Saturday, June 16, 2012

Biscuit, wrestlers, see the whale

Yesterday on the train, the conductors had a secret language. They came through the compartment speaking words, but I only knew I was to show my ticket by looking at the people around me. I passed them in the dining car, and they spoke this language with each other, exchanging occult information on halves of tickets, slips of paper printed from handheld devices, spread out on the table like gambling chips.

As we approached a stop, the conductor announced, "Biscuit, Seminole. Biscuit. Biscuit. See the whale. Donchalove a Biscuit." The sign at the station said, "Mystic."

Today, I'm in the foreign land called Brooklyn. A street is taped off, forbidding cars, and, oh, for real, the fire hydrant arcs a spray into the street. A baby sits in the stream, gummy grin. There is a horse, and a pony, each led by a smart young woman in a pudding-bowl helmet. The horse trailer says, Brooklyn Horses, and there's the proof, horses in Brooklyn. Kids wait their turn to put on their own pudding-bowl and ride a circuit up the street and down, clutch the horse's mane, bounce in the saddle with baby kicks.

A boy carefully sets up his own sidewalk sale. A cadre of muscle-bound action figures stands on one step. "Wrestlers. $3 each."

Tomorrow I'll be back in San Francisco, for two hectic weeks, and then I leave the whole continent behind. I don't know where I'll be after mid-July, or how long I'll be unknowing. I know every corner of my suitcase and today I love its generosity, its patience in carrying all the things I need. I'm learning to carry less, although in the subway I was helped, again, to lift my bag up the stairs.

Last night I drank good champagne on the roof of my friends' brownstone. We looked out at Manhattan, saw the in-progress memorial at Ground Zero. I felt I could see the curve of the earth from there, if I lifted just a bit onto my toes.