Change of location for Outing #4, Saturday 24th

All are welcome to join me, the Iron Maiden, and Bandwagon for their "All American Tailgate Party 2009" on the fourth outing of the Last Days of the Iron Maiden

A caravan will be assembling around 12 noon in Red Hook or Bed Stuy (not clear yet); call 415-307-8943 day of for details. Because of rain, we'll be assembling by 1:30 under the BQE along Meeker, somewhere between Lorimer and Manhattan. Again, contact me for details. 

The link to the Facebook invite is here. I highly recommend checking this invite for special details about the event. Food and drink will be on, as well as flags, well-t-shirted participants, and a humdinger of a good time.

This is a very present-tense outing!

Outing #3: Rockaways, Russian Baths, and Red Hook by Richard Alwyn Fisher

Saturday, October 17th: “The Rockaways, Russian Baths, and Red Hook: The End of Long Island and The Iron Maiden” will be directed by Brooklyn songwriter/actor/musician Richard Alwyn Fisher. An autumnal journey through peripheral southern beaches of Queens and Brooklyn, Mr. Fisher’s itinerary includes O'Donohue Park, Breezy Point Park, and will end at the Red Hook hideaway Sunny’s in order to usher in Sunday. The outing will be recorded for a future podcast series by Mr. Fisher. 

Rain seems to be plaguing these October Saturdays, so we revised the schedule for a night version of this outer-reaches-of-southern-New-York-City crawl. Which had an unexpected, spectacular effect on the trip. And, at the end of a very cold, wet week, we inserted the Russian Bath for a much needed core-warming. 

The rain also made me seek repair of my windshield wipers with a new mechanic. While they weren't fixed by showtime, the garage figured out the tricky reason why they weren't working, and the owner explained everything to my satisfaction. Why are these simple qualities so difficult to find in a mechanic? I don't ask for much... alright, I'm a high-maintenance car client. But I don't believe my need for a clear explanation of what's going on should be a part of the bill. I guess if I am selling this car, working windshield wipers should be a standard amenity.

Given Richard's location in Carroll Gardens, I asked if we could indulge my curiosity in the Reanimation Library, which is located in the Proteus Gowanus complex. Nestled amongst other niche projects like the Fixer's Collective, "the Library reanimates books that have, for whatever reason, fallen out of use," to put it simply. I was too distracted to get into the books, and wandered over to another space that turned out to be Cabinet's event and exhibition space, whose walls were covered with scads of head shots and introductory letters in the exhibit "Hopeful" by David Levine. The gallery person was couldn't answer most of our questions, but I think we got him on a bad day.

Curiosity satisfied (for the moment), we set off for the most southeastern point of Queens, as far as you can go without calling it Nassau County or Long Island. Night was falling and Richard turned on his digital audio recorder. He's interested in having conversations, as opposed to more formal interviews, with artists, musicians, writers, and other "creative types,"

and making a podcast series from the results. He later reported the prominent presence of the Iron Maiden herself in the conversation, so I don't know if any jewels from that session will make it anywhere. 

Richard was well equipped with a walking map book (though no indication of one way streets) and directions on his phone device and proved to be an excellent navigator. A lot of this outing involved conversation, so I'd be distracted telling some story and Richard would assiduously point out turns. On the other hand, I had no clue where we were going most of the time, just a curious and willing driver, learning about the boroughs and Richard. 

We stopped on a dead-end street in Far Rockaway, and walked onto the beach at O'Donohue Park. Trying to orient me, Richard explained that though we were looking southward, the strip of land on the other side of Reynold's Channel was in fact Nassau County, its most southwestern reach. Everything felt strange, like I was in some small beach side town with weird high rises. Who lived here? But why do I live where I do? Even stranger, a think reed mat/walkway atop the sand extended towards the water, facilitating our walk to a certain point. We didn't linger long.

A nice thing about conversing with Richard is that I felt like he was listening (when he wasn't navigating), and subsequently I gave time-worn stories a fresh approach. We get used to telling stories from our lives in situation-appropriate sizes: the cocktail size (a witty sentence or two); the outing size (a fuller but streamlined version told when on an outing with friends and acquaintances), the car/plane trip size (the epic version intended to burn up minutes and hours, all details and digressions included and maximized). This was somewhere between the outing and the car trip version, and because Richard is a relatively new person to me and attentive, I was more conscious of the telling of the stories, a process of revealing to your tellee and to yourself. 

