Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Brooklyn Rain

I smell the scent of rain in the chilly, humid air flowing in the window. The sky is overcast, thick grey and the forecast on the TV last night said today would bring intermittent rain showers.

Yesterday afternoon, I had a stomach ache followed by a few hurried trips to the bathroom. I also felt a haunting headache just behind my eyes so I interpret my symptoms as having a touch of the flu. I feel better now, thankfully.

Working at changed greatly my perspective of life in Brooklyn. For one, my thinking is focused and I learn daily about an industry in which I know so little. And the familiar routine of helping a business succeed flows through me and I analyze this and that like I have for every job that I have held. How can this be more efficient? How can things improve? How? How?

I would write more about work, but my blog is meant to describe living, not work. However, the self-realization that when I do work, the effort consumes most of my energy is telling and relevant. I struggled with this last year when I was looking to change jobs from SeaChange to something. My question then is realized now, 'Could I work odd jobs and avoid traditional 40+ hour work?' Perhaps I can and I'm in the middle of my grand experiment.

One thing that I wonder about New York City is how people make enough money to survive. I wrote weeks ago about an angry man who clearly had a bad day, yelling, screaming, and carrying on. He stopped yesterday, walking a small dog, in front of the 820 apartment while I watched some men trim the trees growing from the sidewalk.

He talked mostly about his anger regarding his stolen car radio, 'Because I was dumb and parked it up on 46th Street. They took what they wanted. It was a fancy radio that the face slid out and had a little touch screen.' I focused on details while he talked. He is missing a tooth. His hair cut to an 1/8th of an inch. Tattoos pepper his body. His language surprisingly articulate. And the hopeful spirit of Brooklyn that I sense flows through his brief statements.

For example, by implicitly comparing 46th Street with 42nd Street he corroborates Yang's story of civic pride on this street. Yang said to me weeks ago, 'The people on this street make a lot of noise, but they are generally good. They don't steal.' And this angry man who apparently lives in Section 8 housing supported the statement.

But he also described the problem and the struggle. A large ornate metal earring adorned his left ear. His flashy belt buckle was some type of silver and gold. A few rings flashed in the morning sunlight as his hands moved while he talked. He continued, 'It's tough man, it really is. I work public sanitation and it's not easy to get by. They just took what they want. Took what they want. Public sanitation, it's not easy, boss. Anyway, have a good day, boss. Good talking.'

He walked away.

My thinking followed in the trough of his words and I thought to myself, 'I have nothing here to steal save some electronics which I hide. I have savings and a crappy, 10 year old car. Yet this guy wears his wealth for public display and invests in a radio that undoubtedly is a target for thieves.' The Biblical phrase, 'The meek shall inherit the earth.' is clear and present here.

The Chinese, quiet, active, fit, family oriented, are quite meek as they go about their daily affairs. Some Hispanics are showy, wealth forward, yet some like the Mexicans are reserved, quiet, and deferential. The balance tips heavily towards the meek in unseen, lasting ways. Asians rarely complain of crime, but their wealth, like mine, sits in the bank earning a meager interest. Move on world. Nothing to see here. Nothing to see.

So I wonder how the lower-paid workers survive. Perhaps Section 8 housing is full of the service workers who prepare fast food, provide janitorial services, work menial jobs in the warehouses. Maybe they are stuck, in debt, scratching and clawing towards a better existence. Yet as Derek and I discussed, they live a more honest and genuine lifestyle than the gentrified, overweight American middle class. They dream American.

Beneath the veneer of the angry man is hope. Somewhere in the Section 8 housing that surrounds 820 are the families who struggle daily and their struggle is our foundation.

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