We walked to Red Hook. Heading for Ikea. I wanted to buy a new toilet seat. It happens.
It's about a thirty minute walk from home, a typical New York distance on foot. I like Red Hook, a lot. But it's car country, as it's off the subway radar. And that's a deal breaker. Having a car in this city is brave but insane. You can take a bus, but we saved that for the return trip, post Ikea trauma.
On the way we were distracted by the Caribbean Princess, docked at a pier. She was several floating city blocks long and wide, but we weren't allowed to stand right beside her, so took no pictures. But I did get to see some more cranes.
I showed Vince Lynden Miller's garden (too much catnip but otherwise a sweet, hidden place) on a little bay, and we walked past Fairway, saw the mohawked girl who was profiled in the Times recently, eating her lunch on a bench, and were splashed by the dashing waves on the choppy, gusty, post-Earl day.
We turned left when we hit water at the end, and walked beside the surprisingly clear dark green-blue slip where the water taxis moor in winter. On the wharf are warehouses now filled with artists' studios and workshops, not of the tourist variety but still apparently the real deal, and hence endangered. We had been shouted at the last time we were here, on a day so cold that icicles dripped whitely from the rocks. Someone did not want picture takers and pokers-around. He softened up when we talked to his pet Canadian goose, though.
This time, in warm sunlight, I stopped at a big white cube beside the water planted with eggplants: lilac, white and yellow. I touched one, and showed Vince: Look, eggplants!
Tha's my eggplan'! called a man's voice from a warehouse.
Oh-oh. In trouble again.
Are they? I asked, turning around, all smiles. They are beautiful...
I know, I know, said the man impatiently, sitting in his fold out chair in front of an open door. They are mine!
He looked like an old school sea captain. Then he said: Come, come! Come and si' dow'. You like my eggplan's, I give you somethin'...
Vince looked hunted. I wandered over. The man started pulling out extra folding chairs, and suddenly we were holding ice cold cans of Budweiser. Vince squirmed. I was enchanted. I stammered about Ikea and shopping and we couldn't possibly, and the man said, We'll all sit together, and he beckoned to a woman passing who soon also had a cold can of Bud.
His name was Francisco he said when I asked, and he is from the Dominican Republic. He lives here, in a single room with bed, closet and TV and fixes bikes, and perhaps does other things, too. He says he has a very good view, which is true. Water, old docks. Soon he was holding a new bottle of rum, and the radio had been cranked up. He and Roberta, the last to join our party, started to salsa. She announced that she doesn't do drugs. Just pot and hashish. I told her that we didn't even smoke those. She looked at us suspiciously. Then she told us that she has two cats and that they are gay. Oh! I said, and she looked ready for a fight. Our cat is straight, I said. And she smiled and softened.
Francisco said he has been living there a while. His wife died two years and two months ago and he has no one. So he makes friends. Why? he asked himself, and then answered: We are all humans. You are a human, he is a human, she is a human. And I am a human.
We drained our beers and we parted company after reassuring Francisco, who led us to it for diagnosis, that his yellow eggplant was not sick, but special. I have never seen one, actually, and he had two. I felt bad to leave his party so soon, but it was the kind that did not have an end.
Inside Ikea, the weekend was at full throttle. And they had sold out of white toilet seats. So we turned around, got on the bus, and went home.
I'd like to take Francisco something...but am not sure what.
I suspect that he would really like another bottle of rum.