Glasgow Comes To Brooklyn

The Hay Wain by John Constable
It looked swank on a Brooklyn tenement wall, too.

One day in 1958, I’m looking at the tenement across the street when I see a vision – a creature so out of place, so ethereal, so “other” that I have to go out and speak to it. Its name is Andy and it’s from Glasgow, Scotland. I am eight and have a vague idea of where Scotland is but no idea of what Glasgow is like. I imagine something with lots of cozy cottages. The wallpaper in my childhood bedroom has a reproduction of the painting The Hay Wain by Constable in an endlessly repeating pattern all over it. It forms my image of Britain – a land of endlessly repeated cozy cottages beside winding streams. When I first hear of Greenwich Village, I picture the Manhattan skyline with an English village of cozy cottages nestled inside it. As a teenager, when I hear “Ferry ’Cross the Mersey” I imagine a narrow winding stream that’s lined by cozy cottages. Weeping willows grow aside the cottages, their branches gently brushing the punts as they pass. (My imagined Mersey was as wrong as my imagined Lake Michigan!)  

The slum tenements of Glasgow, Scotland
Worse than Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.

I now know that Glasgow in the 1950s was every bit as rough as Brooklyn – a pair of blue-collar towns with bits of gentility around the edges. Brooklyn’s brownstones even originated in Glasgow. So, it isn’t that Andy had moved into a completely alien environment. But, the Andy I met in 1958 was not a tough kid. And, acting tough doesn’t make you tough. It’s a cover. What do you think tattoos are all about? I wonder if Andy is haunted by the memory of that day in the cemetery as much as I am. Maybe not. Maybe not. But, I am haunted by him as I am haunted by Carrie. 

Boy Outa Brooklyn a murder-memoir by Jack Antonio
Image: the smiling face of Steeplechase Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn
Available as a paperback and eBook
And as an eBook here

Published by boyoutabrooklyn

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