Other Boroughs, Other ‘Burbs

window, light, books
window, light, books

I spent most of yesterday in the Bronx and most of today in Poughkeepsie. Po-town is not what I would call a suburb, but the alliteration/allusion combination was too good to pass up.

My friend Felicia works at SUNY Maritime, which is this weird combination of the State University of New York and a Maritime college in the Throggs Neck area of the Bronx. Felicia told me all about the history, but I am afraid I was a little too distracted by the slight cold I seem to have picked up to remember much of it. But it is kind of cool. Their library is in a fort! Like a real fort. Well, not a real fort now, but a real fort guarding the confluence of the East River and Long Island Sound back during the Revolution. I’m not much for military stuff in general, but I get excited about old stuff, particularly when you get to wander around in it. And I’m a sucker for old-school looking libraries.

After touring a bit of the campus, we had lunch with a friend of hers at The Wicked Wolf, and I had linguine with mussels in red sauce because hey, I am by large bodies of water! I can eat water-dwelling creatures! It was quite good. We then went to what her friend called the skeeziest bar in the Bronx (it did not seem very skeezy — just a good local hangout) and drank hard cider on tap, and then Fel and I went to see Good Hair.

It may seem sort of nuts to go to the movies in New York, where it costs $10.50 (the theatre in Cody charges $6.50, I believe). But I love going to the movies (I would much, much rather see a movie in a theatre than at home), and let’s face it, the chances of a documentary — even a documentary with Chris Rock — about black women and their hair coming to Wyoming are pretty much nil. It is a fascinating yet frustrating film — fascinating because other than “I know it takes special styling/cutting skills and requires particular products,” I knew diddley squat about black hair before this movie; frustrating because, while it’s billed as a documentary, it doesn’t really go into the kind of depth I would like in a documentary. Chris Rock starts out by talking about the day one of his small daughters asked him why she didn’t have “good hair,” and then he goes out to interview black women about their hair. . . except most of the people he talks to are movie stars, singers, and entertainers of other sorts. Oh, sure, Toni Morrison and Al Sharpton show up, and he does talk to people in beauty shops and barber shops, but none of the regular people get the same kind of respectful, talking head treatment that the celebrities do. I was hoping for something more like a feature-length version of A Girl Like Me, which Mitali Perkins showed at the preconference she did at the Wyoming Library Association conference just a couple of weeks ago. Seriously, if you haven’t seen this, forget this post and go watch it now.

Still, Good Hair was worthwhile as a glimpse, albeit (I suspect) a limited glimpse. And we watched it at the Coop City theatre complex, which made me feel happy as it meant I’d visited another place in the They Might Be Giants song.

Today I took the train up to Poughkeepsie, which was once a center of IBM activity and is still the home of Vassar College, where I went to school. Like most of the people I’ve met who went to expensive, fancy colleges, I tend to avoid trying to say where I went to school. If you ask, I’m liable to say I went to school in “upstate New York” or “north of the City.” I avoid being specific becasue, I suppose, I don’t want to be judged to be rich and snobby. I do come from people with plenty of money, and I should be willing to admit that. I hope that I don’t seem too snobby, although I’m sure I fail at that regularly. Anyway. My mother has quoted my father to me on the subject of college my whole life. He said of where you go to school that “it’s so important it doesn’t matter.” He meant, I think, simply that the experiences you have at that time are so crucial to defining you that you can’t really have them anywhere but where you go. Of course, now that I say that, it comes out sounding just the kind of snobby that I don’t want to sound. So I’ll stop with that and just say that while I don’t think going to a fancy college is all that, or is even necessary, I loved my particular experience at my particular college.

It was a perfect autumn day today, cool but not cold, and the leaves were just beginning to change. People in Wyoming tell me they love fall because of the color of the leaves, and all I can think is that they have never been in a deciduous forest. In Wyoming the aspen and cottonwood leaves just turn yellow and then fall off and turn brown. I was so glad to see red and orange and every other shade of the warm spectrum against the still green leaves and the blue and white and gray sky. The whole campus was so beautiful and so full of memories that I wished I could pack it up and put it in my pocket to take home. Look, there is the bench where I talked to Kate that night, and there is the table where Meribeth wrote her thesis and I wrote my history term paper, and there is the path that always made me think of Maine, and even though the Brooklyn Bridge isn’t there any more, there’s where it used to hang. I could not fit it all in, so I took a lot of pictures. Too many probably, but not nearly enough to convey it all. I also had lunch with my old adviser, Rachel Kitzinger. I can’t quite believe it’s been over a decade since I was there — and I know that a decade isn’t even very long. But it is still a long time for me, at age 33.

At some point I’ll write up my adventures in transportation and how I got free tiramisu (or perhaps, in all honesty, I won’t), but for now, it’s time to go to bed, lest my cold get worse instead of better.