Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Expatriate

I was driving her to school, and my daughter told me if she had been born in the old days we would still be in New York where her name was written in the book. People couldn't move around back then she said, couldn't leave New York the way we did right after 9/11, a move we'd planned to make to the Midwest, made easier by the dust in the air and the smell like a burned out motor or lamp and the scorched pieces of paper that floated into the courtyard of our co-op the day after the towers fell down. That was the day I got back to Brooklyn, drove all night in a rented car, came in across Staten Island with the heavy trucks, ambulances, and military vehicles of all kinds, everything but tanks. The tanks were in my mind. But I heard the helicopters when the rental threw a rod a couple of blocks from my apartment and I parked it in front of a corner grocery and walked the rest of the way home. If it had been the old days, we'd have stayed in New York instead of laying in a supply of Cipro and Amoxicillin and flying out to the Midwest, and I never would have put that guy's eye out at the dump. It was about the time Saddam's sons, Uday and the other one, were killed, gunned down or blown up, and right after I took the wood from the kitchen cabinets we tore out to make room for the new refrigerator down to the dump. Right before that, the night before or maybe the night before that I dreamed I was trapped in the basement and the house was on fire, and I was yelling at my wife to throw the .357 magnum through the narrow basement window so I could blow my fucking brains out to keep from burning alive, the kind of dream that stays with you all day. And right after that dream I took the wood to the dump. Long pieces of wood with nails sticking out that I tried to hammer down, but they kept bending and sliding under the hammer and I couldn't get them all out or bent down flat, and I had to be careful not to jam one into my hand when I was loading the wood into the back of my truck. When I got to the dump, the attendant helped me pull the wood out of the back of the truck and throw it over the side of the walk-in dumpster. And when we were almost finished a guy came out of the dumpster, holding his head and saying what the fuck were we doing, and the attendant told him he wasn't supposed to be going inside the dumpster like that. You're lucky you didn't get killed the attendant told him. I could see the guy had a cut next to his eye, and he was sticking his finger through a hole in his baseball cap and saying you ruined my fucking cap. Then he went over and got in his car and his wife was looking at his eye, and I backed out and drove off, thinking they were probably writing down my license plate number, or maybe they would come back to the dump every Saturday and try to find me. But I was thinking maybe he wouldn't have much of a case, even if he lost that eye, because he probably shouldn't have been in the dumpster. But just to make sure, I called a lawyer so he could set my mind at ease. They say when you leave a place you get a unique perspective on it, see things the people who stay behind don't see. All I get is homesick now and then.

Copyright 2009 Billy Glad

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

All I get is homesick now and then.

Ach, don't bother; the New York you left isn't here any more. And right now we're in that dead zone kind of period where people are just sleepwalking through the motions, listlessly waiting for the next New York to be born. There's not even any energy yet, it's being held back.

-"artappraiser"

Billy Glad said...

Getting a comment from aa is a milestone event for me! aa is definitely somebody I miss. And I've been wondering how NYC was taking the meltdown.

Anonymous said...

wondering how NYC was taking the meltdown

To clarify a bit, I hesitate to call the mood depressive. It's just an empty waiting period. The rents haven't even adjusted enough yet to get the necessay influx of newbies for the rebirth. (Rents eventually going down in Manhattan may hurt the hipness of your old nabe Brooklyn?) The Wall Street laid off haven't figured out what they're going to do next yet, or if they are going to stay. A lot of the shops are trying to hang on by the skin of their teeth while figuring out what they should be switching to instead. The high dollar shopping nabes like Madison Avenue have growing vacancies, but then you've got someone like Ralph Lauren knocking down the entire building on the NW corner of 72 & Madison and the work on his entirely new building across from the shop in the old mansion has already started.

There's a wondering whether we will go through another late 70's, early 80's, especially with the cuts in transit and other services (once the subways go downhill and bus lines are cut, that affects a lot of things.) Not that there's dread about that, either, as not everyone hated the rougher, uglier less gentry New York. Certainly the beggar population has grown in Manhattan, that's very clear, and stuff like car break-ins are up.

