Sunday, December 17, 2006
A Tale of Two Brooklyns
Maybe it was the shirt after all.
I had a date last night with a woman I met online. We had exchanged IM's and a few phone calls and I felt really good about meeting her.
I didn't want to get too excited, I didn't want to get all worked up about some I had yet to meet in person, but this woman came off as attractive, intelligent and funny during out chats, so I confess I was a little psyched to meet her.
I got dressed, trying to look good without showing that I was trying. I picked a gray striped shirt I hadn't worn in a while and strutted out of the bathroom to get a second opinion.
Over the years, I've done this with my mom or dad, but my mother's been gone almost five years now and my dad is suffering from Alzheimer's, so I went to Edith, his Jamaican home care aide, who was sitting in the kitchen reading a newspaper.
"So, Edith," I said, "I've got a date tonight. What do you think?"
Of course, I wasn't really looking for an honest opinion; I was just fishing for compliments. But I forgot to tell this to Edith.
"I don't like the shirt," she said, making a face.
Due to her accent, I had a little trouble understanding what exactly Edith's complaint was, but I didn't feel like changing shirts. And since she takes so great care of my father, I wasn't going to pout because she didn't care for my wardrobe.
I hopped an R train down to Pacific Street walked around Fort Greene to meet my date. I still can't believe how the area has changed, with wine bars, and chic restaurants, and white yuppies. I can remember when it was a crime-ridden cesspool, and now here I was going out for a night on the town.
"A wine bar?" My brother Jim in California said later when I told him. "It used to be just winos down there."
It's the same old story: first the neighborhood was so dangerous you were scared off by the crime and now it's so expensive you're scared off by the rents.
I stopped off at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, one of my favorite spots in the borough, to see if anything interesting was going on. As I walked around the lobby I saw what I'm sure was the start of a blind date when a man approached a young woman.
"Excuse me," he said. "Are you Lisa?"
"Yes," the woman said.
The man smiled and tugged on the woman's green scarf.
"I thought you said the scarf was gray."
They laughed and left the building, already getting along famously. I could only hope my date would go half as well.
Dina--not her real name--showed almost on time and upon standing up to greet her, I realized she was a good head taller than I. We never exchanged vital statistics, but I'd swear my profile contains those numbers, so she should have known she'd be towering over me. No matter, I thought, let's go forth with the date.
So we started talking. And, once again, I found that while we got along famously in cyberspace, as soon as Dina and I met in the real world, the conversation went south. It wasn't a bad evening, but there was no connection whatsoever.
As I like to say in these situations, I've seen better chemistry at high school science fairs.
I dont' get it. Am I getting something wrong here? Am I giving up too quickly? I don't think so. I'm famous for sticking in there long for the last out long after the bleachers have emptied. There's nothing quite like sitting there looking at each other, both of you knowing that it ain't happening between you and it ain't gonna happen no way, no how.
I swear at this point I think I'd prefer even a bad date--with screaming, cursing, kicks to the gentials, mace and gunfire. At least there would be some kind of passion, as opposed to these pointless meetings that have all the thrill of a getting a chest X-ray.
Dina wanted to help pay for the wine and cheese we had consumed but I said it would be my pleasure to pick up the tab. This was a lie, naturally, and I was waiting for her to insist, but she fooled me and just said "thank you." Damn it, when will I learn?
Forward Into the Past
We went our sepatate ways outside the wine bar, so long, it's been good to know you. The farewell was uncomfortable as Dina said she was heading in one direction to the subway, but when I crossed Lafayette Street I saw she was walking next to me.
"We're going the same way," she said awkwardly.
No, Dina, we're really miles apart.
The academy was showing Babel, a movie I've been wanting to see for a while. I almost gave into temptation and gone into the theater, something I've doing for years to escape reality.
But the film is so long and I didn't think sitting alone in the dark for nearly three hours would be good for me. My sister had told me that a bunch of guys from my old neighborhood were holding their annual Christmas party at a bar in Bay Ridge, so I figured, why not?
I hadn't hung out with these guys much when I was growing up, but it was the holidays and I wanted to be with real people for a little while.
So I left yuppie Brooklyn, with the wine bars, indie films, and painfully hip saloons, and went back to old school Brooklyn, to a neighborhood bar--as in "bah"--and met up with my sister.
I hate to use the expression "blast from the past" but this was pretty close. I saw people I had not seen in ages. It felt good, but it was like going through a time warp. If I had been hanging with these guys for all these, they wouldn't look that different to me.
But with the gap in time, it felt like I had gone through some black hole in the Sixties and popped out in the 21st Century. I was a time traveler. The men, who used to ride bikes and play stickball, now had guts and baldspots. Bobby who was part of the band, had a head full of glowing white hair, like some kind of alien leader.
There was one guy, we used to call him Bon-Bon because his last name began with "Bon", whom I had not seen in something like 35 years.
He was bald (like me), but he kept the hair on the sides, whereas I had gone for the Yul Brenner cut. With his glasses and pencil thin moustache, he looked exactly like Mr. Fink, our old neighborhood pharmacist.
He didn't seem to recognize me and that was fine; it wasn't like he was a dear friend in the old days. I remember Bon-Bon used to curse a lot when we were kids and just as that thought formed in my head, one of my sister's friends told us how her mom always hated Bon-Bon because--yep--of his foul mouth.
I remember a dirty limmerick Bon-Bon used to recite:
I once saw a bird with a yellow bill,
Sitting on my window sill,
I let him in with crumbs of bread,
And then I broke his fucking head.
Back in the day, that was cutting edge, but I didn't bother getting Bon-Bon's phone number on the way out. I came home and found Edith in the kitchen reading her Bible. I told her that she might have been right about the shirt, since the date didn't work out so well. She laughed and nodded.
"There are other fishes in the sea," she said.
Not to mention other birds on the window sill.