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Summertime Rolls

Stormy Tuesday

July 27, 2003

The air is scoopable in New York City today. Thick, medium-charcoal skies drop to ground level and lend the quality of something shoveled like ice cream and flung in the direction fellow humidity-sufferers. Thunder rolls, shakes, and booms; daring indifference. Relief comes sporadically and graciously in the form of hard, fat rain. Confident young women without offices to return to allow white cotton tanks to soak. Weather like this lends to prolonged, unapologetic stares. It places itself from back to foreground, becoming the deal rather than setting.

I’ve taken my internal, one-man show to an upscale venue – New York Public Library’s third floor Reading Room. Today it is the Lightning Observatory, and though free would be worth pricey admission. The view out massive arched windows is of skyscraped upper floors, bathed in charged blue. Inside, the respectable unemployed gathers. I feel better unpacking my laptop here, among a well-bred crowd doing the same. There’s a section of tables set up for just this, complete with electrical outlets and high-speed connections. Computers abound, in number and variety bettering a Circuit City retail display. The wealth of machines invites comparison- is mine too big? Should I have one of those deals that guy’s got sticking out the back of his?

BOOM. FLASH.. FLASH. FLASH.

On the F returning to Brooklyn, I notice them for the second time this month – a small, wheelchair-bound man with some form of growth disorder and his young companion in a Yankees cap, pushing. They make their way through the individual cars, from person to person. The man shakes a plain tin can deliberately, his only pitch for charity. He seems attempting a Salsa vibe, but all I can hear is the theme to Green Acres. I get out at Carroll, wondering if Eddie Albert is still alive or bullshitting with Buddy Ebson above the weather.

I stop at a local pizza outlet for a slice. It isn’t the best in the city, but very decent none the less. Pies out in this part of the country seem to fall into two categories: “Exceptional” and “Better than California.” A summit is in order, with both states exchanging respective pizza and burrito insight. There is similar decor in many of the lower-rung pizza joints out here, and cheap, framed stills from The Godfather and The Sopranos are mandatory. I’ve eaten a lot of pizza staring at Pacino and Paulie Walnuts- appropriate company, and the price is right.

Were it not for practical concerns, getting out of the house would suffice. There is enough stimulating eye and brain to make for respectably worthwhile days and nights. And with all that is already available in this town, it is in desperate need of an observer and reporter of detail. So many of these folks seem oblivious as they ride the trains, pound the streets, and work their lives, in tired pursuit of.. what? Well, probably pizza money, for one.

But these early weeks are invaluable, if transitory, like the swish and air of wine in mouth and breath before swallow. My friend Mark, a Brooklyn resident and filmmaker, made the comment about returning home at four a.m. after a late shoot and observing a few older locals still in front of their homes, defying the dead of night. It’s all very human. New York, more than anywhere, forces this sometimes distressing reality- we’re all in this together. And once beyond the initial discomfort, instinctive need for personal space and elbowroom, there can be something strangely reassuring about this. Of course this could change rapidly with circumstance, but epiphany doesn’t lend itself to holding on.

As my other friend Paul commented during a recent visit, quoting Robert Duvall’s poignantly reflective line from Apocalypse Now: “Some day this war’s gonna end.”

2003 Rick Monaco All Rights

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