Cortelyou Road. I wait for the train. A pleasant cloud of oriental scent rises above the train station from the cafe Tibet. Oriental & Middle Eastern theme is strongly present, its around the corner. Long black skirts, black pumps, black hassidic hats are intertwined with black burqas and blended by colorful hijabs embroidered with stones and Salwar Kameez, beautiful dresses and airy pants worn by vibrant muslim women. Ditmas Park/Kensington – is your ultimate Middle Eastern experience/express, a place of yeshivas and muslim centers/small mosques – where jews and muslims live peacefully side by side. One dollar chai from a friendly Pakistani woman on newkwirk avenue tastes like Istanbul. Biryani, the art of chicken and rice enveloped in bouquet of spice on Coney Island avenue. Uzbek food, Georgian and oriental baked delights on Ditmas avenue. Bar Chord on Cortelyou. Coffee mob on newkrirk, Quathra coffeeshop, a southern taste at Brooklyn Belly – everything is diverse, friendly and vibrant and upbeat.
I’m in love with this secluded part of Brooklyn so much, mellow and tranquil and peaceful, young and old, raw and authentic, radiant with its cultural diversity, untouched by the evil grip of gentrification spreading like roaches and rats all over the city.
This is my ultimate zone of alternativeness, my Zef zone, chilaxesness and cheap rent and peace of mind, discarding a railroad room on the border of Bushwick and Wiliamsburg for just $900 with three other roommates. Instead, i settled for a cheap decent size zen attic room in an Uzbek jew household between Ditmas and Cortelyou with no roommates on the top floor. How luxurious I thought, no roommates, no roommates, no roommates. I decided to tolerate minor discomfort, like a twin size bed, old dressers, old stove, old everything and find poetry in crooked floors and thin roof with heavy overfed squirrels pounding hard above me. Across from my room is a small guest room with two king size beds, reserved for a many family members. For 3 months I used to sneak in, bring my sheets and crash there soundly like a restless traveler, until i got busted.
“Sasha, I specifically told you that I’m only rrrenting you one room. Oy vey, just vawn room and allowing you to use kitchen and bathroom. Oy vey, just vaun room. I trusted you and what did you do, oy vey? You occupied, the entire floor, oy vey. Vai? How could ya? Dats it, I’m putting a lock.” My landlord exasperated.
But even that didn’t stop me from liking the place, even though my landlord started to come up more often with regular weekly check- ins to see if the floor was intact.
“Oy vey, Sasha, your shoes are too sexy, hide ’em somewhere. Oy vey, Sasha, what’s that hanging in the bathrooms, hide em (G-strings) immediately, oy vey, oy vey. Sash sash, are you jewish at all? You need to get married asap, a good husband is what you need.”
Summer ended, fall dissolved into early first winter. I still like the place but it’s getting more difficult to tolerate cold attic with heat turning on only once per weak I rely on oil heater and many sweaters and a hoody which i wear even in bed. I’m afraid, the nomad will have to find a new place and move out again before a 90-year old roof will act up and I’ll have raccoons and squirrels in my bed.
Of course, this is not what I was imagining or expecting my life to be like. 10 years ago I thought that at this point in my life I’d find myself in a luxurious modern household in a la-la land, cooking a dainty dinner for my amorphous imaginary good looking, well-off successful husband in a European lingerie and serving my booty for desert. Of course, i wouldn’t be just a glamorous hot housewife but I’d be working in PWC (pricewaterhousecooper) or some other big deal Co and driving Porche… I’m trying to go back in time and recall those things I dreamed about. And I really can’t because they didn’t stick in my head for a long time, like dust blown away by strong winds, they were gone by the time I got to NYC, by the time I completed my one year master’s in law program. I can still feel how my Old Me, dismayed by my New Me is beating the new me. My Old Me keeps beating and judging and criticizing and scrutinizing every reckless decision i made.
“Look where you drove both of us! Look how deep you fell. Oh how’s your impasse doing? You’re sure thing enjoying your abyss?” The Old Me exasperates.
“Shut your holes”, the New Me says. Blame it all on Erich Fromm, on philosophy books I’ve read on how a man escapes himself and divorces from freedom… And that american man I met on the airplane during my summer break in Turkey a long time ago. “Is law really your thing?” a stranger inquired, sitting next to my dad and me. “Or you are studying it because that’s what your father, your parents want?” he inquired as I looked at carefree clouds hovering above the airplane flying high towards Mediterranean sea and all inclusive resort located in sunny Tekirova, near Antalya. Summer Time and the living is Easy…
“You are too open with strangers” My dad tells me later when we get off the plane. “Oh why I just practice my English…” I never saw the stranger again. He was a forty-somethig American man, promoting his book in Turkey, a book on transcendental, life-changing experiences. I didn’t take note of his words, I wrapped em in a candy cover, dropped em somewhere in my bag and I could never really let go of ’em.