(Front Street – Photo by Bald Punk)
After a winter’s evening spent imbibing beer with the b’hoys, I had slipped out of Jeremy’s Ale House onto the cobbled Front Street with a kick in my step. Only now do I realize a spirit waited for me. Without body or visible shape, he followed me to the subway on Fulton and Broadway. At the time I had felt “lighter than life” and thought it was because of my altered mood.
I can remember how certain shadows and light fanned around me. But I paid little attention. If I gawked at every little oddity in NYC, I’d wind up being a silly fool who was late for everything.
In addition, my imagination was unusually active. It was filled with pictures of places I couldn’t identify. For a time, I had ignored them, too.
In the fore of my attention was Sigur Rós’ playful composition, “Gobbledigook.” I had tried to keep in step with the tribal drum beat, while shaking my shoulders side-to-side and extending careful karate chops. My motions were akin to a thespianic strut. It must have looked like I was parading across a Broadway stage. Everything else aside, Jeremy’s will do that to ‘ya.
(Sigur Rós – “Gobbledigook”)
Time breezed along. The next thing I knew I was jogging down the stairs to catch the incoming train at Fulton Street.
I plopped into a seat. My head was full of brilliant images. I focused in on what seemed like a sea of white fire. My mind’s eye moved closer. The sea separated to reveal many glittering points of light.
It was somewhere between Houston Street and Astor Place that I realized the images were of Coney Island circa 1905. I picked out the shape of the Dreamland tower. The lagoon in front of the tower was a shimmering bed of illumination. Set a short block away was another nebula of light. In the center was another tower, decorated on all sides with wagon-wheel-shaped lights. The top had a conical shape. The tower looked like a fanciful toy. It was another iconic image. It was the “electric tower” inside Luna Park.
(Dreamland in operation 1904-1911/Coney Island – Photo: Charles Denson Archive)
Ebullient faces drifted into view. They sailed down long rails on mechanical horses. Their screams and cries sounded like lovers in the throes ecstasy. They were on the Steeplechase ride in Steeplechase Park.
It was night, yet many people were still on the beach. A dozen feet or so above black ocean waters electric lights were hung on strings. Hoards of men in long underwear and women in bloomers danced in the waves.
Another vision simultaneously appeared. Set on a different plane, I thought it was from another time. I had a feeling the place was just outside NYC harbor. In my head, it seemed not too far past the lights of Coney that a ship was sailing for a dark landscape. It was a three-masted wooden clipper ship.
Within the screams and yelps of excitement from Coney, I could hear creaks and pops coming from the vessel. Overhead was a moonlit sky dappled with vapor trails of white. On the broadside of the ship was a crudely fashioned hole. It could have been from a cannonball blast.
I saw through the hole and picked up on movement inside the hull. Oily black skin gleamed and flashed in the low light. I heard the clink of chains.
(Electric tower in center. Luna Park, Coney Island 1905)
From the dark hulk packed with bodies, a hand waved to me. It seemed he wanted me to come closer, as if I could.
I closed my eyes and tried to come back to the moment in the bright subway car.
I heard a deep, raspy, southern black man’s voice. He spoke to me, but I was afraid to listen. There was something about “moving closer” to hear him that terrified me.
Thinking it would help me escape the “daydream”, I had focused in on the fiery lights of Coney Island like a greedy child, hungry for excitement.
I had rubbed my face and stood. I grabbed the bar overhead, and used it to guide me to the doors.
Along with slave’s low voice, a fleeting image of him has also stayed with me. It’s of the man’s hand and smooth black forearm. It was superimposed over the fiery lights of Coney.
I had seen the same appendage before. It belonged to the ghost of a slave named as Hardy.
Here are all the posts in this series: Episode Twenty-Seven – March 2010 (Feat: Ghost of a Slave named Hardy)
Church of St Andrew’s – Staten Island (Photos only)