Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Alone in NYC

Graffiti in Brooklyn

I was a finalist for two book awards in 2013 but didn't plan on attending the awards ceremony in New York City. "Mom, you have to go," my youngest son said. A shrug of my shoulder, and "I never win anything," was my reply. He rolled his eyes which he does often around me, but for the first time it seemed totally appropriate. I hate being a chicken and have tried to brainwash my children into never giving up. I'd been to NYC before but I'd had business meetings and cocktail-laced liaisons. I wasn't so social anymore.

At one time, I feared my propensity for aloneness, for solitude, and thought it meant I was strange. I didn’t understand that it was a choice. It’s what makes it possible for me to write for hours. People who live with their own thoughts successfully have found peace within themselves.

My social plans this time around were vague, built on an invisible platform of my own devise, a loner's version of whatever
wherein I wallowed in being an onlooker. But here’s the thing, I  improvised.

The three threads of continuity were the awards program on May 30, my efforts to engage New Yorkers by getting them to laugh, and my attempts to arrange a visit to the Museum of Morbid Anatomy in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn.

A Brooklyn native described the area as next to a canal that was a mob dumping ground.

On my happy-go-lucky way to the Museum of Morbid Anatomy I paused on the Union Street Bridge to snap this pic of the milky water in the canal.  Is the water that color to camouflage the bodies, or hasten their decomposition? Charming.

Couldn't find the entrance to the Museum of Morbid Anatomy. Turned the corner and entered this lonely alley. 

Retreated when a man entered from the far end of the alley near the red truck.  He wore a WWII German overcoat festooned with various medals. But for the tattoos and piercings, I might have mistaken him for someone on his way to a military reenactment. I tried to exit the alley at a leisurely pace. In other words, I tried not to run.

"Can I help you?" he asked.

I looked up into the friendly and kind eyes of a teenager. He knew I was frightened, but he was courteous and relayed no aggression. We were at the corner by now, and while there was no traffic, I felt less creeped out. Plus, I felt sorry for the kid. He looked something like this:

He showed me where to enter and rushed off on some urgent business. I waited in the lobby of the Proteus Gowanus Gallery for Laetitia Barbier, who is a contributor to Atlas Obscura and the Head Libarian at Morbid Anatomy Library. She'd generously rearranged her schedule to meet me at the Museum of Morbid Anatomy, a private museum in Brooklyn which "is committed to celebrating and providing materials dedicated to the places where death and beauty intersect." Laetitia is a beautiful European art historian who fell in love with an American artist and lives here now. She also introduced me to the work of  Joe Coleman. She's writing her dissertation on him and his art.

I love the back of Laetitia's knees!

The next night was the International Latino Book Awards and I won in both categories in which I was a finalist. Astonished is a good word to describe my emotions that night. I'd prepared myself for disappointment, not a double-win. A happy face in this picture, but my sympathies were totally with the people who didn't win. I wanted to go out drinking with them. Maybe go salsa dancing. I said nothing and left early . . . alone.

Back in my room, I quickly changed into more comfortable clothes and went for a walk passing Irish bars the concierge at my hotel had assured me I would enjoy. They were crowded and the laughter poured out into the streets. A couple of men raised their mugs to me. I walked as fast as I could in my beloved flip-flops, doubled back, passing more nightspots, and decided on a French Restaurant across the street from my hotel.

Cultural diversity is apparent at every turn of the head in NYC, and this bar was no different.  The place was empty except for two tables in the back, and the four blondes at the bar. Three of them were part of the same Polish family: mother, who must have been 12 when she gave birth to daughter, a tall gorgeous young woman with what appeared to be real double-D's. And her brother who was immensely nondescript.

I ordered a Margarita and the bartender, another tall blond, asked me what Tequila I preferred. Anejo with a dash of Triple sec and a squeeze of lime, on the rocks with salt. She was good friends with the Polish family. I took out my teeny notepad and made notes.

"Where are you from?" I ask the bartender.

"Serbia." She leans across the bar challenging me to make something of it.

"Oh, I thought Danish." That made the Polish family laugh. 

"Her boyfriend is half French and half Indian," one of them says.

"I need to stop drinking and get back to my writing," the beautiful, and now even more luscious blond says.

"Ha!" the bartender says, "her writing!"  

The gorgeous writer's family ostracize her in a friendly way. They talk about men they're seeing, or, at least, the ones the writer is seeing, has seen, when she's not drinking or writing or working. I  order another Margarita.

The writer asks the bartender if she's checked out Apparently she is also a bartender at this restaurant, but has the night off.  Free drinks for her family?

An older man with a massive stomach encased in a nice suit comes in. He knows both bartenders. They treat him like shit and the one behind the bar makes a crack about older men going after younger women. Her face is contorted with disgust. The man looks confused. He really doesn't get it. All this time the younger women glance at me. Finally we stare openly at one another. The man ignores me; I'm too old for him. I order another drink and flex my triceps. I don't tell them I'm married or that I just won two awards for my first book.

The last of the tables is cleared and the Mexican waiter collapses on a chair, disgusted with his tips and orders a double Vodka. I scribble a note and take out my business card, give it to the succulent blond writerling who has braces on her bottom teeth: 

 Keep Writing!!!

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