I do not live there. I seem to be on the outside looking in. This has always been the case in my life where I have been desperately trying to create a world I belong in.
It is a world that is hauntingly familiar to me. I have said before that the first time I stepped foot in this amazing borough my soul vibrated. Brownstone neighborhoods reminded me of a town in Poland named Lipiny where my great grandmother lived. It was something to be in her presence. Conversations with her went into the morning and were accompanied by black tea, and Cognac. You would find yourself rubbing your heavy eyes often as there was always a thick veil of cigarette smoke. She lived through two World Wars, and Stalinist times. She would grow impatient of any fatigue around her and tell you “how it used to be”. She was a Scorpio.
We left Poland behind and like many escaping the iron fist of Communist rule never looked back. No last look goodbye. No time to shed tears. Move on. It was to our understanding that Greenpoint and Williamsburg had a heavy Polish population. We purposely ran from it while nowadays I am doing the exact opposite. Over the last few years I have been spending a great deal of time there always carrying sunglasses with me, especially if I am going out at night. It is an easy way for me to hide and in all honesty daylight is too much for my bloodshot eyes. My world has come to a complete halt and I am being forced to confront something so hardwired in me that it was easier to avoid. I have been stung and the venom courses through my veins hotly spreading to every fiber of my soul.
I do not need this. I do not need this right now as I am desperately trying to keep together everything I have worked so hard for. Maybe poison is the cure? It’s too familiar of a feeling. I’m helplessly seduced.
Poland has always had an underground and a black market. Where there was a will there was always a way. Bars and locales were always packed as we needed to feel some sort of unity, some feeling of strength and solace against a regime that isolated us from ourselves. I have a very distinct memory of walking home in the evening with my mother and my attention being directed to the flashing lights of an ambulance. A fight spilled into the street and my mother whisked me away ordering me albeit affectionately to look away. As the years have added up so have the boozy, late night conversations through clouds of smoke with my mother. The tales are dark though they speak of the human condition. Her friends and familiar were brilliant and tragic and gifted artistically as photographers, writers and musicians. I have been schooled in Fellini, Dutronc and so many Pop icons of the 60′s and 70′s. My mother and her circle would bring food to workers under gunpoint and sit in the courtyard of the factory where their husbands worked not knowing if the regime would open fire. They did so in the neighboring town slaughtering thirteen coal miners. They were passionately trying to change the world by fighting for Solidarnosc. They did not want to be their parents’ generation.
Williamsburg, though not so dire, is it really that different? Bars and restaurants are packed at every moment of the day with counterculture needing to be understood. There is a melding of worlds where everyone is under abject intoxication knowing what they do not want and painfully figuring out what it is we are all looking for. We make pacts, bear our souls, talk of another world which has zero notion of time. How do you people get anything done? And furthermore… why am I so in love with you? Maybe I am realizing I have one foot in each world.