An early morning stroll through the greenmarkets of McCarren Park, Union Square, or Havemeyer Street is rarely complete without seeing the black and white houndstooth check pants of young line cooks, tottering in their clogs as they balance great flats of pears and Swiss chard back to their kitchens.
Think boarding school and your thoughts will likely take you to a country setting where large trees, manicured grounds, and ivy-covered buildings greet a largely upper-crust student body. Since the first private boarding schools were established in the U.S. in the 1700s, this reality has prevailed.
This story is only five blocks long. It starts at 1050 Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint. Exiting the building, I open the door carefully. An elderly man with a greasy gray ponytail sits on my stoop sipping beer from a brown paper bag.
Just over three years ago, developer Bruce Ratner announced plans to build a basketball arena and skyscrapers in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, a block and a half from where I lived at the time. I wrote about the proposal in these pages, highlighting its effects on the local community and the public relations tactics used to sell it to the people of New York.
On a sunny day, eerily warm for its seasonthe kind that makes people mutter, global warmingcyclists are out in full force. Its a steep uphill slog on the bike path ascending the Williamsburg Bridge from Brooklyn, which some climb with apparent ease, while others surrender and walk their bikes up the slope.
They seem to appear out of nowhere. As you turn a corner, or step aside to avoid a stranger, or coast your bike to a pause in order to time the next stoplight, there in your peripheral vision you catch a glimpse. The sight stalls you in mid-step, mid-thought, mid-pedal-stroke: the striking image of a bicycle painted glaring white, adorned by plastic flowers, accompanied by a plaque and a chain that is more gestural than preventive. A Ghost Bike.
Janice, 47, waits on a red benchbody bundled under a camel-hair coat, green purse clutched in her lap. Her eyes are glassy, but expectant, as if shes ready for someone to arrive any minute and carry her out of the stuffy, windowless auditorium. From the look of her neatly pinned headscarf, one would never guess she has been waiting here, at the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House Womens Mental Health Shelter, for almost three years.
One victim blames a sleepless night in a hostel in L.A. But whether on the guests from Vermont or the used mattress picked up off the curb in Long Island City, bed bugs have arrived in Brooklynand bed bugs suck.
For director Jesse Berger, four hundred years go by awfully quickly. Berger sees the turn of the century bringing troubled times: a corrupt government that purports to be infallible; rulers who surround themselves with sycophantic yes-men; high level positions filled according to loyalty and personal favors, while the populace resign themselves to cynicism in the face of an increasingly violent world. For an artist whose latest project is a play published in 1607, Berger spends a lot of time musing on contemporary headlines.
You can't hear me
whimper over thumps
on your Bible the whumpety-
whumps of a flat losing
air quickly, quickly, we're going away
where rubber meets sum down the road: fur;
lights light dead eyes. Mouse.
Turtle-deer. Some body's home-
to look almost real.