Alexander Spatari

We See You

antisocial behavior order: pizza beach

May 23, 2019

Richard and I volunteer every Saturday for a program called Minds Matter, a college readiness program for lower-income, high school students in New York City.  Richard has been involved with Minds Matter for a few years now. I was nervous to commit to the program when he asked me to help teach this year’s Sophomore Writing and Critical Thinking segment with him.  It’s a commitment to kids — and I wasn’t quite sure that I trusted myself to be in town, available, on-time, sober and not hungover every single Saturday for an entire academic year. In the end, I surprised myself.

When Blu Jemz was alive, he would ask me excitedly every Saturday after Minds Matter, “How were the kids?!” and I would update him on the latest: “We worked on poems,” or “We finally learned each other’s names.” There are eight students total in our class.

Today was the last Minds Matter class of the year.  It was bittersweet. After class, I offered Richard a ride back downtown towards his apartment on Canal Street.

Richard is one of my best friends dating back to our time together at Georgetown. We met freshman year and lived in the same dorm, New South, the oldest and filthiest of all the dormitories, he on the first floor and me on the fourth.  When I moved home from London years later and opened a boutique on Clinton Street, he lived on Clinton too — we cut our teeth together on those streets, in legendary fashion. Now he’s a chic marketing manager for a luxury e-commerce company, and a philanthropist on the side: clean-cut, well-dressed, tall, and very tan in the summertime.

On this day, we hopped onto the FDR and the sun was shining bright, flirtatiously dancing down the East River alongside us. I opened the windows and skylight.  The speedometer read 74 degrees. It felt to me like the year’s first proper Spring day, and I felt grateful for my car, and for having my friend next to me, and to be alive.  I skipped through to the end of Kano’s Made in the Manor, and the last few tracks energized us as we made our way downtown.

“Jeremy’s speech was so good!” Richard enthused. The kids last-day assignment was to present oral arguments on behalf of a cause or charitable organization of their choice.

“It was,” I agreed.  “Lola’s too… They all did such a great job. I’m proud of them.”

Bachata music was playing in parked cars along Second Avenue, their doors thrown open, the owners washing them.  

“I’m feeling nostalgic,” I said to Richard.  “Maybe it’s this weather. I miss the store and I miss this neighborhood, and I miss those days.”

He laughed, and reached his left hand over to rest it gently on my right leg.  “I know, the days where we knew every single Thursday night we were going out, and it was just a matter of where we were going!”

“When I was just a full chicken-head, stool-pigeon slob kabob,” I laughed.

“Hungover in the office every Friday, and it was fine, and so worth it,” he continued.

The car was quiet for a moment, filled with remembering.

“Should we just park up around here and find someplace to grab a drink?”

“Yes!” I practically shouted.

“So much for the gym .. Ohhhh botheeerrr,” Richard moaned, like Winnie The Pooh.

“Bummmmbarasss,” I replied in patois nonsensically.

I parked the car.

We walked down Ludlow. The clusters of brunch and post-brunch crowds looked like brightly colored bunches of balloon humans, mostly beige faces spilling out onto sidewalk tables of neighborhood staples —Pianos and Epsteins — and newbies to the block, with underwhelming names like Pizza Beach.

After taking inventory of the LES, we wound up at Iggy’s, apparently one of the last respectable dives still serving strong drinks and muted chat.  It was dark in there, and wobbly, with torn, red-leather-topped stools strewn about the place.

“Two gins,” Rich informed the bartender.

I plopped down at a wobbly high-top towards the front of the bar, not far from an open window with a nearly-full view of the street.

“This neighborhood,” I said, when Rich put the gins down in front of us.

“It’s a-changing,” he agreed.

There’s a couple sitting directly between us and the front window, and one of them, a woman, has what looks like black electrical tape and a piece of cardboard taped behind her right ear. It’s distracted me as I kept looking over…

“Not just the places, but also the people,”

Is it a hearing aid?

“I mean, there were always finance bros living down here, even back then. It’s just…different now…”

A facelift? Some other type of cosmetic surgery?

We made the second gin, a “double” and the alcohol started kicking in.  The warmth crept across my breastbone, the conversation was lubricated, firing on all cylinders now, words coming easily.

“I told Johanna I’d teach sophomore writing again next year.”

“I hope I was an okay partner,” I replied.  “There were moments I wasn’t sure I’d make it through.”

Richard reassured me.

“You know, things are getting better,” I said, vaguely.  “The struggle days, they’re almost over,” my voice trailed off…

Luckily Richard gets it. He nodded and met my eyes with his.

He got up and grabbed his tutoring tote and his gym bag.  He was late for an early dinner elsewhere, so we made a date for next weekend and I held onto his arm, then just his wrist, and then his fingertips as he glided out of the cavernous Iggy’s into the late-afternoon sunlight.

Whether at a barbeque, in the bar or gliding down the FDR, check out a few selections to get you amped for the first day of summer:

Blake Scotland is the co-founder and managing partner of communications and marketing agency Grit Creative Group based in Brooklyn, NY.  Originally from northern New Jersey, Blake has worked in marketing comms in some capacity since her graduation from Georgetown with a major in English, and double minors in Theology and African American studies.  Blake’s lifelong passion for music (Hip Hop, Jersey Club) was further stoked during her early 20’s spent living in London discovering Funky House, Hard House, Garage, Drum & Bass and rave culture. She’s obsessed with the energy that’s exchanged on a spiritual level when people put their phones down and tap into the restorative power of music.