Reading Report #2

NB: Paper Cut Flophouse was a group blog that ran in the late aughts. Most posts were written by two contributors: me, using the pseudonym Roman Briton, and my friend Pompeston, the mastermind of the endeavor. This is a cross-posting of a post I originally wrote for PCFH; here’s a link to the original.

Brooklyn climbs itself like an autodidact, like a vine using its own stalk as a trellis, like a bridge being built out across a river with no supports. The streets work the graveyard shift for the squeaky wheels dreaming self-improvement dreams, but the days thwart ambition with an inventory of niggling details: “Beer bottles and beer cans, liquor bottles, candy wrappers, crushed cigarette packs, caved-in boxes that had held detergents, rags, newspapers, curlers, string, plastic bottles, a shoe here and there, dog feces.” Or, rather, human feces? This is a civilized, late twentieth-century Brooklyn, but a Brooklyn in which men urinate out into the void from the windows of the upper floors of brownstones. A protagonist reminisces about a childhood hobby of shitting as a group pastime, an outdoor activity. Do the citizens of the borough, bum and burgher alike, take delight in shitting in the gutters, on subway rails, in the parks, on stoops, in the rivers, on sidewalks? Do we all stand and point and howl with the joy of our own unaided manufacture? Who was it who said that this is the only city in the world where the dogs can step in human shit? Brooklyn is a wise child, innocent and depraved, wild-eyed and sleepless, its Brooklynness impossible to box, wrap, or bottle. Brooklyn is a nation of immigrants and exhibitionists, escapees and cartographers, pirate lepidopterists and amateur gang leaders, petty thieves on sabbatical and nice guys who got stuck halfway; in short, life is not entirely wonderful here, and on that point, children and adults can agree, but they always get stuck squabbling over the particulars. Every curve of this marvelous place, a once and future garbage dump; each corner harbors ghosts; every crook vibrates with the history of the culture. (For example, did you know that part of The Warriors was filmed on one of the dead platforms of the Hoyt-Schermerhorn stop?) I love New York.