Although I’ve moved to a castle in another New York city now, I used to live on Lark Street. I had the coolest stoop in the city there, and many great adventures. I had a sunny window seat, and a great place to paint. It was a good place to start to heal from a lot of things that needed healing. A very good place to be an artist, even if not much of a place to sell art. (Ah, capitalism. It does not mix well with anything, especially not love or art. So it was perpetually hard to make the rent there, but perpetually easy to paint.) I used to fall asleep at night listening to the lull of pedestrians and the whispering traffic snaking through the city beneath my window.
I could tell the time by the hum of the traffic, by the banging of garbage trucks, by the tenor of frat-boy violence or stupor as the bars filled and emptied all around me. I read the aftermath of holidays like a book, written in broken glass and spatter patterns on the sidewalk. But it was the people who made Lark street home for me for a couple of years. I made so many friends there, and these friendships remain.
There was always John Brown humming the syncopated rhythms of an unseen realm, and when more than a day went by without the sound of him laughing, talking, and clearing his throat as he wound his way up the sidewalk, I knew something was out of balance in the town. He always called me “Miss Jones,” and it had taken nearly all of my first year In New York to befriend him. There was Ricky Stixx until he disappeared, always playing the city at all hours with his drum sticks, attracting quite a crowd. (I’ve heard he’s fine and living indoors now. So we can stop worrying I guess.) And Cadillac Man, whatever happened to him? On summer nights he’d cruise up and down Lark street with his windows down, constantly blasting nothing but Michael Jackson on his formidable speakers. Al, with his harmonica, Mary with her voices, BamBam with her can of beer. Daniel and his missions.
In the evenings, the Mayor of Lark street used to stop by to offer stories and wares, and sooner or later everyone would filter by to say hello, or in the case of that lizard who turned out to be a Nazi Proud Boy, sometimes not.
My stoop was called Beer Island, because we drank a lot of beer there, and because it was legal to drink on the street so long as one did not step off the island. This is where we gathered in the evenings. Some people poured by as strangers, a thrumming backdrop to the urban night. Some started out as strangers and wound up friends. Andy and his dogs, Malcolm and his guitar, Tim and his tales of bullet wounds and broken tigers… these ones I looked forward to, and something felt missing when they missed a night. Chrissy, my favorite cartoon character, graced the steps with a curious cocktail of glitter, bitterness, and laughter. Hyacinth, who “never bothers with less than 9 percent ABV, man.” Fred, my favorite neighbor, did not drink beer but played a mean guitar for us.
So many great adventures started from that stoop, fanning out from there across the city – up onto rooftops, down into the canyons, off to the river or the lights. So many colors and so many nights. This is what it felt like to live on Lark Street.