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This Is A Song I Learned At Camp.. – Petty (Live at the Fillmore)

October 19, 2003

Cafe-sitting with coffee and pen, I’m subjected to the relentless soft lip smacking of new love as practiced by the young couple next to me. Their gentle affection strikes as both violent and grating, put on display in this public setting. I’d rather someone take a jackhammer to the floor while I try to write. Coochie-coo whispers and forehead kisses pound like Ali jabs as I feel myself tense and flinch.

Please God, let them take it outside.

So this is the Fall Cafe. The famous early-summer Fall Cafe, as winter approaches. Some days it feels I’ve written all I can about Brooklyn. My parents are arriving for a visit tonight, the first I’ve seen them in four months. I’m looking forward to it but also recognize they’ll be seeing my world as is; no props, mirrors or written words to disguise.

Brooklyn isn’t a bad place to be a newcomer. But not many places feel completely right when shared with only yourself. This would be my advice to those looking to start over, anew, or something different. Make old friends fast, add a few quality new ones, and do it all with somebody by your side. If you follow these simple rules you’ll save yourself a lot of grief. But please abstain from the public coochie-coo shit, if only for my sake.

***

The Staten Island Ferry crashed this week and ten people died. It was a blustery day and there was speculation that high winds pushed the boat off track. But other early reports suggested the captain had dozed off, and this seemed substantiated by his subsequent actions. He rushed home and attempted to kill himself with a pellet gun. It didn’t work. This supports what I’ve always felt: either keep high-caliber weapons around the house or none at all.

Of course it isn’t funny. None of it is. One witness described the severed limbs and crushed bodies of those nearest impact. Hasn’t this town seen enough of that? It’s a sad numbers game now. Ten in light of thousands seems tolerable, as awful as this was. Bloomberg, a fractional Giuliani, left mid-Yankees game to tend to the incident. And the Yankees? Like New York, they keep winning. And also like the city, they won’t settle for anything short of the whole show.

***

So I move it to the bench outside to finish up, away from the smooching. Some of these pieces are pulled together a bit faster than others, scribbled on binder paper in real-time and reworded on laptop. It’s bright and cloudy out and I remove and replace wool cap as the sun makes up its mind. Carroll Gardens folks pass, many the same from June and July but with adjusted wardrobe. There are couples in matching autumn coats, an old guy with cordless drill and raised-brim painter’s cap, and a few neighborhood mutts sniffing for traces of summer. Then a dad with two singing, umbrella-toting girls decked in pink. They are filled with every ounce of life owed a seven-year-old.

“.. you make me happy when skies are gray,
you’ll never know dear, how much I love you..”

I don’t think I ever really listened to the song until Tom Petty slowed it down at a Fillmore show some years back. I hope these two keep it up-tempo and unexamined forever.

***

But it’s oh so beautiful, really. I offer big smiles to the passing strangers and most reciprocate with instant joy, like powdered cocoa meeting boiling water. I’ve never felt a better fleeting fit, whether it lasts one more day or forever. And I’ve never seen a general populous respond quicker to my brand of edged yucks, when I pull it together enough to dish them out. Tonight the folks arrive, so I’ll probably catch a late train up to their hotel on 53rd to say hello. Who knows, might even find a distraction or two up there.

2003 Rick Monaco All Rights

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