My brother has an apartment near Lincoln Square. I've been dogsitting here weekends for the last four months. He used to have a pair of dachsunds that he shared with his boyfriend. For a while they lived in Fort Lee, NJ. Then they moved into a rent-subsidized one-bedroom at 64th and West End Avenue. They lived together for three years, and even talked about adopting a child together. Brian was a blonde-haired Jew from Atlanta. He had a very gentle drawl; a long, slender body with a very long torso; dark, intense eyes; and a pronounced limp. They met while my brother was a graduate student in political science and Brian was an undergraduate studying English literature. While he lived there, Brian had bookshelves that lined the walls stocked with clean paperback editions of Remembrance of Things Past, the Man Without Qualities, and Foucault's the History of Sexuality. He had all of the books that a person who was serious about studying literature in those days would have owned. He had studied French and he also knew Ladino. He explained to me over a Korean dinner what Ladino was.
Eventually, Brian moved out, taking his bookshelves and one half of the canine pair with him. The remaining dog is named Mookie. The one remaining half-bookshelf is stocked with opera books, CD guides, and four nonfiction books about professional tennis, including John McEnroe's ghost-written autobiography _You Cannot Be Serious_, all of which I have read while staying here. I walk Mookie three times a day, feed him twice, and pick up after him. Sometimes he poops twice on a single walk, and if I haven't thought to bring two bags with me, I leave the second one. This has happened twice. There is always poop from other people's dogs on the sidewalk, so I feel entitled to leave a turd every now and again. I do feel bad, but I also feel entitled, and anyway, what other option do I have?
On my way to the apartment, I ride my bike from the World Trade Center PATH all the way up the West Side Highway. I pass the Chelsea Piers, and the USS Intrepid, and I veer around the sharp turn to the broken and rutted stretch of road connecting the bike path along the Hudson River to West End Avenue, and make the steep climb from 56th Street to 64th Street. Usually I stop in at the Western Beef Supermarket at 62nd Street and buy orange juice, tomatoes, luncheon meat, skinless, boneless, chicken thighs, smoked almonds, Raisin Bran, and mozzarella cheese. There are two grocery stores on West Avenue -- a large, fairly clean Gristedes across the street from the new high-rise, and a cramped, filthy Western Beef for the project-dwellers across the street. The Gristedes costs roughly one and a half times what the Western Beef costs.
My brother's sixth floor apartment has bare white walls, a blonde linoleum floor, and two windows that face south at an adjacent apartment complex. He does not have a river view, but in the late afternoon, the apartment fills with a river light. It is very lovely, and a little sad.
My brother has a 26 inch TV and an excellent sound system. He also has digital cable. When I come here, usually I come with a heavy load of books. My purpose here is to write. I seem always to be taking on projects that require me to read a dozen books. I usually read seven and a half, skim the rest, and decide I've done enough. I have trouble getting myself to do more once I've done a certain amount.
I am three weeks overdue on a piece I'm writing right now. I am in my brother's apartment, all alone, and away from distractions. I have nothing to do but finish. I am therefore watching TV.