October 17, 2001
Wednesdays are yoga mornings. These
middle-aged bones get stiffer and hurt more when I get up
after sitting at my desk for a long time. The class is
over at 10:45, and I walk the mile to work.
This morning I was feeling buoyant, and I consciously
gave myself permission to feel really good after so many
weeks of feeling off balance, since the time when I had
raced down this same street to my daughter's school
thinking that, if we were going to die, I wanted us to
die together. When I came to Carroll Street this morning,
it was blocked off. I had seen the police officers from
several blocks away but had assumed they were the ones
overseeing the planting of new viaducts on Fifth Avenue.
This construction has been going on for almost a year.
But, these weren't the viaduct police. These were very
busy police allowing a long line of cars past the blue
barricades to park with huge buses and limousines along
the nearly full, long block to Sixth Avenue. As I stopped
to wait for my chance to break the line to cross the
street, I asked a serious woman on the corner, "Are
they making a movie?" The brownstone row houses of
Park Slope Brooklyn are frequently used in movies and for
TV shows like Law and Order.
"No. It's a fireman's funeral." Did I see
disdain in her eyes, or was it the seriousness I suddenly
felt as the water came to my eyes and I heard and saw the
bag pipes begin processing to St. Savior's Cathedral a
long block away on Sixth Avenue?
Five blocks later on Fifth Avenue, I ran into a women who
used to live next door to me; she had moved to New Jersey
several years ago. She was dressed in black, with a hat.
She was going to the funeral. It was for a man named
Fontaine who lived around the corner from me. I'm sure I
would know his face and his wife and kids. They go to the
same grammar school as my daughter had.
Five blocks away from Carroll and then the double block
up to Sixth, and people were still looking for places to
park for a funeral for someone who probably died in one
long instant over a month ago.
I still give myself permission to feel good today, but it
is now tinted with melancholy which is not a bad thing. I
just felt I had to write this, though. Life is different,
but it isn't all worse. People in Brooklyn are a bit more
humble, and I find them meeting my eye and saying,
"Hi!" a lot more than I'm used to. Saying hello
to someone passing you on the street -- even if you
didn't know them -- was just good manners in the Midwest
when I was a kid.