Sunday, May 29, 2005

Coney Island, ho!

Just biked out to Coney Island and back, finally. I've been meaning to do this since getting the bike. The whole trip took five hours, with one hour for beach-sitting; if I'm going to do this regularly, I need to start getting up at 5 AM--well, let's be realistic, maybe 7 AM, or even 8:30.

On the way out to Coney Island there were, first, huge warehouses on the Brooklyn waterfront, between about 30th and 60th streets, which I wound among and examined with a predatory eye. There was one gabled brick building with no roof, and the date "1832" or maybe "1892" over the door. That one would take, oh, wild guess, four million dollars to convert into, say, a covered market with performance spaces, studios, bookstores, maybe an indoor garden. I thought of taking a huge building, bashing out the center of it and putting a garden in the middle, with maybe a retractable, transparent cover over the top for winter. Then the upper stories could have windows and terraces looking onto the garden, and the ground floor could have stores and restaurants and cafes with tables around it, or even inside it. That way it would not matter how industrial and bleak and wintry and Brooklyn the streets were around it; inside it would be restorative and joyful.

Then, thank goodness, around 68th street there is a bike path, sandwiched in between the Belt Parkway and the water, which gives you peace from being potentially mangled by traffic, and a view of boats and bridge and water, and allows you to breathe deeply of mingled fresh sea breezes and car exhaust. I tried to calculate the percentage of car exhaust to pure Atlantic air, given the wind velocity (strong) and the traffic (heavy, in fact I wanted to stick out my tongue at the SUVs on the Belt Parkway and say 'nyah, nyah, I'm going faster than YOU.') But such calculations are inscrutable until I come down with black lung disease and get biopsied.

After the Verrazano bridge (where, on return, there was a cheerful, welcome delay, as the fire and police department had cordoned off the path because of a stranded boat, and were slowly and inefficiently ferrying the people off of it, little kids first. There must have been a good reason why they weren't simply towing it to a harbor and having a look at the engine, but I didn't find out what it was) there is a hairy stretch where the bike path abruptly terminates in a Toys R Us parking lot. I decided that my guiding principle would be "follow the Latino boys on low-slung bicycles," because they must know where the fun is, and this proved to be a sound decision. We took a sidewalk past a strange little children's amusement park, threaded between the freeway and some deserted athletic fields, and fetched up in a Home Depot parking lot. I had a moment of discouragement; I had my heart set on the beach, and I was stranded instead in a series of suburban strip malls.

Eventually, though, after more determined meandering through increasingly interesting real estate (think 'second-floor terrace.' think 'barbeque.' think 'ocean view,' or at least 'ocean breeze,' then think 'probably, still, really cheap.' Hmmmmm) I found the Beach. Oh, glorious beach. I saved the garish amusement park rides, and Nathan's, for another day. By then I was in that state of blood sugar where only a steak burrito and a Coke, to go, in the backpack, to be eaten on beach, was acceptable. This I found, after detouring through a wonderful place where everybody was speaking Russian, and the signs were in Russian, and the sunlight shone through the grating of the elevated train tracks overhead, onto the variety of brightly-colored stuff for sale, clothing and diamonds and flowers, and a strangely bent old man admonished me to wear sunglasses when biking. I told him, "that's a great idea, thank you. Yes, I'm wearing sunscreen," and gave him the thumbs-up.

I realized then that this was the Coney Island, and Russian-mafia Brighton Beach, that my ex-boyfriend had in his mind, that he wanted to show me on that dark and deserted night when we drove out and around there and back again. The magic was largely missing on that occasion, though I gave him points for concept.

Oh, I forgot to mention that Neneng-girl is speaking to me again. She decided to "let bygones be bygones" just in time for her birthday party. I had deeply ambivalent feelings about going--on the one hand, Neneng-girl's birthday parties are legendary, and I have never had a lousy time at one, no matter what sort of psychotic episodes have been enacted in the weeks leading up to them. On the other hand, it's wildly annoying when somebody 'forgives' you for the heinous fault you committed when you maintained a necessary boundary under intense duress, and, furthermore, fails to apologize for subjecting you to said duress, or the following two-month ostracism. But whatever. I dragged my heels about getting ready, and then got hugely lost, and when I got there nobody answered the doorbell or the cell phone. I left a message saying "I came to your party but nobody is letting me in, so I'm going home; happy birthday." Ten minutes later my cell phone rang; "Please come back!"

So I had another wonderful time. Neneng-girl's friends are all great people, and if they're not really My People, that's okay. I can accept the fact that although New Yorkers get too busy to return your phone calls or respond to your emails for, like, eight months, they're generally glad to see you when you're standing in front of them, nicely dressed and with no agenda. R. kept looking earnestly into my eyes and declaring that she's been "super busy," and I kept looking earnestly back and saying "I know." What does she expect me to say? "You bitch, I hate you for not calling me back, ever?" "That's okay, it's fine that you don't call me back, ever?" No, the best recipe for harmony is No Expectations Whatsoever.

At the end of the evening there occurred one of those momentous 'there but for the grace of God' episodes, which remind me that there are worse things than getting dumped and having my heart stomped to smithereens. I got dragged into it when J., who is twenty-four, petite, and has a newborn baby with M., who is forty, 6'3", and angry, grabbed me distraughtly and exclaimed, "M. just hit me and twisted my arm, and I hit him in the eye, and he says he can't see out of the eye and now I can't find him, and I need to get a car service so that I can pay the babysitter and he has the cell phone and the money."

"He WHAT?!!!" I said, surprised into being momentarily reflexive. Then I got a grip, drove her home, and stood in the hallway listening to them scream at each other. I wouldn't have interfered except that it started sounding like he might hit her again; I walked into the living room. M. ordered me out of his house. I stood there. They screamed. The neighbor screamed. I realized that if I left and violence happened, the neighbor would summon the police; this was a reassuring thought. M. stormed out of the living room; I hugged J. and told her she could bring the baby and stay with me, or stay there, but that I should go. She said she'd be okay; I made her look me in the eye and repeat this. She said she'd be okay. I hugged both her and M., said I loved them both, and left.

J. called the next day, and talked without drawing breath for twenty minutes. M. has anger problems, childhood, violence, therapy, baggage, issues, etc., etc. She's a smart girl and I'm not too worried. Her parents saw this coming last year and set up a Leaving M. Trust Fund. I mainly listened and refrained from offering any Interfering Female Friend Advice, such as "leave the bastard THIS INSTANT" or "Men are like that, stand by him for the Baby's Sake." I doubt I will hear from either of them for several months, and then nothing will surprise me--not that she's gone to Canada with the baby and is never coming back, nor that they're in couples counselling and couldn't be happier.

At any rate I am not in a relationship like that, nor like H.'s, whose wedding we attended a year and a half ago. I ran into her at BWAC. "That was a wonderful wedding," I told her. "It was the high point," she said. "I'm giving him till June and then I'm leaving." He sits in front of the TV and gets stoned seven nights a week, while she goes to her studio and makes angst-ridden art. He's opposed both to babies and counselling, and has no idea that she's this close to leaving.

These are all my ex's friends. Birds of a feather, etc. I see that probably why he dumped me is that I didn't play according to the script; when he got abusive, I didn't hit back, I didn't scream, I just stood there and looked at him, wondering when he'd come to his senses. Now, of course, I wish that I'd reacted in some way--told him to get out of the car, told him I was leaving and meant it. But at least I was healthy enough to get him to dump me. People hate it when you don't follow their scripts.

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