There is a sign on the Brooklyn Promenade that reads, “Quiet Zone. No Loud or Unnecessary Noise.” As a child, reaching for my father’s nervous hand while he smoked a cigarette with the other, I never noticed the sign. As a teenager, snapping photos of the skyline, dreaming of a writer’s life in New York, trying to find Norman Mailer’s house again and again – I did not see it.
Later, on a walk back from my father’s apartment just a few months after his body turned cold, I took the long way. I passed the funeral home at the corner of Baltic and Court Street in Cobble Hill, the one that is now being made into luxe condos and where I'd gone the day I first identified his remains. Then, the perfect pitch corner of Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights, all the way at the end where you get that first invigorating glimpse of the 'why' of 'how' you came to live in New York City.
Here, at the water’s edge and the promenade, I stopped to admire the landscape.
And, there it was even now.
In large, scripted white letters on a dark, green city sign.
“Quiet Zone. No Loud or Unnecessary Noise.”
Underneath, a list of auditory offenders.
With only a steel gate between us and the roaring traffic below, my father and I would often stand in this very spot together feeling the rush that comes with being safe in the proximity of danger. The intensity of the moment always sent butterflies through my chest. We were at the edge of the world, facing it all. And, we were together.
Our lives shared certain latitude. The river, the sky, a stone lady’s torch. It all streamlined to the same point. But, while we stood there together, we never met.
I searched the horizon. The river fed its lifeblood into the ocean. Lady Liberty held court as boats crossed her back and forth, back and forth. Ferries rose and fell, their trails leaving easy patterns on capped waters.
From the shoreline, it was easy to see how day turned into night. It wasn’t hard to think of people arriving and departing, searching for a beginning or even coming to their end.
Back at Al’s place, I would try to focus my sights on the Statue of Liberty again. Nicotine buzzed, standing in the far corner of my father’s balcony on Baltic Street, peering over the Brooklyn Queens Expressway for a glimpse. She looked clear on some days, hidden by fog on others. Like my father, she interested me more when I could not see all of her.
I remember thinking, on more than one occasion, his apartment is loneliness. This apartment knows its own Great Depression. Its rooms are divided by more than walls and doors. And I would walk in my father’s space like a cat finally used to the patterns of a chaotic household, nothing propelling me except for the setting sun and the promise of time, and I would make do.