in the hot, still august of 2005 i moved to new york from san francisco into an apartment kitty-corner from a bodega called cheveres. in san francisco we called them corner stores or liquor stores but here they are bodegas and i liked that a lot. they played merengue music all the time at cheveres and they sold 24 ounce coors tallboys for a dollar even. the neighborhood was mostly lower-middle class dominicans, blacks, and hispanics. when my roommates and i left the house we caused a small scene. several 10-13 year old kids hung out and taunted us, "hey hipsters!" we laughed about it but secretly i think we were all horrified by the attention.
i spent christmas eve, 2005 in brooklyn. some friends and i went to a bar and then i returned to my apartment. it was about 11pm as i approached my front stoop. there was a small party happening in a building opposite mine and someone yelled, "get out of my neighborhood, weirdo!" i probably looked strange wearing my multi-colored beanie and long black coat. the beanie was a gift and i got the coat from the local thrift store, (which is now located down the street from its old location.)
across from cheveres was another store called super meat market. there were nice people who worked there, a kid named lionel and an older guy who was also friendly and unassuming. that was in 2005. since then super meat market has closed down. the kids who taunted us have mostly grown up and moved to bed-stuy. we see a couple of them at the annual block parties, overgrown and shuffling among their mothers and younger siblings. the chinese food place has changed its name from new happy to chen yuen. there used to be a bearded homeless man who sat on the sidewalks all day long, sometimes he had groceries with him, in winter he buried himself in huge blankets... he disappeared around 2008. cheveres is now called jaileen and the tallboys are $1.50.
the same clerk works at jaileen who always worked at cheveres. in the first couple years i asked his name a few times but it always came out incomprehensible and i finally stopped asking. he and i are friends of six years with no idea what each other's name is.
one afternoon, maybe 2009, he informed me that he likes to go down to myrtle on the weekends and get an iced coffee from dunkin donuts and walk up and down the promenade. i do pretty much the same thing. myrtle is about eight blocks away from that old apartment but it took a little over a year of living there before i got comfortable going down there. you can imagine how hard this was when you consider how hard it was to leave the house at all. in those very early days my only destinations was cheveres, or else the subway which took me into another world altogether.