Thursday, August 26, 2010

Aimless Reading: The J's, Part 5.1 (Lisa Jarnot)

Night Scenes
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Jarnot, Lisa
Night Scenes

Sent as a review copy by the publisher.

1992: I graduated from college in the spring (officially, December 1991, but my parents wanted to see the diploma ceremony, so I obliged). I spent the summer looking for teaching jobs and an apartment. I had planned to live in Park Slope, Brooklyn, as that seemed to be the place to which all my friends were moving. I very nearly rented a two bedroom apartment just off Flatbush Ave., but at the last minute decided to check out an ad I'd seen for an apartment in the East Village that was, remarkably, cheaper than the one in Park Slope.

The apartment was on the sixth floor of a six floor walk-up, an old tenement building on the corner of 4th St. and Ave. B. It had a brick facade with a little bit of fancy stone work around the windows and a typical New York cornice at the top. On the corner of the ground floor was an asian fish market. Next to the stairs they rented a space out to some aquarian cult, which had a purple and white sign on the front of the building.

The apartment had 4 rooms: two bedrooms, a living/dining/kitchenette, and a small bath. The landlord had advertised the rent at $850 a month. The neighborhood at the time was still a bit dicy. My next door neighbors were squatters. The building next door housed the largest heroin operation in the East Village, etc. But I couldn't pass up the opportunity to live in Manhattan.

I remember telling the landlord, a gentle man from Cambodia, that I'd write a check on the spot if he had a lease ready. He did. He even gave me $25 bucks a month off the rent. Ah, the good old days. I got a job around the same time a few blocks away teaching high school. I kept that apartment for the next 5 plus years until a moved to Buffalo. I think I had at different times five different roommates, a pair of subletters, three cats, and a large suitcase left by a squatter who'd been evicted that lived on my fire escape for a summer.

I remember the day I moved in my mother came to town and was helping with my things. We began piling them on the curb in front of the building, then carrying them up, piece by piece, five flights of stairs. I had no furniture besides a small bed and a small desk, just clothes and music and books and my acoustic guitar. At one point, when I had turned around, a little boy picked up my boombox and started running off with it. A man across the street yelled at him to stop and put it back. The boy hung his head and did as he was told. I felt like I was in a pretty good neighborhood.

from Night Scenes

Elegy for My Tomato Plants

Transcendant late night seeds
in fromt of the fireplace
there is a family of man,
and a family of you, plant,
tomato, lettuces, pit bull,
bull frog, coyote and the
moon, but who listens, and
who, awake, at the seed bed
rouses all the meaning of the
meeting of the seed inside
the dirt, of plow songs,
of car wheels, of fleabane,
of the aster and the shale,
regular in its regularity,
a weeping cherry tree,
a sound beside a pond

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