whole Foods kind of place, sort of a long ways to go in this cold weather, but nice to know about. I was also looking for Caputo's, an Italian joint that makes their own mozzarella and seems to be a trove of other Italian delicatessen, but I was getting tired and decided to turn back: the wind was not friendly, and it was picking up. I turned on Atlantic Avenue to see what was up with it, and entered a time machine.

I'm sure Urban Outfitters was commanded to keep this display intact, but it's a healthy reminder that the waterfront, once a far better place for merchant ships to dock than Manhattan, was just a few blocks away. (Of course, once unloaded, you had to get the stuff over to Manhattan somehow, so warehouses also did a thriving business). There were also loads of Arab shops on Atlantic, including several Yemenite cafes with no menus in the window and no inviting aspect whatever. Most of the action seemed to be happening in the back. Is qat legal? That might have been it.

I was beginning to like this neighborhood, no question. The Brooklyn Historical Society was just down the street and I couldn't wait to see what they offered. They're only open Wednesday through Sunday, though, so I had to wait. Naturally, on Wednesday, some gift of a fellow airline passenger or subway rider laid me flat on my back, so I mooched around the house, which was okay because it was being winter outdoors. I made it to the store, and that was about it.

I had to get better on Thursday, because I'd bought a ticket for the Picasso sculpture show at MOMA, as the Museum of Modern Art is now universally known. I'd seen the blockbuster show in, was it the '70s? when most of what's in the Paris Musée Picasso set up in New York while they fixed it up, and it was both exhaustive and exhausting. I've come to a better understanding of him since then, at least partially aided by John Richardson's magisterial biography, still in progress as we pray for the aging author to live to finish the last volume, and this show forces us to come to terms with his thinking in a way that mixing up paintings, etchings, drawings, and sculpture never would. Focussing entirely on Picasso's 3-D work, it clarifies ideas that show up in the painting and other 2-D media. Transformations of objects into planes is easily understood once you check out his varied guitars, mandolins, and absinthe glasses: instead of standing there facing one aspect of them, you can walk around them, or look at them from the side. And for those of us who are impatient or tired of his postwar celebrity, there are works made from junk or scraps that fairly scream that the artist is having big fun. This, I realize, is why when I went to MOMA as a kid, I loved his goat and baboon, which the museum owns. Picasso is quoted as saying the goat is more like a goat than a real goat, and I don't know why, but that's the absolute truth. And even a kid can get the joke in making the baboon's head out of one of his son's metal toy cars. I had a blast.

Less so in the rest of the museum, though. On the top floor is an extensive show dedicated to Joaquin Torres-Garcia (1874-1949), a Uruguayan who managed to hit all the artistic hot-spots and absorb and contribute to their innovations before returning home to be his country's premier painter. There's some brilliant stuff scattered throughout his career, and I don't think I gave it enough time, but I recommend seeing it while you're there; the guy may be second-tier, but he was no imitator. There's also a large exhibition of the museum's Jackson Pollock holdings that is great to see all in one room. The rest is hit or miss, with, I'm afraid, more miss than hit. Soldier, Spectre, Shaman is about artists' response to World War II, and is just too broad an idea to be coherent. A show dedicated to Lebanese artist Walid Raad shows him to be an exhortatory political artist who, yes, makes important points, but to me unimporant art. (But remember that that kid who went to the museum also got to see the Guernica, which he's been digesting for his entire life). A show on the museum's new photo acquisitions is almost entirely art about art, which, admittedly, is what the art world is about these days, as is an exhibition of the museum's other new acquisitions, although Feng Membo's Long March Restart, a Super Mario adaptation of the Chinese Revolution that you can actually play, is fun, Cara Walker's huge cutout silhouette covering an entire wall is amazing -- I'd like to see more of her work, exhortatively political though it is, because she's fearlessly dealing with black history -- and Cai Guo-Quiang's "Borrowing Your Enemy's Arrows," a wooden boat hanging from the ceiling, flying a Chinese flag, and pierced with thousands of arrows, is oddly moving.

