My sister-in-law, Terry, had an Art Show at a studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn this past Fourth of July. The studio included large open spaces (where her paintings were displayed along with a few other artists), then a series of smaller studios artists or musicians could rent and produce their work. Doors to those studios line two long hallways, the sound of music seeped through the walls, along with a very distinct aroma of inspiration that gave me the munchies.
Wednesday morning of the show, seven of us piled into a “new” 1998 Toyota Land Cruiser that my sister’s boyfriend recently purchased. The show began at three in the afternoon but, being a holiday, we left early to avoid traffic jams we were sure to hit.
Who knew that the Fourth of July would be the lightest traffic day of the year? We were easily two hours early.
We parked a block from the Gallery, another imagined disaster averted and wondered what we would do. Someone called Terry, but she warned us to ‘stay away!’ the show wasn’t ready (you know how temperamental artists can be).
While the air outside was an uncomfortable 95 degrees, hot and muggy, we were cooled by the air conditioning set to ice age. It was decided, perfect time for lunch.
Small coolers opened, homemade tuna salad sandwiches removed from plastic bags were distributed evenly amongst the group. Cold bottles of water and unsweetened Iced Tea were distributed, along with various cookies and snacks. John Phillip Sousa marches played low as the soundtrack to this Fourth of July picnic progressed.
Outside, all around us, a half dozen restaurants were in eyeshot, the people of Bushwick walked by our car, packages carried, parties to attend, trying to get through their days in this oppressive heat. We watched them through the windows, ate our lunch, drank our drinks; alien observers ensconced in the world we brought with us.
As I looked around the interior of the car, as we ate, drank, and observed, I could think of only one thing to say.
“My god, this has to be the whitest thing anyone has ever done.”
That whiteness was turned up to eleven a few minutes later when my sister initiated her one-woman-car-karaoke routine to Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ in the front seat.
A few moments later, a redheaded, bespectacled young man in his twenties turned the corner just in front of our car. He looked left, then right, then left again before he stepped up to a black raw-iron fence, pulled the front of his shorts down, and relieved himself on a wholly unprepared bush on the side of the building.
I’m sure he was proud of himself, able to urinate in broad daylight, not being caught by anyone. Meanwhile, the seven of us in the car stared, dumbfounded, just a few feet away. It took all my persuasion to keep my sister from leaning on the horn or opening her window to yell at the guy. I didn’t want to startle him; that would not have been a pretty sight, and, besides, that bush had been through enough.
Eventually, Terry agreed to let us in early. It was great to see all the walls lined with the work she’d created over the years. Like having all the kids home for a reunion. We also met Kevin, a fellow artist, whose creations were displayed on the other side of the gallery. He was also, apparently, the unofficial mayor of Bushwick. He knew everyone.
After he gave us a quick, oral history of the building where we stood, he pointed out the two buildings directly across the street from us.
“These were all factories,” he said, “that they converted to apartments.”
He then commanded, “follow me,” which we did without question.
Across from the gallery, in one of the converted factories, a rooftop party was in progress. As Kevin neared the building, a young man saw him, jumped to the entrance, typed in the passcode, opened the door, and let our small entourage in. A few flights later (apparently the concept of elevators never reached Brooklyn) we were on the roof, band playing, surrounded by people that maybe, if I was generous, were old enough to be my kids.
I did not stay long.
Over the next few hours, people flowed in and out. Periodically, I looked out the window at the buildings across the way. Both roofs began to fill up with people.
Around five o’clock, as I stared out the window, a water balloon flew from the roof of the building on the right, exploding against the roof to my left. Left roof replied in kind. Thus, the beginning of the annual water balloon fight between these two buildings was about to begin.
Hipsters are so cute at this age.
Bushwick Brooklyn balloon fight was our cue to leave. Before we piled back into the Land Cruiser, we wished my sister-in-law the best of luck for the remaining days of her show.
We had one additional passenger for the ride home, my nephew, Jack. He rode over from Clinton Hill (Brooklyn) on a bike with no seat (recently stolen).
He narrated our trip back to his apartment, pointed out places he goes, things he has seen.
“The other morning,” he added, “I saw two homeless people fornicating on my way to the gym.”
Shocking as that was, it only made me think that the homeless people in Brooklyn have a better social life than I do.
Paints quite the picture, doesn’t it?
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