5th Avenue & 25th Street (Brooklyn)

16 Feb

I’m not one to think about death too often. Are you surprised? Call it a product of my environment — I don’t exactly live a life out on the front lines. I’m more of a burrower myself. Although I’ve always thought that I would make a fine man for reconnaissance. Because I’m pretty good at hiding, and I can run away real fast. I’m speaking literally here: just try and catch me. Metaphorically it’s not like that at all. Metaphorically you can run, and you should run, a shit load, but you can’t run away from anything. It’s just no fun. Try running towards some stuff instead. Same goes for hiding. You got a tree of troubles? Don’t go get lost in there — you got to turn around and nip it in the bud. Just nip it in the bud old friends! Only healthy shit grows. You can pretty much ignore the rest of it.

Alright, alright, it grows and then it dies, and so it’s left for someone else to think about it; someone who’s living. I find that I’m someone who’s living. I actually find that all the time. And so I think about it — I think of all the things amongst us that have died. I mean the cultural, the physical, the remnants of these other worlds now gone that have some echo, still, within our own. You see some 19th century mausoleum built in the style of a Roman shrine whose deity fell out of human mind’s two thousand years ago. Or shit, you just watch Zeffirelli’s “Romeo and Juliet.” These feelings are all around us.

On 5th Avenue and 25th Street, in Brooklyn, you’ll find the entry gates to Green-Wood Cemetery. It’s an arresting spot, especially if you happen to go by it in that purple, snow-lit hour before total dark. It’s great how snow can pad the air itself and color what we otherwise would think of as an empty space. It changes the acoustics of perception. You know what I’m saying, all you winter haters? Where else you gonna find something like that? But yes, I will admit, it does make things pretty slippery. I was skidding and sliding all over the place! And sure, I certainly was drunk as well; that didn’t help things any. But really, how could you not be?

These gates were built in 1861 in a Gothic Revival style, although the cemetery itself has been around since 1838. A colony of monk parakeets live in the center spire. The story goes that they escaped from Idlewild Airport in the 1960s, sometime before it changed its name to JFK. Green-Wood Cemetery was very popular as a walking park and picnic spot all through the 1850s, and it was influential as a model and an inspiration for the creation of Central Park, around the time when people decided that they didn’t want to hang out in graveyards anymore. Eating lunch amongst the tombstones — surely there’s some significance in that. Though I suppose in a certain sense we’re still doing that exact same thing today.

The other evening I was waiting for the subway and from somewhere down the platform I could hear a lone trumpeter playing the theme from “The Godfather.” And it was like that all over again. I wasn’t sure just where my own life started, new, separate from everything I have inherited. I didn’t want to know. I felt just then I was in love the way they must have been back in the early 60s: Dylan hopping on the A train with his guitar case in his hand. One other time I took a train alone to the ruins of an ancient Greek colony in Italy, and when I got out at the station I was the only person there — walking down the long dirt path, with those giant gates laid out in front of me. It was the morning and the summer and I felt just like the Greeks must have when they decided to invent the world. There was something there inside me. It was me, and it was something else, and it was something else entirely. And yeah, I thought, all right my friend, I think I’ll call you Zeus.  We’re gonna do this thing together.

(Originally posted Jan. 23rd, 2009 on Takethehandle.com)


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