2007-09-16 - 9:15 p.m.
Okay, so I’m lost. Not the, ‘Oh, we took the wrong turn, lets just head back round,’ kind of lost either. I’m terrifically lost, and I’m actually considering soldering a compass onto Jeanette’s frame.
I’ve parked myself on the side of a one-way in front of a Community Center that has far too many images of the Virgin Mary to be secular. Just up the street, in menacing green and white, are a couple signs leading the way to the possibly deadly Manhattan Bridge. Sure enough, I’ve now tackled the Williamsburg and the Brooklyn Bridge, but I’ve done so with what felt like a t-bone steak lodged in my trachea. I don’t feel the need to leave the borough, let alone deep-throating slabs of meat.
I’ve been lost all day. Generally finding myself in the wrong lane, in the wrong neighborhood, making turns as the paint on the concrete demands them, leaning into God knows what. I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that I generally enjoy that feeling. But much like whiskey, it’s best taken in moderation.
This is why, in a moment that saw my wilted pride circle its way down the toilet, I walked into a book store to get a street map of Brooklyn.
They had it behind the counter. I had to fucking ask for it.
Every other borough, neighborhood, and international city had a map out on the rack. Hell, they even had a map for Chelsea, a ten block by fifteen block neighborhood in Manhattan, that adheres religiously to a grid system.
“How do I get to twenty-third street?”
“Um...you’re on twentieth.”
“Okay, but how do I get to twenty third?”
“Well, something tells me if you get through twenty first, you’ll going in the right direction.”
“What if I hit nineteenth?”
But the borough I’m actually in, those maps they have behind the counter. I’m sure they’re there because the tourists like to nick them. The store would call it “shrinkage,” which tells you exactly how retailers feel when someone manages past their door with their merchandise.
“You new to the area, honey?”
“New to having a vehicle in the area.”
“Those one ways are a bitch.”
They really are. It’s not as bad as Boston, where rolling to a destination ten blocks away might as well be a logic problem, but I can’t tell you how many well laid plans have ended up sighed out to fog up the windscreen on my helmet.
I’m about four sighs into my latest journey. Most I’ve been able to deal with, calculating some new path, like a wonky GPS system, but those ominous signs for the Manhattan Bridge are enough for me to stop rather than sigh.
Rather than ride up, I run up the street to see if I can plan some escape route. There’s not too much around. Grassy overpass on one side, and a distinct lack of turns on the other. I know I could fudge with the traffic laws and wheedle my way down the one way, but with my kind of luck, there would be a block party for the local precinct going on right where I made my moving violation.
At the top of the hill, I find my escape route: a narrow, hidden little lane, aptly named ‘Bridge St.” I turn around, and with the scooter now safe in my sights, I light up a cigarette and saunter back down the hill.
I strap on the helmet a little gingerly, since my right wrist is still tight. I still have it wrapped, just to protect it from getting hurt again. Kick stand up, I reach for my keys. I peek down the way to see if oncoming traffic has the light.
When I turn back, I see a flash of green, as a middle aged woman jogs out across the street. It’s a bit early to be rocking a wool sweater, but other than the collective of plastic bags she’s swinging from her right arm, I barely notice her. I go back to finagling my keys off the loop on my jeans.
The woman looks my way. It doesn’t surprise me. Jeanette continues to turn more heads than I figure Christie Turrlington would. Not that all of the looks are of the ‘Wow, check that out’ variety. A good dollop of them are of the ‘what the fuck is that, and how stupid are you to take that out on the road’ variety.
I give the woman a nod, then notice she’s crossing to the wooded overpass, brushing aside some greenery. It’s all tall stalks of what looks like grass on some kind of enhancement cocktail Barry Bonds would favor. There are a couple bushes, and a few trees, but mainly it’s just a thick smog of green. My nod turns into a pitched head look of quandary. The kind puppies will give you if you shake the wrong toy at them. Or talk to them in Swedish. (Please don’t ask how I know this.)
She’s three steps away from disappearing into the olive mists, when she turns to answer my cock-eyed gaze. She holds up the bags full of whatever, saying...
“I hide them.”
She smiles. It appears that she’s rather pleased with her own cunning. I’m not sure what’s in the bags. Maybe empty bottles she doesn’t want someone grabbing on trash night, maybe baby body parts she saving for a stew, but whatever they are, they won’t be found.
She smiles and shakes the bag of maybe tax documents, or used tea bags, or reindeer droppings.
“I hide them.”
I turn on the engine and make a quick left. The criminal genius disappears.
On my way home, just after the horrifically paved stretch under yet another bridge, I pull off, fascinated with what looks like an impromptu music festival. They’ve closed down the street and the hipster creme-de-la-creme has gathered to take in a few beers and some swing style music being played on a mouth harp. You can tell it’s the hipster elite since no one looks like they’ve taken a shower in days. These are the committed people.
I can’t drink, but I can nurse down the sunset filtering through the pillions of the Williamsburg Bridge. Three tables sit end to end in the middle of the street, adorned with the remains of freshly grilled hamburgers and hot dogs. I can only take in the scraps of my cigarette pack, but it doesn’t really matter.
Between sets, I curl up in a corner to check my map again, to make sure I know where I’m going, but again, it doesn’t really matter.
I want to see what’s going to sneak up behind me next.
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