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Real-Time Appreciation

Seasoned Veteran

August 25, 2003

“Yeah, it’s like that man,” my philosophical friend Kelly from the Fall explains. Summer rolls along and you think you’ve made it out but then you get a few days at the end of August that just go ‘fuck you, take this’ and kick the livin’ shit out of you.”

My days in New York have reached triple digits.

I’ve talked, walked, written, run, sweat, thought and listened. My mind’s opened like a plastic bag in the wind, and shut again as I’ve obsessively punched “send/receive” on my email program.

I’ve been to Coney and rode the ferry to Staten, seen Letterman, jogged the Promenade, sucked back Italian ices and hundreds of ice coffees, downed Stellas and tall Coors Lights. I’ve let my towels hang in two different sublets, seen Queens, Harlem, the Bronx, Williamsburg and Greenpoint, and managed not to get my ass kicked in any. I’ve sampled more slices than Jamie Lee Curtis, more thunder and rain than James Taylor, and more Mets highlights than any Giants fan should.

On the F back from falafel and a surf flick in the Village, it occurs to me. I’ve spent my summer riding the trains. I tell Kelly this and he assumes a slight, knowing grin and peers over the top of his clip-on shades. He gives me the thumbs-up.

It has been a brilliant, unconscious move. I had no definite plans arriving in Brooklyn, but no travel agent or job counselor could have pointed me in a better direction. Sometimes you see a favorite performer in concert and have an incomplete feeling. The music’s there, he’s there, you’re there, and yet it doesn’t add up. This has not been my experience. I rode face to face with summer, watched it spit, laugh, jam and crack. I saw its look, heard its voice, and took in its range from grace to brutality. I nailed this season.

A Living

I save the article from today’s “Metro” section – a human-interest piece on “Shoot the Freak,” a Coney Island attraction worth mention. I visited last month with my friend Paul and we were both drawn to the strange display. As the Times piece points out:

The Freak, as signs and the barker say, is a live human target. Up to six customers at a time can stand on the Boardwalk, a few yards from Stillwell Avenue, and aim their rifles down an alley filled with trash and concrete bits. There one finds the Freak. Customers are firing paint pellets, and as they hit the Freak, there’s a short snapping sound and a small spray of mist.

The Freak, as it turns out, is the brainchild of Anthony Berlingieri of Bensonhurst. Go figure. He has given me new reason to revise my resume. The brilliance in his idea lies securely in its name. “Shoot the” – anything else would pale. Berlingieri, who I’m guessing goes by “Tony,” has hit the ball out of the park with this one. It brings so much of Brooklyn to a point: Coney Island, Bensonhurst, and focussed, unapologetic aggression. Emotions swell upon further consideration.

Summer is wrapping, kicking its feet in the process. Soon fall will be here, and I’ve long ago idealized it. I thought if I could make it through summer, I’d be OK. Still, my questions are many and varied as I face the change of season. Leaves will yellow, brown, and eventually drop. Cool, welcome breeze will bring the hint of winter’s formidable chill, and the Freak will hang up his gear for another year. Already I’ve become nostalgic about the summer of 2003.

Sunday night and I head out toward the old neighborhood – the one that was gentrified slightly after the current. In between is authentic Brooklyn in warm brick tones, brown and red. A casket-making operation sits in the middle of these badlands, a few blocks from the Gowanus and in between Carroll Gardens and The Slope. It is the next step down the food chain, providing necessary product for its more affluent bookends and their old school funeral parlors. I grab a beer doing some market research, deciding ultimately that this establishment is another where I’d rather drink than work. Then back on the F and out at 7th Avenue, where five bucks buys a large calzone and chef’s reflection on Sammy the Bull. Another day just ends.

2003 Rick Monaco All Rights

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