By Chris Miskiewicz
Last night the wind was so strong outside of Sunny’s as it whipped off the bay. A building has to have something to it to take that much spirit in the face so often. That constant force, unending, coming straight from the sea.
I remember when we found the bar ten years ago. Red Hook was little more than an elbow that stuck out of Brooklyn, impossible to get to, and forgotten by the rest of the borough. It was a port where pirates sort of lived.
We went to the pier a few blocks away. Brooklyn’s shore was littered with the debris of industry, sunken cars and twisted rusting chain link fences that were interwoven with a layer of shattered glass. The waterfront was still holding on to the 1970’s back then, like a widow looking out to sea waiting for her guy to return. The wind would come off the water making an album cover out of our every moment. A hero shot. The band picture. The gang.
Biting air and strong winds seem to track my time here.
There was always an opened window for your cigarette so you could lay your arm out of the car. So for a few moments we could be like the men we saw driving by when we were younger.
During those years I had a recurring dream about driving across the Williamsburg Bridge while trying to jump over car size gaps that came every twenty feet. My car was a 1972 Impala with creaking moans of aged steel that I’d race like a cannon blast over flashes of dark water.
The outcome was always inevitable. We’d fall with the river rushing towards us. The cold winter waves would take us. But the whole way down I would disagree with the situation and begin to con the gods for escape. Unstoppable. Unbeatable. I’d find a way.
How many nights did we smack our glasses a little too hard against the glass face of that Galaga machine at Enids as thin whistles of wind would pee through the sides of the windows? That table never broke, but the car did.
A fuse went in the middle of the drive down to Atlantic City leaving the windows frozen open. Which was fine, until we caught up with a thunderstorm. My right side soaked, your left, with miles of asphalt to bridge the distance between us and where we were going.
They’re all still there aren’t they? Those moments.
I went across the street to stare out at the water before going in the bar to say goodbye to my friend. I’m not good at that part of life.
I stare at my hand gripping the fence. My hands have aged since they held so tightly to the neck of a guitar. They’re still strong, maybe stronger than they were. But they’re older and tougher even if the neighborhood around them hasn’t changed all that much. They have. They’ve rusted a bit at their edges.
My eyes go to my hands and my mind to my words. Ten years to twenty. Standing your ground for a bit while having a few lighting moments. First moments. I miss almost everyone I’ve ever laughed with, but mostly the dogs I’ve met. I let go of the fence and walk towards the bar thinking of “Ajax,” that giant monster of a dog who used to roam the roof across from our recording studio on Commerce Street. He would howl down when he spotted me, so pissed off that he wasn’t alone. That he had to share the street with another for a brief moment. He was the only other creature I ever saw at night while we built the place. The pirates stuck to the bars and nobody wanted to walk through the factories.
I pass a couple waiting for a cab. They’re huddled together like pictures of Ellis Island immigrants. They both throw me a look as I approach. I don’t know why they wouldn’t wait inside.
I look at the door and it’s rusted handle from back when New York was chipped and every single sign, fence, and bridge was painted in a layer of rust. I pull the handle. The door opens and I see my friend that I’m here to bid farewell to laughing with several of our old pals.
I take in a deep cold breath of courage, and then I enter the bar.
–Photo by Jason Spittle