Oh, one thing that's interesting is that you do see a lot of influence of the presidency on young black kids--the new thing is trying to get into Harvard, you hear them talking scholarship and college placement angles on the subway, and they dress like preppies. Heh. So who's going to carry the new gangsta culture? Laid off Wall Street support staff? :-)

-"artappraiser"

Decidere said...

Well the former leader of Minor Threat/Fugazi got rather tired of kids still doing the dances his generation came up with decades after the fact. Gangsta anything is just so old and lame at this point it should die a humiliating death.

Tom Manoff said...

Some of your best writing, the flowing together of story, images. Real but dreamlike.

Decidere said...

I just got the irony of the line, "see things the people who stay behind don't see." I think there could be a dark psychological murder mystery come out of this, the drifter who's moved on, who slowly discovers the darkness of his past, and then has to move again to forget. It can be an allegory for American History, à la García-Marquez's Erendira. Perhaps a dual/simultaneous story like Il Porcile or Ernesto Sábato's Heros and Tombs.

Decidere said...

And keep those damn nails away from the blonde. This ain't The Eyes of Laura Mars.

Tom Manoff said...

The first thing I do when I hit Manhattan is eat. I can't stop myself. Bagel with cheese. Pizza on Broadway.

The first time I left New York for Oregon was a three-month teaching stint. When I came back, I went to a Kosher Deli on Allerton Ave in the Bronx. I said I'll take two pastrami sandwiches and two knishes to go. Can you give me a frank with sauerkraut right now while I wait? The guy looks at me as says, "you've been living on the West Coast, right?"
He was Puerto Rican. New York.

Decidere said...

I always go for the Mexican food there, guess I'm not much of a New Yorker. But Brooklyn Beer is great.

Billy Glad said...

That's always a problem for me Des, figuring out what it's safe to read. I started out thinking the more different your work is from everything else in the world, the better it is. Trying to produce work that was unique. Now it doesn't bother me to think of myself as working in a tradition. But I still worry about being "influenced" too much. I have a project on the back burner: The Iliad re-told from Thetis' point of view. And, though I'm not afraid to read other reworkings of Homer, I am afraid to read Margaret Atwood's Penelopiad. I think of her as such a powerful writer.

Decidere said...

If you make it good, doesn't matter who you stole from. If you make it bad, doesn't matter how original it was.

Decidere said...

St. Francis (Kazantzakis) - "All roads lead to the earth. God is an abyss. Jump!"

Gurdjieff to Orage: "Enough digging. Now let's work."

Billy Glad said...

Yeah. I think "permissions" are the key. What do you have permission to do? Guess it doesn't matter who gave you permission. Sometimes you know, sometimes you don't. And the permissions, in my case, seem to be very specific. I know Warhol gave me permission to bore the hell out of people with my film by holding on to something, a shot, a scene, a theme, long after it becomes boring. But I'm afraid to do that in writing.

Julian Smith said...

Is that what you think, Billy? How amusing.

GirlfromtheBronx said...

Julian, dear, do you have something in particular on your mind, or are you just in a particularly taunting mood today? Please do share...

Julian Smith said...

I'm just thinking that he can be as boring and tedious as anyone when he gloms on to some idea and worries it to death. And before he comes running in here waving a copy of The Hive rules in my face, I just want to point out I'm not talking about any specific post or being dismissive of his comments in general or saying he doesn't contribute, just reacting to that last comment where he seems to imply he's not boring when he writes. What scares me is he has it in his head now that he'd like to describe the sides of buildings and cunts and who knows what else for hundreds of pages. And you know as well as I do he obsesses about those blonds.

GirlfromtheBronx said...

Julian, you could tear flesh and make me smile at the same time. But just know, I'm putting you on notice... what Kyle was for Hillary, I'm to Billy (not that he needs me.)
So give the guy his space and don't be such a hard ass or I'll smack you up the side yo head!

Tom Manoff said...

Gurdjieff Des? OK. But don't tell me you dig the secret handshakes and the boring music.