I like to wear a burgundy T-shirt that trumpets “Made in Brooklyn” across the front. I especially like wearing it in Manhattan. A long time ago I, too, was a Manhattan snob who rarely ventured to the other boroughs, but now I am a big fan of all the ethnic neighborhoods off the island.
My shirt is a paradox, like René Magritte’s iconic picture of a pipe that has the words “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (or “This is not a pipe”) written below it. The shirt may have been made in Brooklyn but I certainly wasn’t. I was made in Woodstock, NY.
I have a very complicated relationship with the famous hamlet that I’ve frequented or lived in since the time I was an embryo. I like the physical beauty of the woods and rugged mountains. I like the creativity and open-mindedness of its inhabitants. But I scream inside at all the flakes.
I was sitting on a bench this evening outside Taco Juan’s, a purveyor of ice cream, sorbet, inexpensive tacos, and tofu chili. A sketchy-looking woman walked by, and I remembered the time, a decade ago, when I was sitting on the very same bench and a woman who had two small children in tow stopped in front of me. She gazed over my shoulder at the menu items listed on the chalkboard in the window.
“That’s the problem with this town,” she said to her kids. “The stores should be more careful with their signs or you’ll never learn how to spell. It’s absurd they spelled quacamole with a g. It’s not guacamole. A Mexican restaurant, of all places, should know that it’s spelled with a q, like the word queen. It should say, ‘Quacamole and Chips.'” And words, for once, eluded me: I sat there in surreal silence.