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secret windows (don't look back)

I found myself in a conversation with an old friend, about the crossroads of writing, nostalgia and memory. "Distance and perspective are the upside." I said. "The slippery slope is romanticizing and being nostalgic. Well, that's the memory trap no matter who you are."
"It's funny... I spent most of my life thinking that I had a rather dull adolescence, and it's only recently that I've discovered that these stories are a lot more interesting than I gave them credit." My friend replied. I admitted that I gravitate towards stories that are based on a mistake, a lie - thinking you had some great childhood, when actually it was a shitshow, and you fantasized about being adopted but sort of blocked that out.  


The question wobbled around inside my head for a few days. Was I too fast to judge nostalgia, to quick to brush aside its sweetness, stepping over it towards something invariably darker and sadder?  On Sunday, I was walking on Kutuzovsky,…

Redhook, Part 1

We made our way down Kutuzovksy, stopping for ice creams and bottles of water.  The midday sun pressing into us with no shade or breeze. Her fine hair soon a thick wet mess, E asked me to carry her most of the way, sweaty in my arms, almost slipping from them.

At home we washed vishinei (sour cherries) and sliva (plums) and ate them, watching great fat flies buzzing around the windows. Then she fell asleep.

I wrapped a t-shirt around my head to block out the sun and put my feet up. Something smelled strange - maybe the pillows, maybe something from the fridge. I could not get up, and closed my eyes the same as E now splayed across the couch. The sound of grinding metal, of circular saws chugging through plywood filtered up to us from the hotel renovations.

I found myself remembering Redhook, Brooklyn. The most dangerous place in America when I worked there, welding circus scenery and dodging stray gangland bullets. There was a methadone clinic on the corner and dealers just outside it. Van Brunt was a street of abandoned buildings then, and the great ancient warehouse we worked in. Uncooled in the summer, unheated in the winter. Forced to wear a full-body jumpsuit to avoid getting burned by welding slag, I drank two gallons of water a day in the volcanic artificial night of my welding area. There was a stench there too, mostly of rotting river rats in the walls. Some as big as my forearm when we found their dry husks.

I thought of the packs of inbred wild dogs there, just like the ones in Moscow, their ancient nipples dragging across the cobblestones. I thought of the scrawny prostitutes that gave $5 blowjobs to Hacids around the corner from the warehouse - their arms outside of the station wagons, just their faces lost behind the darkness of the windows. I thought of the junkies that wandered the streets, stealing our tools if we left them on the ground for a few minutes when we tried to work on the sidewalk. They would try to sell them back to us a few minutes later.

It was the same relentless sun there. The same giant green flies buzzing around the shit in the street. The same sense that you were at the end of the world, and there was no law, no rule, no reason. Just the choas of a brand new car that could get parked across the street, unlocked and doors open. Then the bomb would go off. A great chemical cloud of smoke, green in the mid-day sun. The fire would eventually go out after the plastic and the gasoline had burned off. Next the junkies would arrive with the sloppy-wheeled shopping carts they forced across the cobblestones. Everything would be stripped away - copper wires, brake pads, sparkplugs. Now the car would look like a skeleton balanced on a series of cinder blocks, maybe surrounded by bits of broken windshield. Next, someone would move in, and make it home. Cardboard would fill the windows for privacy. Two or three would be sleeping there when we got to work in the morning, their hands graceful as angels, maybe a long line of piss walking away from them and across the sidewalk. Maybe a few plastic bottles of Midnight Dragon rolling around in the breeze. In Moscow they call these people zapor, a special kind of drunk. Next, the car would be lit on fire once again - maybe with them still inside. Blankets and paper quickly burned to nothing. The weathered skeleton would get bashed in, and picked over once again. It would sit for some days, maybe a weekend. And then one day it would just be gone. Maybe just a shadow of the bomb on the ground, and then even that would disappear.

Comments

Joshua Alemany said…
Marco there are maybe 10 of us who would and DO tell the exact same stories from those years, including the reference to Big Apple Circus and those damn ring sections. I still talk about a weekend near the end of the build that summer, when Josh, Doug and I came in to finish up some of the welding since we were salary, not hourly! Our wives and girlfriends came in to help too. Unbeknownst to any of us, Laura, Josh Braun's wife, had gone to the market during the day and put a case of Budweiser longneck bottles in the freezer. When we finally finished for the day, covered in slag and welding sunburns, dripping degreaser, she brought over a frosty bottle. To this day, it was the most refreshing drink of my life. Thanks for this mornings, recall of those years. Despite all the squalor, still a formative time in my life. -- be well, Joshua
Annie said…
Reminds me of one odd trip to some part of NYC that seemed like that to me...empty, other-worldly, abandoned - or, you wish it were. My friend and I got off the bus and walked through the dusk, through this terrifying emptiness to a building, which seemed as vacant and abandoned as those around it. For an audition. Eventually after climbing a few stairs up and a few stairs down, (all the while I was imagining the headlines in my hometown paper, when I was found dead there) we found an area with some sound and light. Empty room, a few chairs. And we read for "Bus Stop". Could there have been any place in the United States LESS like a small town in Kansas?
Rabbit blogger said…
ah Josh - longnecks Buds were for you fancy guys. We were only good enough for those Midnight Dragons ourselves most of the time. I think squalor is the perfect word for that place and time, and it is also what i felt connected to as falling asleep in Moscow yesterday afternoon.
Rabbit blogger said…
Annie - there were pockets of complete sanity in Redhook at the same time. Frank's - a bar at the end of one abandoned street was a sort of haven back then. He had a back room performance space and encouraged anyone to put a play on there if they liked. tall frosty bud drafts were $1.50 too...
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