Sunday, July 6, 2014

Gentrification and Grilled Cheese

I saunter up north along Franklin Avenue to meet the boys at Doris, a relatively new bar, according to hip Brooklyn standards, snug between laundromats and bodegas along Fulton. Walk slow, bask in that ephemeral late afternoon lazy sun. A wide, airy, and tranquil open patio space stretches out across the back; here, they are drinking beers, celebrating a new job. He has never held a steady full-time gig before, the cyclic nine-to-five rhythm, cultural circadian paces; a final toast to freelance freedom. Mismatched picnic tables and white chairs in an askew arc, each emblazoned with a printed page, requesting that patrons keep voices low and conversations quiet and merriment calm, so as to avoid any complaints from neighbors, who want the establishment gone. Inside, we chat with the server, his hair long and knotted in a high bun; he describes in sage detail the process of building the brass bar, long sheets measured and cut and meticulously shaved down to create a sharp, pristine seam. Glass and brass lighting fixtures resembling lantern-prisms, also assuredly handmade, an amalgamation of passion and precision. Donald Fagen croons in the back, emanating vibes from vinyl. The server selects the next record between pouring beer and shaking margaritas. Only cash is accepted. With a clang, with a cling, a drawer swings forward, crumpled bills splayed, splattered with bits of dryingbooze.

Please be quiet, keep voices low; respect the neighbors. This bar is an omen, for some, portending things to come; for others, an oasis. 

After sipping some cocktails, gulping beers, we feast on grilled cheese sandwiches; fontina with truffle oil, braised kale and fennel, chicken chorizo, classic cheddar. Bread perfectly crusted with a healthy dose of butter. I am thankful for my loose black dress, resolve myself to stopping and being comfortably sated, take more bites and become uncomfortable. I could burst, but the night air is a soft, cool tongue, lapping and lapping sweetly, so we drink more, slowly, unwilling to move.

Near midnight, I glide home, coast along astride his ludicrously minute children's bicycle, legs upright and pointed in loose angles to avoid scraping along the pavement. It has been years since I have sat on a bicycle, even more years since that bicycle has been near-minute, one of those where to back-pedal is to brake. We pass a group of old men, waiting idly, perhaps for a local bus, perhaps not. 

"Just let go, girl, let go, you're really flying," they laugh and shout as I pass.

We walk to the farmer's market, along a side street, and stumble upon a pick-up game of stickball, the players a group of old Italian men, a gaggle of small boys, these teams obviously playing this game on this street for decades. Meeting up on the sidewalk, dividing into two teams, just like they did when they were seven years old, limbs gangly, knees scraped, eyes fresh and skin taut. We stand to one side for a moment, watch a few pitches. One old man strikes out, swinging the long, thin wooden bat into the air at each pitched ball with abandon. The next makes contact, the rubber ball flies out into the paved street field, he begins to slowly run the bases.

(image taken from Ephemeral New York)   

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