Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Visitation - Deborah Moody: Part II

I went out with Gilles, the painter who took part my the Wish You Were Here project. It was fun to go with another person. Gravesend was so quiet. Things are not usually hopping at 4.30 in the morning but there were no cars, no stragglers. There were a couple of people speaking Russian by the school. When we finished hanging the tags, we went to Coney Island to watch the sunrise. On the beach was a group of women dressed in white, standing in a circle. Gilles said that there was a religious group in West Africa that prays on the beach wearing white to greet the dawn. There was a fit older man jogging wearing a Speedo. The sky slowly lightened and I worried that even on the beach, New York City sunrises are not as good as the sunsets. Then the sun burst out over the Rockaway inlet.

The women in white sang and clapped. The jogger turned his back (you can almost make him out on the left). Someone in the water waved their arms in welcome (black spot to the right of the sun). I am pretty sure someone was skinny dipping behind us. I glimpsed him putting his trunks back on near the jetty. Overall it was a pretty decent sunrise.

The northwest corner of Gravesend is called Lady Moody Square. The village angles away from Avenue U where there are small shops, everything looked family owned. Gilles found some coffee and awesome biscotti at an Italian bakery. The air was totally calm which kept my tags rather stationary. Occasionally they would flutter in a delicate breeze.

The neighborhood is fairly working class, nothing fancy.

This is the school where the Russians were.

The southwest corner is the cemetery where Deborah Moody is supposed to be buried. Her resting place is not marked.

It was still incredibly quiet considering the elevated subway a block away. No cars drove by, those in the picture are parked. It felt like a road in the country.

I do not remember the last time I saw telephone lines like this which run to wooden telephone poles. The silence was broken by two young men conversing in Spanish. I think Deborah Moody would have approved of the diversity in the neighborhood and its modest simplicity.

Things were a little jazzier on the east side. The houses were newer, or more recently renovated. The cars were more expensive.

The wires make it look as if she were fishing. I wonder if Deborah Moody ever went down to Coney Island and cast a line like the fishermen we saw at dawn. Fishing was men's work, but colonial women often did men's work. Maybe she went fishing with Peter Stuyvesant.

The northeast corner had a distinct outer borough style; the flat squat architecture, the lack of trees in favor of shrubs.

I am not sure what Deborah Moody would make of the artificial evergreen garland wrapped around the terrace. Maybe she would find it amusing.

The center of the village, where the town hall used to be, is the exit to subway. The el line shadows the street and an automated voice occasionally warns from above to 'stand clear of the closing doors'.

Around the intersection are low slung buildings, warehouses, plumbing supply, iron workers. It is nice to know that there are still iron workers in the city.

I did not visit the house that is supposed to be Lady Moody's, mostly because I forgot to go there. I was so taken with finding the original outline of the settlement and its center. There is an old house on Gravesend Neck road just over from the subway station, which is where Deborah Moody may or may not have lived. It is very old. The rest of Gravesend has certainly changed, but I think it kept some of original energy.


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