The sun was going down by the time I left, and I walked over to the subway to meet Gary Lucas, a guitarist/composer I've known for a while, for a chat at the famous White Horse bar in the West Village. I guess it's a tourist trap some of the time, and we sat in the Dylan Thomas Room, where the poet drank himself to death one evening, but neither of us indulged in alcohol. We caught up, he gave me his two new CDs, one of which is a tribute to the music in Max Fleischer's cartoons, a typical Lucas idea that should be fun to listen to. He told me about a party he and his wife were going to around the corner from where CBGB used to be, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the first issue of Punk magazine. He went home to pick up his wife and change clothes and, with nothing else to do, I wandered through the Village until I suddenly found myself there. The room was packed, and I didn't recognize a soul. I actually hate going to things like this unless I'm reporting a story or know someone and the Lucases weren't showing, so after about a half-hour, I left for Brooklyn, where I decided to ignore my diet and get a cheeseburger at a cafe near the house. The bad news is that, as I'd been warned, it was awful. The good news is it didn't bust my glucose level at all.

Punk sculpture, artist unknown
I was apparently sicker than I knew, because I was tormented with a fever all night and slept fitfully. Friday I mooched around the apartment, only putting my shoes on at 5:30 so I could go get something to eat at the store. Saturday found me feeling a lot better, so I decided to really look at this place I've found myself.

The best way, I decided, was to walk down the street to the Brooklyn Historical Society. Surely they'd have a comprehensive overview of the city. But no, the place is small and, I guess, underfunded. A neat exhibit about abolition and Brooklyn was fascinating, although I knew that Henry Ward Beecher's abolitionist church was in Brooklyn. I didn't know that a lot of escaped slaves and lots of free people of color lived in Brooklyn, at least partially because the slave-catchers couldn't be bothered with such a podunk place and spent most of their efforts in Manhattan. The so-called Dumbo neighborhood (I think it stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge and have no idea what the O is for unless it's to keep people from thinking of the Ramones and pinheads and so on) was a thriving black section of town and several black preachers were instrumental in enforcing equality here. I skipped the exhibit on the hockey team in the basement, and the other rooms in the building didn't have much of interest, so I headed out with my camera, no particular destination in mind, but a desire to find the First Colored Schoolhouse, if it still survived.

One thing I discovered was that my theory that Brooklyn preserved more old buildings than the rest of the city was correct. Part of this is that I'm staying in the Brooklyn Heights Historical District, the first urban neighborhood to be so designated by the federal government because of the existence of buildings like the one I'm in (which was pictured in a full-page article in a 1965 New York Herald-Tribune on display at the Historical Society). There were places that made me curious right around the corner:

For that matter, there was a whole street I'd stumbled on that seemed to be converted stables or carriage houses:

Hunts Lane

As I wandered up Henry Street, I entered the Fruit District, so-called because it has streets named Cranberry and Pineapple, and some houses that must date to the early 19th century.

I turned on Middagh Street, thinking that was where the Colored Schoolhouse stood, but all I found was this beauty:

At that point, I noticed I was near the water and wandered over to a historical marker that noted that there was a house on Middagh Street that, at one point, had been shared by W. H. Auden, Carson McCullers and...Gypsy Rose Lee! It also noted that it had been demolished in 1946. But what an odd bunch of folks under one roof.

I realized that I was at one end of the Brooklyn Promenade, a scenic walk from which, it developed, one can see not only Manhattan, but Governor's Island and Liberty Island. I took a truly awful photo of that view, but another shows an island I once knew well, but no longer do:

What are all those buildings? 
Of course, this brought to mind coming to Manhattan in 1999 and seeing the World Trade Center looming over lower Manhattan, two buildings I'd never seen before and weren't part of my mental map at all.

Fortunately the path eventually gave me this more traditional vista to look at:

Whew. I was beginning to worry there for a minute. 
The Promenade seemed to have ended, and I was astonished to realize I'd come to the beginning of my street, having gone in a very eccentric circle to where I'd started. It was time to head back to the apartment, download the photos, and try to make sense out of the day. One thing I realized, though: so far, I really like Brooklyn.

A theme I'll explore later, but for now, I'm headed up to Boston (on the train, no less) on Tuesday evening (that is, if the Amtrak app will give up my ticket, which is living on my phone) to see more art and history, and then return on Friday to see another old friend perform.

And there'll be another, shorter (I promise) post tomorrow or the next day. See you then.
Site Meter