Thursday, June 18, 2009

It's weirdly quiet on the western reaches of Manhattan, the weird places where the grid ends and the streets are forced to bend up or down, or end in cul-de-sacs. The patterns of commerce break down too; I suppose they're not good places for restaurants. Often there's a dreary outpost, an Italian restaurant that hasn't changed since 1973, out of place and out of time. And a laundry or two, and a deli that's lit like a living room and specializes in Pepperidge Farm cookies, displayed in glorious stacks in the window.

The end of Chambers Street at Rockefeller Park is like that, cloistered and serene. I sat on the wall between the sidewalk and the recessed lawn, watching the crowd assemble in front of the stage where Chuck Brown was going to play.

The stage mix soundman wandered from his station, cell phone to his ear, hustling his band to someone: Have you heard it yet? No? Can you make some time to hear it? You can check us out on MySpace, too. Me? I'm Eric.

A heavyset black woman walked by holding her charges, two retarded women, by the hand on either side: "No tugging!" she said.

Band members wandered in and out of their bus, parked on the street behind the stage. A few of them passed around a joint. Locals asked me who was playing, and when.

Everything was unbelievably good and peaceful.