I've been thinking about you for a long time, my lovely, sitting here ignored like the stump in The Giving Tree. I've come to sit on your stump again.
My friend is a scientist who researches primate behavior, and she and her husband spend a month each year studying animals at a refuge somewhere in Florida. They sent out a plea to anyone who could come stay in their house in Brooklyn and care for their cats. They live in a row house in an up-and-coming neighborhood, although almost all of Brooklyn is up-and-coming, and if you ask me I think some of it is not destined to ever arise and make it. But in a city where rent is thousands of dollars just for the privilege of saying "I live in New York," standards of what makes a neighborhood "liveable" are low. And people make the most of it. A Starbucks opens in between a check cashing store and lady who reads palms, and suddenly the neighborhood is being gentrified. And so here I am.
The people in this neighborhood mostly speak with a mélange of lovely, lilting Caribbean accents, and based on the rasta headwraps on a few of the men, presumably the vibe here is Jamaican, although there are also signs for food from Trinidad. Would that be Trinidiadian? Trini? I think Trini, I've heard that before. And the people here are quite friendly. Ordering some chicken fingers to-go may involve a very long wait, because no one behind the counter is in any hurry, but they will definitely greet you politely and sincerely wish you a very nice day. And apparently the ox tail is delicious.
The day before my friends departed on their road trip south in their Prius, I made the voyage to NYC from Kansas in my Corolla, adding another 1,500+ miles to the 190,000+ already on the odometer, and arrived clutching the steering wheel in a white-knuckle death grip after barreling through what was apparently the largest snowstorm of the year. The snow had already stopped in the city, and the streets were clear; but snow plows had piled all the snow into drifts up to the door handles of the cars parked along streets. The next day, after the overnight freeze, all that street slush had formed into a wall of ice. And we had to dig through it to break free their poor little Prius.
It was a definitive Brooklyn moment: a group of Gentrifiers, dressed in flannel shirts and Merrell boots, hacking away at the ice piled up around a Prius, as men with rasta head wraps walked by cheering us on. Hey mon! You gonna do it mon!
After taking a break to indulge in some Fair Trade coffee from the shop down the street, we cleared a hole in the ice wall, and a hearty final shove by myself launched the Prius through the sludge and onto the street. They were off, into the wilds of scientific research amidst the palm trees of the American sub-tropics, leaving their home and their cats in my care. I watched them zip down the street, past the coffee shop on the corner,, and then marched my weary limbs back into the house empty of anyone except a few cats. And as I flopped onto the couch, I peeled off the soggy boots from my feet and looked around at the quiet, and thought...So you're in New York. Now what?