Last day of June: 06.30.12
Last day of the Field Work: J & West Farms
Last Tree of the last day: East 180 St. at Monterey Av.
Last trace: a sole- a shape of the inside of a shoe; a padded shape to cushion the foot from the heavy pull of gravity.
Just a lost or forgotten or discarded sole.
This is the morning of the last day of field work in the West Farms. I woke up to the lightning flashes and thunder rumblings of a summer storm, and reports of dangerously high temperatures. So this should prove to be a dynamic final day.
The very first day of field work carried the threat of rain too. All day it misted. It was cool and damp with a bone penetrating chill.
It seems fitting to end under the threat of rain since those were the conditions of this project’s beginning. What have I learned? What did I find? How has this served the BRONX, the trees, me…?
The answer is in the tale, and the tale in the telling.
There will be more stories coming… may there forever be more stories.
Trying again with difficulty but with resolution, I set out to find a walkway around the Cross Bronx Expressway on 6.1.12, I found myself on strange patches of freshly mowed grass. The grass must have been tall, and was not raked or swept, so that when you walked on it, you kicked up piles of dried grass needles.
There mixed in with the piles of dead cut grass was a solitary shoe. It was the shoe a child would wear.
So the shoe tells a story. Is there a kid out there in the world running wild wearing only one shoe?
It tells me that I was not the only one trying to find a way around these cement rivers of automobile traffic.
It speaks of people in a hurry. There is an element of despair in this shoe.
“Let’s just keep going. Don’t look back. What’s gone is gone.”
But I see it- this shoe- and give pause.
What is the story of this shoe in a patch of fresh cut grass? How many stories could there be about it? Where is this half-shoeless child?
I went out to the BRONX on a Saturday Morning. Friday I found myself overwhelmingly busy with trying ti sign lease for a new apartment in Brooklyn.
So Saturday I trained out to the BRONX. It was a Holiday Weekend, and everything on this Saturday was slightly mored relaxed.
Traveling northbound on Southern Boulevard, I came across these four young Ladies risking a lot by venturing out into the street trying to lure their marks up the hill for a car wash.
I was reminded of my own youthful occasional desperate attempts to sell lemonade to the passers by on my block back in suburban Illinois.
It was beautiful to see and hear them pitching for the traffic that was flying passed them. It was heroic and it was futile, but it warmed my heart. As I continued onward, I reflected on this quartet of car wash hucksters, and I found myself smiling ear to ear.
Rhineland Ave and Whitestone Rd
My goal today was to find a walkway from 174ST Station to 180ST Station around the BRONX Zoo and the Cross BRONX Expressway. I serviced trees along the way. It was a round about network of roads and bootleg dirt paths, but after a while I reconnected to Whitestone Rd.- to the point where I have been lost a few weeks before!
To celebrate, I decided to sit down in a place to eat a late lunch. This section of the BRONX had a lot of Arab stores and Halal Meat Stores. I stopped into this restaurant: Men were the only patrons during the time I spent eating there. Everyone who came in knew one another and were greeted in a very warm and friendly way with embraces and kisses. Arabic was the language spoken among the workers, the patrons and on the television.
The proprietor was friendly and explained what was available from the menu. I selected boiled lamb with rice. It was delicious! At the conclusion of my lunch as I was paying for the meal, I asked what the dish was called. He told me “It’s called boiled lamb.”
“I- I know, but what, what do you call it?”
“I call it boiled lamb.”
I knew at this moment that I wasn’t being clear with my question- that I wanted to learn the Arabic name for what I had just consumed. Rather than try to explain, I smiled and said, “It was great!” And I meant it- but I felt a little ashamed that I gave up on trying to communicate.
Outside, I pulled out my notebook to record the location and name of the restaurant. The street signs I could understand, but the restaurant name was written in Arabic (except for the words “Cafe and Hookah Bar”). I stood outside of the restaurant and recorded the shapes of the Arabic words. It took a little while… maybe three minutes.
In that time, all the patrons and the proprietor came to the window. They looked a me and then each other. They were talking and pointing to me. I focused on completing the drawing of the language, and was getting ready to leave because I was getting an uneasy feeling of being unwanted. Reflecting on how easily I gave up trying to learn the Arabic Name for boiled lamb, and how sad that made me feel, I gathered up my courage, and went back into the restaurant. As I approached, everyone went back to their tables and places.
I showed the proprietor my notebook with the name of his restaurant written on it. “What does this mean?”
“It is just the name.”
“But what is the name?”
Another man asked, “What do you want to know?”
“I want to know the name of this place. What it is called- how you say it in Arabic.”
