At one time, I feared my propensity for aloneness, for solitude, and thought it meant I was strange. I didn’t understand that it was a choice. It’s what makes it possible for me to write for hours. People who live with their own thoughts successfully have found peace within themselves.
My social plans this time around were vague, built on an invisible platform of my own devise, a loner's version of whatever wherein I wallowed in being an onlooker. But here’s the thing, I slept well and improvised. The two threads of continuity were the awards program on May 30, my efforts to engage New Yorkers by getting them to laugh, and my attempts to arrange a visit to the Museum of Morbid Anatomy in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn. A Brooklyn native described the area as next to a canal that was a mob dumping ground.
Retreated when a man entered from the far end of the alley near the red truck. He wore a WWII German overcoat festooned with various medals. But for the tattoos and piercings, I might have mistaken him for someone on his way to a military reenactment. I tried to exit the alley at a leisurely pace. In other words, I tried not to run.
"Can I help you?" he asked.
I looked up into the friendly, and kind eyes of a teenager. He knew I was frightened, but he was courteous and relayed no aggression. We were at the corner by now, and while there was no traffic, I felt less creeped out. Plus, I felt sorry for the kid. He looked something like this:
He showed me where to enter and rushed off on some urgent business. I waited in the lobby of the Proteus Gowanus Gallery for Laetitia Barbier, who is a contributor to Atlas Obscura and the Head Libarian at Morbid Anatomy Library. She'd generously rearranged her schedule to meet me at the Museum of Morbid Anatomy, a private museum in Brooklyn which "is committed to celebrating and providing materials dedicated to the places where death and beauty intersect." Laetitia is a beautiful European art historian who fell in love with an American artist and lives here now. She also introduced me to the work of Joe Coleman. She's writing her dissertation on him and his art.
The next night was the International Latino Book Awards and I won in both categories in which I was a finalist. Astonishment is a good word to describe my emotions that night. I'd prepared myself for disappointment, not a double-win. A happy face in this picture, but my sympathies were totally with the people who didn't win. I wanted to go out drinking with them. Maybe go salsa dancing. I said nothing and left early . . . alone.
Back in my room, I quickly changed into more comfortable clothes and went for a walk passing Irish bars the concierge was sure I would enjoy. They were crowded and the laughter poured out into the streets. A couple of men raised their mugs to me. I walked as fast as I could in my beloved flip-flops, doubled back, passing more nightspots, and decided on a French Restaurant across the street from my hotel.
Cultural diversity is apparent at every turn of the head in NYC, and this bar was no different. The place was empty except for two tables in the back, and the four blondes at the bar. Three of them were part of the same Polish family: mother, who must have been 12 when she gave birth to daughter, a tall gorgeous young woman with what appeared to be real double-D's. And her brother who was immensely nondescript.
I ordered a Margarita and the bartender, another tall blond, asked me what Tequila I preferred. Anejo with a dash of Triple sec and a squeeze of lime, on the rocks with salt. She was good friends with the Polish family. I took out my teeny notepad and made notes.