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You’re en route all ready, if you’re reading this. En route and on root. You might say that Flatbush Avenue cuts up the borough of Brooklyn, slices it right in half like Dali’s razor against an eyeball. But if it does—for it might be the suture that connects as much as the slice that divides—it does so on the bias. That’s a tailor talking, or a cook: to cut on the diagonal, across the grain. What we wear, what we eat; put it on and chew it up. So you look at the place and the people, the particular terroir of Brooklyn, however you slice it, spread horizontally, layered vertically, in time and space, and you find that line. On the bias.
So what’s ours? That (like the Avenue) writing or art is as wide and various as it is concrete and specific, river to ocean. And that—like the good tailor does—your route cuts somewhere between the finished and raw edges of the fabric, which is where you find that diagonal line. Measure twice, cut once: isn’t that what they say? Go exponential on that, measuring and cutting, because the fabric keeps coming, like a good lover does, like life does, like writing and art. Did we say exponential? We meant experimental, but not the test-tube kind. Brooklyn’s become some name-brand taste, dropped and re-dropped, with an aura all its own. That aura shines mainly in those neighborhoods that ring the supposedly singular “inner borough”—let’s not speak its name, lest the devil appear. But as someone pointed out “once upon a time,” the only borough of this various city from which one must pass through another in order to leave the city altogether is Brooklyn. That is, if there’s an inner, than this is it, which if you dish up a map looks like a lopsided heart—not the emoticon but the actual organ, blood red and beating in place.
But we’re going to cut through all those holier-than-thou distinctions and route it back to a bedrock that’s liquid if it’s anything, more lava than water. Bridge to bridge runs the cut, from the Manhattan—with all the hype of what’s lately Down Under it, like a flying elephant—to the Marine Parkway Gil Hodges Memorial (take a breath), East River to Rockaway Inlet and Jamaica Bay. Whitman’s beloved littoral. Layer it down and up, from the Native peoples whose name became some variation on Canarsie, to the British at Gravesend and the Dutch who first tongued Breuckelen—and Flatbush as Midwout, once upon a time in 1652, then King’s County a decade later. There’s no singular root or origin here, except to move. You drive that bias now, Flatbush Avenue, and you see it all, some time machine of the immediate. We’re not about history books anyway, which is why the line is on the bias against straight lines—tell all the truth, Emily said (#1263), but tell it slant. It’s an immigrant song, a road song, which is to say it’s right here (wherever) wrapping around itself, because success in circuit lies (to finish her thought). The grace to be born and live, Frank added (and didn’t he suspect Brooklyn all along? The Lower East adrift at sea), as variously as possible, which is no elegy but a call to life, an invocation, as this is: let’s run the length and width of that line, as broad and deep as Langston’s rivers: a place whose circumference is nowhere, center everywhere, with whatever we’ve got.
To sum: we model the borough, whose cultural width and breadth and depth is matched by formal variety and complexity—however you tell it, whatever it is you tell, tell it slant. Flatbush is possibility, not limit, builder and debaser: experimentation and plain talk, transformation and the affirmation of exactly what is. That circuit rounds the globe with what has come here, to this lopsided heart of a borough, time past to time now to time to come. Making and breaking: measure however you like, and cut and cut again until the bias is toward some greater good. By which we mean: of whatever place and time, there is richness of language and image, and a spirit to match.