We headed westward, traversing the length of the long spit of southern Queens, through quiet wet streets alongside the LIRR, past Jacob Riis Park, Fort Tilden, and to the end of the road at Breezy Point Park. Signs forbade us from parking without a valid fishing permit (oh well), but we didn't seem to break any laws by walking down the quarter mile stretch to the beach. Again, it was a foreign place made even more foreign by the fact that we were a few miles from home. Light pollution and an overcast sky allowed us to see our way easily, feet plunging into sand, surrounded by scrub brush and mysterious barrack-like structures. It was so quiet and removed. By the time we got to the beach, I thought I was primed for the ocean, but was still blindsided by its overwhelming force and grace at night.

Richard and I have had two conversations prior to this project; we know each other through friends of friends of friends. His outing proposal appealed to me because it was based on conversation and exploration, and I liked the podcast element, that the outing would beget another project. Friends of mine pointed out that it sounded like a date. This amused me and added another point to its appeal. I knew this was not his intention, nor did I place my expectations as such, but the subtext of situations like this are unavoidable, especially when I find myself standing on a beach at night, a large city behind us, an indescribable scene in front, and I wanted to touch another human being, an affirmation this was real. I don't think I wouldn't be able to enjoy it alone, and I feel like I shared it with Richard. But there are different ways of sharing. Even when you're with someone you feel very close to, sometimes the experience doesn't go the way you imagine it might.

We didn't talk as much walking back, returned to the Iron Maiden, and she took us to Sea Gate, next to Coney Island, via the Marine Parkway Bridge and the Shore Parkway. At the end of Mermaid Avenue, we found the Mermaid Spa, a Russian bath and another place I've never been. I was completely unschooled on the etiquette and customs and spent most of my time observing or asking Richard questions. While I was observing, I was also sweating profusely. A sizable and varied crowd was assembled on a Saturday night: twenty-somethings, teenage girls, large overweight men; all were Russian. We switched from the dry heat of the sauna to a wet sauna where sturdy girls in bikinis poured cold water over themselves, then to an overpoweringly hot sauna that I mistakenly made hotter by pouring water over the stones. This necessitated plunges in the cold pool outside, something I hate, but hate less when I'm an overheated mess. Fortunately there was a restaurant in the open area where we retired. 

Over large plates of herring, crispy potatoes, beet salad, and steaming bowls of soup, we continued to talk about Richard's most recent and difficult year. He seems to be going through a mid-life crisis on all fronts and is desperately but tenaciously trying to hold on. From an observer's standpoint, it's amazing how depression strikes people differently; with some you can see it physically change their appearance while they're in it, while with others it's like a light flashing off and on. They're still able to laugh and carry on a semblance of normalcy for little periods, and then the conversation turns, their energy deflates, or you see it come over them. Of course there are degrees of it, and the person experiencing it has a completely different take. But with Richard it's not glaringly obvious. Then again, I've never known him otherwise.

Richard is able to talk about it freely, which was something that took me in upon meeting him, because I'm shamelessly curious. He's turned to therapy and yoga, but still sees an opaque future. He can't follow his passion for music in the manner he once did—it's a young person's world. How to reinvent yourself on the brink of 40? I place myself in his position and am bewildered—if not art, what then? I spent so many years dithering about, just getting here. But on the other hand, I've recently had thoughts that I've narrowed my focus to such a specific thing that I'm shutting out whole other worlds of myself that lie fallow and I've become quite boring. But maybe that's the whole idea behind "untapped potential," because it will never achieve fruition. It exists in that state and taunts us. 

The bath was another context in which to feel the first-dateness of the outing because we were talking in our swimsuits, thoroughly aware of our bodies because of the amount of water pouring out of them. In another way, I was glad to be reminded of my body; I've been tied to the computer doing artwork when not at money-generating-work, and deprioritizing exercise. I went for a run at the Y the next day, but that practice hasn't lasted this week. 

After another few sessions in now-emptier rooms, we set out for the Shore Parkway, our cores heated, stomachs full. The last destination was Sunny's Bar in Red Hook, a grand old dame of a place, accessible by car but little else. The Saturday Night Jam was in full swing in the back, and I think I caught sight of a guy I dated last November. Richard found a perfect corner at the bar (the only one), and Katarina and Chad came in soon afterwards for a few drinks. They had just finished the video they made at the Venice Biennale, where they put themselves on the map (literally). Conversations weaved in and out of art and acting and ducks as an appropriate bar decoration and how that duck made us all want to spend Christmas or New Year's Eve at Sunny's. I think we stacked hands and "go team!"'d on it. 

Katarina and Chad left and eventually our energy flagged as did the conversation. It was 2:30ish and time to go. I dropped Richard off in Carroll Gardens and drove home through the dank streets. It felt a little strange saying goodbye to him because there's no assured way we'll see each other again after an intense little outing. Which feels very New York to me, at least in my experience of it: there's no reason you'll meet up with someone again and there's no reason you won't meet up with him again.