Boiling Brains Over Easy

The heat seems to bring out the darkest of thoughts. The world seems to be painted in a haze of heat. Everything is coated in a constant layer of sweat, clothes sticking to skin and boiling up a steam of consciousness that is both violent, depressed and oddly reflective on reality.

It is a modern habit to check one’s Facebook page on a regular basis. On the news feed, if you have friends like mine, I get a great deal of verbal activism reflecting on such world dilemmas as: fracking, mountain destruction for mining, food supply tainting by the likes of Monsanto, union busting in Latin America, the inequity of wealth, the crimes of the banking industry, the rampant repression of workers rights by large mega store corporations, the decline of education, and on top of everything, the readiness for invasion of a foreign nation at any given moment. This list is way too incomplete and could become quite weighty. And did I mention that it is hot?

What I do not hear said in response to all of this endless listing of the state of affairs we find our planet in, is the rampant and out control apathy that accompanies all of this. When I observe the world around me, especially during these sweltering days of summer, I cannot but get despondent on the fact that the people around me could give a shit.

Last night, my wife and I attended a release party for the new, Brooklyn Magazine which is a division of L Magazine. Given that the two of us are deeply involved in things happening in our favorite borough, we made the trek to Prospect Zoo for the event. What I found was a poorly put together ceremony. The food was trite, and there were hardly any drink sponsors save vodka lemonade, or beer, as well probably the worst Vitamin Water flavor ever (coconut and pineapple.) Where were the sponsors. We had more alliances at our Brooklyn Free School fundraiser. The magazine looks like the poor cousin of many of the city magazines you may find around the USA. On the cover is the very attractive wife of the actor Jeffery Wright. In several spreads she sports some fashionable clothing. The rest of the publication seems to feature restaurants and cool neighborhoods. To me and the Brooklyn that I know, all of this is just on the outer edge of the surface. In other words, vacuous.

My Brooklyn is vibrant and full of complicated layers. At one time, and I believe still, the borough boasted the highest concentration of artists anywhere in the world. There are now CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) and local farms everywhere in Brooklyn, and the most interesting thing about these urban farms is that they are the single most transforming ingredient in many low income neighborhoods. East New York farms is one example to keep an eye on. There are food coops opening all over Brooklyn with the assistance of the 30 year old Park Slope Food Coop. Yes we have celebrities, and great restaurants too, but is that it? Are we on a bullet train to skyrocketing real estate values making it impossible for those who helped transform Brooklyn, to live here anymore? Is Brooklyn Magazine going to reflect all this positive activity, or will it be doomed to stay focused on the superficial.

When I was a boy, I had a recurring dream. In the dream a great storm was looming on my Queens neighborhood. The rising blackness was threatening to consume everything. I would run down the street trying to tell my friends and neighbors that we must take cover. And each and every one of them (save one friend) would act as if I were crazy. That nothing of the sort was happening. Only I could see the danger. I fear my dream has come true. Probably always has been.

The other afternoon I stood at a Park Slope bus stop near to the start of 5th Avenue. I have known this neighborhood for a long time. I have watched it’s slow and steady development over the past 30 years. Sections that would have been considered dangerous to stroll in, now sport cafes and high end restaurants, clothing stores, bike stores and many other signs of gentrification. And looming at the end of 5th Avenue is the growing creature known as the Barclay Center. A structure so out of place, it is shocking to see it there. Kind of like Gamera, the fire breathing Japanese turtle monster who battles Godzilla.

The Barclay Center is the future home of the Jersey Nets. The project has had problems from the beginning. (for more info on the impact of this project can be found at the blog Brooklyn Speaks) The major concern of the community is the blight it was about to bring to Brooklyn. Where neighborhoods have been going through steady improvements over the past few decades, Bruce Ratner’s plan is trying to make an instantaneous change to the area, which he is doing. The traffic is a disaster. And all of this was known right from the start. Studies have shown that stadiums of all kinds have never done ANYTHING for the communities around them. (see Jim Bouton’s comments, former NY Yankees pitcher) On the contrary, they tend to invite poverty and indigent characters. Stadiums are not patronized by the people who live near the stadium. Folks tend to drive in, watch the game, and then leave. Everywhere I have seen a stadium, whether here or abroad, the areas around them are always impoverished. This includes Madison Square Garden, which if you should visit at the wee hours of the morning, you will find a city of homeless people living on the streets around the arena. This with a sprinkle of drunken white people left over from the previous night’s event peeing and puking on the streets. The Brooklyn Cyclones stadium has yet to deliver the economic investment it promised.

And yet with everything we know about Ratner, his history of saddling costs upon the taxpayers in the millions, the failure of many of his projects, the outcry from the communities it is impacting—the project got green lit anyhow. And now that it is in progress, it has come to light that it will not take the promised 10 years to complete, but 25 years for a complete build out. In addition, the housing for low and middle income is slowly sliding off the table. Forest City Ratner never had any intention of keeping their promises. They got Jay Z, Al Sharpton, Marty Markowitz and a host of other public figures signed onto this crappy venture with its’ empty promises, only to see Brooklyn screwed in the ass. And people stand in the shadow of this monstrosity as if it is a beautiful thing.

Hopefully the heat will break today. The only thing that makes sense to me is looking inward. The rest of the world moves about like there is nothing happening. It is just a bad reality show. Maybe we can just change the channel. My Facebook newsfeed screams HELP from every corner of the globe. And yet, like lemmings, most of America marches mindlessly over the cliff. At this point I have no interest in stopping them.

There was another image from childhood that I will share which reflects something more positive. I had this fantasy that there existed locations where there was a portal in the sky. Looking through this hole you would see another world. Something a bit more futuristic. On the other side of this portal life seems more peaceful. Functional. this idea was written about in the book The Hidden Knife by Phillip Pullman.

I once witnessed such an event while sitting on my parents porch during a heat wave just like we are going through. I love to watch storms advancing, especially if there is a promised break in the heat. On this particular day, I sat alone, on our patio. The street was abandoned. Everyone had retreated indoors to their air conditioning. I saw the sky darken, and went out to await. As I watched, the clouds opened up over the street, revealing a golden cloud tunnel. Inside this tunnel, streaks of lightening would flash from different points in the clouds. It was quite surreal, quite beautiful. I never saw anything like it again. It was magical. And it seemed like I was the only one out on the street that day to witness it.

Anyhow, I am in search of that portal. As I finish this, thunder has crashed through the sky, rain has poured down and the veil of heat seems to be lifting.

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