We drove in from Westchester--as far spiritually as you can get from this particular Brooklyn neighborhood, through Gatsby's "Valley of Ashes," where drunken Daisy Buchanan hit and killed Myrtle Wilson and saw no consequences. We drove through miles and miles of small industry and industrial sludge and broken down warehouses and abandoned factories. We smelled the Newtown Creek and saw the waste treatment center that is trying with all its might to undo centuries of pollution that pours into the once near-dead East River, and finally, we made it to Greenpoint, Greenpernt, which is more alive than dead with the infusion of inked and bearded hipsters who are breathing caffeine into the still-rickety area.
We arrived at an old factory that was filled with acres and acres of stone slabs for kitchens of the wealthy and the skyscrapers that are rising like goose bumps all over Manhattan and parts of the outer boroughs. We found a slab of granite we liked. It was quarried in Brazil and cut in Italy, where they know about these things.
My mother's father, whom I never met, cut gravestones when he wasn't being drunk, dissolute and womanizing. The stones brought something out in me. My fingers itched for a chisel. I wanted to get my hands dirty.
One of the slabs looked like a close-up of something by Gustave Klimt. I tried to persuade my wife that it would look great as art, anchored to a wall in our apartment but my pleading fell on deaf uxorial ears.
On the river-side of the factory, some workmen were building a deck for a restaurant/bar that will be opening by summer's time. A restaurant on the river. In my youth that would have been unthinkable. The river was ugly, viscous, with floating flotsam and bubbling gases and the occasional floater--a dead body sunk in winter and raised in summer when the oxygen levels in the river would rise.
This is the first time I've ever stopped in Greenpernt. I've run through it, down Manhattan Avenue, in a number of New York Marathons, but it's always been, rightly or wrongly, a place to leave as soon as possible. Which we did, driving over the Pulaski and finding our back-roads way to the 59th Street Bridge to avoid the toll.
I can't think about Greenpernt without thinking about this scene from "On the Waterfront." In fact, this entire post was just an excuse to upload this video. Sorry for being self-indulgent. I can't help it when Rod Steiger and Lee J. Cobb are involved.