Thursday, June 14, 2007

taste, memory

It's hot out tonight in a sticky, East-coast kind of way, and I miss New York. Tonight while I walked the dog, I pretended I was in Poughkeepsie. It isn't hard. The streets of my neighborhood are alive in the same way the streets of Po-town are alive. The only stores open are places you don't really want to go in, places that hold weird hours. Dudes sit on the street corners and call out to you in a friendly sort of way. You overhear all sorts of sounds--music from the cars or houses, kids you feel like might have better places to be. There are too many liquor stores. There aren't enough places to get fresh produce. Where I am is mostly Mexican, and in Poughkeepsie the dominant culture is an uneasy blend of Italian and West Indian (mostly Jamaican) in the city, and white folks in the town. At the farm market across form Vassar I'd sell tomatoes to old Italian mamas and to the lady who ran the Vietnamese restaurant, and to young families with food stamps, my teachers, my friends.

But if I were in Poughkeepsie right now I'd find a way to get across my favorite bridge

and steal my favorite adventure buddy

away from her job as farmer this farm.

We'd take the train down to the city, and does it ever need another name or an introduction, that city? Then we'd be in my favorite place, Grand Central, and we'd run downstairs and hop one of the express trains downtown to Union Square where we'd wander the Greenmarket and I'd probably still be able to get some of my favorite apples from someone's cold cellar. I'd buy nuts from one of the street vendors. We'd go to Dean and Deluca's (again), because it's my New York ritual and I have to. I mean (of course) the one on Price Street, so that afterward we could go to HousingWorks bookstore and Kate's Paperie, and of course we would not have wandered to Dean and Deluca's without stopping at my other New York ritual, The Strand where with any luck I could finally buy myself a used copy of Claudia Fleming's cookbook and if my Hamptons-house-having friends could host actually eat some Claudia Fleming dessert. Right now. But in New York I'd cut across the Village to the Haagen Daaz by Carmine street and begin wandering the West Village looking for McNulty's. I'd go to Brooklyn. Walk through Prospect Park with my friends. Eat at Sea, and go to the bar with the really good burlesque, and order a pint of Yuengling and then a pint of Lager and drink them slowly. I'd actually visit the Doughnut Plant. I'd go to Fabiane's for some chocolate mousse. I'd remember how the streets smell and how they feel. How it feels to go rushing around like there's always someplace better you have to be, how it feels to put on that stone mask a simple act like getting to work requires, how it feels to be on the train clacketying through the center platform, on your way somewhere, now. How it feels to want so badly to be on your way somewhere. How it feels to be stuck.

I would ride the yellow trains all the way out to Coney Island and stand in that sand ditch, right at the point where the people are hidden and when you look straight ahead all you can see is sand and then ocean. The East Coast.

Maybe it's okay if someone else is doing these things right now. If some other girl is buying roasted nuts on her way home from work. If someone is having a pint with his buddy at Enid's or that black and red bar down by the L train. Some other cute baker is eating at North Fork tonight, or at Sea, or is just walking around listening to the crazy rush of New York and daydreaming of how the fog looks when it hangs low over the Golden Gate Bridge and it feels so good to be in the bright blue air and walking down Marina Blvd after a day of making cupcakes.

I've been doing lots of fiction-writing and it makes me introspective. But maybe it's just the heat, the way tonight feels like a thousand nights spent on the other side of the country.

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