in Brooklyn

Today I walked down a sidewalk in Brooklyn as the last light left the sky. On one side of the road, a park, with people playing, you know, games with balls, and on the other, brick row houses, all set back enough from the road to have gardens, almost every garden full of plants full of blooms and greenery and happy spring overgrowth. I watched a speckled bird, bigger than a sparrow, smaller than a robin, hop in front of me. I couldn’t tell you what kind of bird it was, and I was focusing on it as if somehow its name might suddenly make itself known, so I didn’t notice the music at first. But as I caught up to the bird — which hopped, with some annoyance, into a sheltered pile of leaves that may have been its home — there was clearly and loudly big band music spreading out over the sidewalk. On a porch, behind the only weedy yard on the block, an old man sat listening to swing music on a boom box. It was the most perfect sound ever, and I would have stayed right there, but I feared annoying him as much as I had annoyed the bird. I continued on the sidewalk, bought beer from the bodega, and came back — and there it was again, the old man’s swing music. He had the boom box, squat and white, facing him, and the way I remember him is with his hands on it, as if holding it there in precarious balance on the brick rail of the porch, but even if he thought the music was just for him, it wasn’t. It was for me too.

About the author

I like sitting in Jack Webb's booth.