POSTCARDS FROM BROOKLYN.
(these picture postcards were recorded while walking to the
library and back again.)
Taste the Bounty of the Park Slope Farmer's Market
There is cider all year-round. In Saran Wrap bundles, there are organic things which taste nearly as good as their cello-wrapped, chemically preserved counterparts. And there are white people everywhere. If the sun is shining and you're an early riser, you will love the Farmer's Market. You'll pay a lot for a tomato, but who can put a price tag on freedom?
An Amish maid in Brooklyn? What a sight! She has breads and pies but it's the breads you'll desire. Wheat and White and White with Raisins and Double Wheat, bagged quickly and tightly, to trap warm condensation. You'll handle a loaf and feel proud and small, tripping carelessly back to a childhood where you remember waking to the smell of home-baked breads. Sure, this memory is entirely false, and if you closed your eyes even harder concentrated for a moment you would remember the real smells of your home kitchen - burned Pam no-stick spray and frostbitten Eggos - but that is neither here nor there. You see her blushed Amish face and you trust America again. You hand her two American dollars, and never notice that the White loaf bears the distinct shape of an automatic bread machine mold.
The Worst Stoop Sale, Ten Years Running!
No walk to the library is complete without passing the Worst Stoop Sale in Park Slope. The sun shines on Saturdays and Alva wakes up late. She eyes her clock - 11:30! - and remembers it must be time to have a stoop sale again. This has happened every warm Saturday for the last 10 years. Alva reaches into her closet and pulls out three cardboard boxes of items no one purchased last week. Or the week before that. Or each week prior to that, going back 10 full years. "Today we'll get one," she thinks, as she drags the boxes across her kitchen floor, disturbing her sleeping cat, Miss Annie, on her journey. "Miss Annie, will you buy something today?" Alva asks, as a bit of mirth slips through the cracks in her voice. No, Miss Annie, like everyone else in the neighborhood, will most assuredly not be making a purchase today.
Alva spends the next two hours carefully arranging her storefront in front of her building. The inventory makes no sense in complete. A Richard Simmons workout tape sits beside a set of glazed ceramic salt and pepper shakers resting in a large, inconvenient caddy. A copy of Advanced Pascal leans against a flannel hospital blanket. This stoop sale, like all of Alva's stoop sales, represents not her own effects but, rather, a sort of misfired greatest hits collection of purchases from other neighborhood stoop sales. It's a record of peer-to-peer commerce, a perfectly preserved museum that is unlikely to be touched, or even seriously gazed at today. And, in three hours, it will go back into Alva's apartment and await the next temperate Saturday.
Alva catches some sun on her face, rubs the sand from her eyes, and places the sand on her stoop sale display table with a small sticker next to it that reads "price negot."
The Cat Lady Sends her Love
I hope you're not allergic to altruistic behavior, because The Cat Lady is lousy with the stuff. The Cat Lady calls herself The Cat Lady - there it is, right on her business card, directly beneath the clip art cat illustration - but her diabetic lover calls her "Barbara" when he rolls off her once a month. Say hello to The Cat Lady as you pass Slope Pets. She's the one parked outside, on a lawn chair she removes from the back of her ancient station wagon each Saturday morning, when the weather is right for such things. Her hair is a series of rough splits and fractures, like hemp thread carelessly bunched into a long pair of braids, and never touched again. She's even more approachable with her new sweatshirt and new dye job - from silver-marbled hippie tones to a very youthful jet-black overnight.
Her apartment itself is a testament to her love of felines. The dącor, largely neglected since the introduction of her adopted friends, is best described as "Post-Cat Pee." The Cat Lady is tiny but handles between 30 and 35 cats at once, reserving a special room in her vast apartment for carriers of feline leukemia. It's the number one killer of cats, and who would know this better than The Cat Lady? Who indeed!
"She likes to bite!" the Cat Lady will say, just moments before you fall in love with one of the crated beasts stacked up around her lawn chair like guests in a Japanese business hotel. You'll withdraw your soft fingers quickly and back away slowly before moving on and away from your fleeting big-hearted notion. You'll talk about that cat for two more blocks, and then have afternoon sex in your apartment. The Cat Lady will be right where you found her. "That one never liked Mexicans! I never knew why."