9 AM and it is already 81 degrees; the high is expected to reach 100 here in NYC, which means it’ll feel like 200 and the citizens will become 1000 times more insufferable, though understandable, I suppose.
Today is First Saturday—my first Saturday in Brooklyn—which, with planned festivities at the museum tonight, is Brooklyn’s way of noting the first Saturday of the month. I’m supposed to be in NJ—or heading back to NJ, which I still call “home”—but I don’t want to go back. I have to return soon to tie up my loose ends (and pay rent). I might head back Monday morning; none of this is important. Moving on…
I’m here at Breukelen Coffee House on Franklin Avenue. I haven’t seen this many—hmm—non-black people since I moved last Monday. It used to make me more comfortable to be around non-black people because, once upon a time, I felt more aligned with them than with black people. I considered it a side effect of intelligence, of being “cultured,” of being creative and a nerd, as if black people cannot be those things or cannot see them as normal.
Such thinking smacks of self-hate and otherness; being black, in the face of the so-called “majority,” creates enough otherness; there’s no need to feed into further division within the black community, which is a community in the true sense of the word—complex and dynamic and fluid, but tied together by related traits much deeper, much more secretive, than tightly-packed melanin as identifier.
Which is to say, finally, that I’m a black geek—not a geek who happens to be black—and so, I’m not as comfortable here in the coffeehouse as I would’ve been some time ago. That’s not to say I’m completely comfortable around black people—or any group of people—but there is a sense of safety among my people. I like to think we would care for one another in the event of a calamity; I like to think that. I honestly don’t know if that’s true, or even wise to believe, but believe it I do and I cling to it as all scared boys clutch to security blankets to ward off the lingering reality of aloneness, of one’s singularity within this thing we call “life.”
(She said, “You’re my business” and I went silent. Blushed. I don’t blush. This broaches or approaches the “too personal.” Moving on)
The coffeehouse, as a staple in civilized America (make no mistake…there are different “Americas”), is a church to worship manufactured cool. On the surface, it appears everyone is here to work or relax or hide from the heat. But even here in an independent, locally-owned-and-operated business, there’s something synthetic about it all. Maybe we, the patrons, give it a plastic feel with our commodified coolness: the iPhones and the Moleskines and the MacBooks and the clothes from Gap or (ironically) from Goodwill.
Still, as a writer, there are few places to go and work with little disturbance; I should be grateful (grateful?) for the luxury—privilege?—of writing here, now, under a cool ceiling fan versus working outside in the hellfire, looking sweaty and murderous to the beautiful ones passing me on their way to the coffeehouse.
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- flynnwaslike said: this is my neighborhood too…and i tend not to go here because it’s always a bit too hip/crowdy for me. it is hard to find coffeeshops in bk that don’t feel like that.
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- caitsmeissner said: I used to live very close by to there! And will be in that hood tomm eve!
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