“In Arabic?” he sat down at a table, I sat on my box next to him, and handed him my notebook and pen. He transliterated the name for me: Ared Al Gnateen.
“Thank you. What does it mean?”
“Oh… Um… it’s, ah… OK. Earth of Heaven exactly, but like um, like a really good, great place. I guess it’s hard to explain. In Arabic, it means many things. It means very good things.”
“Like the promised land?”
“Yeah, Yes. Like that. Very good things.”
“OK, OK. Bye”
173 st Between BOSTON RD and CROTONA PARK E
COMMON DISCOVERIES: chewing gum, broken glass, cigarette butts, bottle tops, dog s#!t, a battery.
UNUSUAL: Here depicted are the objects recovered from the tree bed at the second tree serviced on this date. The discovery of these two objects and their narrative suggestion broke down what was left of the defenses I established around my wounded heart. I left this tree in a state of grief on a sunny beautiful day.
Without a doubt, the BRONX knows my story. As I record the story of the BRONX, it is telling me mine.
173 ST. Between BOSTON RD and CROTONA PARK EAST
I was drawn to this young tree because it already had a tie around it’s trunk. There appeared to be a history of damage- a barkless scar where there once was a limb- and the little plastic ribbon around the tree made me think of a futile bandage. It was a newly planted city tree growing from a good sized tree bed, and surrounded by mulch, and probably did not urgently need to be serviced.
I got to work anyhow. Who knows what I’ll find?
As I was working, an elderly gentleman passed by. He was dressed in very well kept sporty clothes from head to toe. He walked passed slowly, and turned around to have a second look at what I was doing. I could sense someone’s eyes on me, so I looked up and greeted the gentleman.
There was a long silent pause. He never once removed his gaze from my smiling countenance , and after what seemed like an eternity, without a reciprocating smile or a nod, he stoically turned his back to me and continued to walk up the hill.
I was uncertain how to interpret the interaction, and felt just a little melancholy as I returned to the work at hand. As I did so, the Icy Peddler I’d moments ago seen, rolled his pushcart in the street up the hill toward Crotona Park. A very curious loneliness was left in his wake.
I began my search for a second tree of the day. “What next?” I thought, “I wonder how my new trowel will work out.” On my way I saw another Icy Peddler. His cart was old school- that is to say, it had a block of ice that he would shave down, load into a paper cone, and drench in brightly colored sugar syrup.
“What’s going on? Why are there so many Icy Guys out and about? It’s a nice day and all, and it’s Friday, but I just don’t get it,” were my thoughts while I observed a man approach the Icy Peddler. He had a gigantic smile and marveled at the peddlers cart. With out stretched arms he exclaimed what is recorded in this drawing. He was in a state of reverie over youthful memories? of simpler times? of summer times? Whatever it was he was lost in it and excited and it was a good feeling.
The Icy Peddler was confused, however. It was just a job for him. He was unsure what the man wanted. Their exchanged seemed kind of lonely.
I continued to walk south on Boston Road searching for a tree.
Although the conditions were perfect for work outdoors, I found myself struggling. A thistle- tough as nails- at the site of the first tree of the day, broke my shovel in two. Then to top it off, objects that I continued to unearth seemed to have a narrative that referenced some of the large changes in my personal life. It was as if the BRONX knew my story.
Stepping out of the hardware store I saw a pair of ice cream push cart peddlers having a conversation. They were engaged in a friendly conversation. I wondered how they felt about competing for customers… How did they work it out? It must have been some organic boundary sysytem of some kind. Perhaps that’s what they were talking about…
One of the vendors had an insulated cart with buckets of frozen icy inside, and the other had a block of ice covered in a towel (to slow down the melting) around which where glass bottles of liquid syrup flavoring. They concluded their conversation and parted ways on Boston Road and 174 St under the elevated tracks of the 5 and 2 Trains
CONDITIONS: Sunny, hot and humid. Still pleasantly cool in the shade.
DISCOVERIES: Four Trees were Serviced. Many of the usual objects were unearthed: broken glass, chewing gum, bottle caps, dog s#!t…
UNUSUAL DISCOVERIES: These oddities will be documented in later record entries.
For the record, it became an issue today- the temperature and the humidity combined and me wearing a wool vest and long sleeve shirt. For my next work session, I should reconsider my work uniform.
Going to work on a Saturday was a bit out of my routine. It was also the first official day of a long weekend (Memorial Day). The West Farms area had a very quiet and relaxed atmosphere, except that I noted about 50 percent more police squad cars cruising about. Things were calm. The police presence seemed unnecessary, but it could be that Saturday is their day to cruise, and that their abundance was normal.
I tried out the new equipment and took good notes.