Monthly Archives: July 2012
Sunset Park smells like barber’s lather and masa.
I went for breakfast on a Saturday, just as the barbershops started opening for business. Electric clippers, the faintest match strike of a razor strop, rumba on the radio; but I smelled the shaving cream first.
These are my morning smells: black coffee, dried figs, the clean emptiness of yogurt, which has no smell at all, and is intended to fertilize the bowels with cleanliness, and Gillette shaving cream. I am always thirsty for coffee in the morning, as soon as I wake up, and smell someone walking past on the sidewalk with a cup from a corner donut cart. Then, my mouth and nose water and I want coffee. I have not shaved in a few weeks, so I cannot honestly say I miss the scent of shaving cream. I can experience shaving well enough from the voyeur’s vantage point. Continue reading
by Edward O’Neil
Save my City Aurora —Message written on a t-shirt, worn at a vigil for the victims of a mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.
Let me bring you up to speed. My name is Wayne Campbell. I live in Aurora, Illinois, which is a suburb of Chicago. Excellent. —Wayne’s World (1992).
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, there are 29 towns named “Aurora” in the United States. Before Friday, July 20th, 2012, most Americans of a certain age and cultural persuasion had heard of one, the home of Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar, two twenty-somethings who host a public access show out of Wayne’s basement. The movie Wayne’s World, released in 1992, was based on a popular Saturday Night Live sketch of the same name starring Mike Myers as Wayne and Dana Carvey as Garth. “Aurora” is a kind of Anytown, representative of boring, straight, stiff, white American life. It’s the perfect setting for Wayne and Garth’s bizarre antics, including a “Bohemian Rhapsody” sing-along, Garth’s homemade Taser, and sticking it to “the man,” figured as a rich old dressed-up dude whom Wayne accosts at a traffic light with a request for “Grey Poupon.” Although Aurora is a boring-as-hell middle-American pit, in Wayne’s World, it becomes surreal, a place where the laws of probability devolve and absurdity feels just par for the course. The great joke of Wayne’s World plays out in the tension between Aurora’s obvious banality and Wayne and Garth’s peculiar fantasies. Wayne and Garth radiate an electromagnetic field that distorts Aurora’s diners and guitar shops into a theme park populated by post-adolescent grotesques. Continue reading
Check it out:
The Ganesh Temple Canteen is a basement annex of the temple proper. Visitors enter through a steel door on street level. Next to a security booth, there are neat rows of sandals and sockless shoes, battered and electrical taped empty sockets. Down two flights of stairs, the canteen smells like a fine dusting of curry powder. As a boy I mussed the tops of pewter curry plants that I grew in tomato planters. The smell of rich yellow would cloud my eyes like a bottle rocket set off on asphalt and brimstone. Although my plants died in the St. Louis summer, even hotter than the immense fiery imaginary sun of India, I nourished their memory in the architecture of my upper skull. My sinus chambers would resonate with the twang of pulluvan paattu. I caught a green snake and smelled my fingers. His dusky skin, shedding on my hand, reminded me of my garden, something grassy and thrumming. Continue reading
“I’d never expect to meet a writer in Hoboken.”
She’s thin—thin enough to say so—with black hair, 45 years on the face and a toddler. Dames Coffee sells iced mocha chai whatever, enough of an excuse to sip awhile on a 95-degree afternoon. While circumnavigating Hoboken I sweated through my t-shirt twice, but she still bothered to notice: “Will Write For Food”: silkscreened and chipped around the corners. I love that shirt for no decent reason. It provokes awkward compliments wherever I go. On the 2 train to Flatbush, a homeless man with wriggling veiny arms shook my hand and said, “I’m a writer too, great shirt.” The shirt’s simple, banal wit resonates with an original American platitude. We all dream to be something that can’t support our dreaming habit. That’s why so many I-bankers quit Wall Street and start chocolate shops in Bay Ridge.
Frizzled from the heat: “Have you ever heard of The Moth? You should check it out,” my new friend says, explaining NPR’s live storytelling project. I wonder if she ever dreamt of writing; whether she ever realized that being a writer is nothing more than a declaration and a loose commitment. Or, in my case, an old t-shirt. Continue reading