Confessional: The Park Slope Flyer
I was holding my girlfriend Mathilde’s hand and carrying the book club fliers in the other as we walked slowly down Carroll or Garfield or Lincoln, one of those president streets, but not President, lined by trees shooting high into the air and massive brownstones standing like generals. We passed the one that was painted bright pink. The one that we thought was such a disgrace when we first saw it, figuring that some eccentric millionaire philanthropist probably thought it was funny to desecrate an eight million dollar home. But as it turned out, we learned from someone that the color is actually a memorial to the owner’s wife, and I know that every time Mathilde sees it now she thinks that it’s so romantic.
I tugged her along to move quicker because I could tell she wanted to breathe everything in. There were mothers pushing strollers over uneven pavement, fathers with babies strapped to their chests, their older children always trying to run ahead so they would have to yell, “Stop at the crosswalk!” and so many people wearing their college sweatshirts: Columbia, NYU, Harvard and Yale, while they gave each other that secret Sunday Park Slope stroll look, saying, “Yes, we do live in heaven . . .”
She stopped and turned to me. “How could we ever think of leaving this?”
And if I wasn’t rushing to decorate the neighborhood with my Lev Vassilynikov fliers, I would’ve reminisced with her about all the things we saw and did in Park Slope: A French Thanksgiving with my family, the tornado and Hurricane Irene, all the walks and picnics in Prospect Park, trying to grill on our roof and nearly burning our building down.
“It’s not gonna be for a while though,” I told her, “don’t think about it.”
“Look,” she said, pointing toward a brownstone.
Two squirrels were flirting, chasing each other up a tree. And I didn’t do what I usually do in moments like that, which was joke about the time when she was two years old and first saw a squirrel—she got so excited she peed her pants. Usually I’d say to her, “Don’t look! I don’t have a bucket!” or something cute, and she would kiss me and grip my hand tighter, and we’d continue through the park and be deeply in love.
But all I said was, “Cool, but could we get going? I need to put these on every stop sign in town.”
She stopped and seemed disappointed. “Could I see that thing?”
I handed her one and watched her read, hoping she wouldn’t say anything negative (cause she’s French, and as sweet as she is, cynicism runs through her veins), telling me the flier was creepy or weird, or it wasn’t formatted properly. Her eyes were focused on the page and after a minute or so, she said, “Who’s Vassilynikov already?”
“It’s Jonathan Bobbins favorite writer.”
“Oh,” she said, looking back down at the page. “Who’s Jonathan Bobbins already?”
I stared at her. “Babe? Really? You’re serious?”
She gave me a look that said, “I’m not from this country, ya know?”
And I shot her a look back that said, “No excuse. He’s been translated into French.”
“Everything is Illuminated?” she said.
“Do you know me?” I stuck out my hand. “Hi, my name’s Dave. Nice to meet ya.”
“I can’t believe this. I didn’t tell you about his new book? We’re trying to interview him?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Bobbins took me out of a dark time in my early-twenties. He’s the reason why I started taking myself seriously as a writer.”
She shook her head and smiled, “You’re so old.”
“I thought that was Kerouac.”
“Him too. But, Bobbins did it in a different way. He’s post-modern, but still very soulful, and his novels are really fun to read. He’s like if Graham Greene and Kerouac and Barthelme had a baby.”
“That would be an ugly baby,” she said.
I looked at her really hard, “Geez, you think know somebody . . .?”
“Then why haven’t I seen his books lying around? I’ve looked at all your books and I’ve never seen a Bobbins. I’d remember too . . .” she was smirking, acting cute. “He sounds like a Peter Pan character, or a fluffy little bunny.”
“I don’t keep his books out.” I started walking ahead of her, toward 8th Avenue.
“You hide his books?” she called out, “What do you write in there? Little love notes?”
“No . . .”
She caught up to me and grabbed at my hips. “What is it? I read the notes you write in the margins all the time. I think they’re funny.”
“It’s the same thing with my journal,” I told her. “I don’t write anything that’s specifically embarrassing, but still, I just don’t want anyone reading it.”
We reached the corner of 8th Avenue and Carroll and I started hanging a flier on a lamppost. A couple of people from the Food Co-op, the person buying the groceries who pushed their cart, and the co-op employee with the bright orange jersey, gave us a look like we were an inconvenience to them because we were standing in their way.
“What’s the deal with them?” she said after they passed. “They think they’re so cool.”
“They’re like the hallway monitors of organic food. If you try to steal a banana they’ll chase you.”
“Those shirts are ridiculous,” she said.
“Don’t mess with them,” I told her, “I think they carry guns.”
She started reading the flier. “Don’t you think this is a little over the top?”
“What do you mean?”
“Yeah, everybody’s vegan now. It’s like, no gluten, no animals.”
“Why don’t you just contact the guy?” she said.
“It’s not so easy. He likes his privacy so I need to be discreet.”
“Free babysitting? Don’t you think that sounds, you know, weird?”
I told her it was worth a shot and we walked along Prospect Park West hanging more fliers on poles, watching the joggers and bikers in their bike lane. I would hold the page and she would apply the glue and we hit every pole from President to 4th Street, from PPW to 6th Avenue. We reminisced about our times here, like after the tornado, when 6th Street was having their block party and we just so happened to be walking down the street when a band was playing. It wasn’t a professional band, just a few fathers who lived on the block and played instruments, and they covered folk songs and Jim Croce’s “Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown.” Mathilde and I listened to them for a while and held hands, and we smiled when the lead singer, after having finished the song, announced the name of the group. “Thank you!” he said, “we’re the Park Slope Tornadoes!”
And that was Park Slope. No tornado or hurricane could take them down.
“Remember when you were pretending to slide down those steps at Montmarte,” Mathilde said, as we were finishing up the last of our fliers, “and I took a picture of you, and it looked like you were flying?”
I nodded that I did and we turned onto 4th Street and started walking up. For the past year every time I went up our road I said to myself, “I can’t believe I live here.” Even when it was a blizzard and I was trudging through four feet of snow.
“I wish we could just fly there and fly back whenever we want,” she said. “Fly over the ocean in twenty minutes and fly back. It would be so much better that way.”