Let There Be Lightness

Last week's column found me in a vaguely worrywarting/grim reaping state. This is okay. This happens. Now, however, I'm committed to lightness. You have my word. Read further and be inspired by a collection of great things to do, see, eat, generally get happy about, and yes, one or two that are a little scary. (I can't help it.) 

Matthew McConaughey & Woody Harrelson in HBO's masterful True Detective

Matthew McConaughey & Woody Harrelson in HBO's masterful True Detective

Last week’s column found me mired in tangential tragedy, accidental narcissism, and parental worry. But then, at a Sunday night Oscar party, amidst discussion of the silliness and interminable length of the broadcast, while eating a vast mosaic of Trader Joe’s wickedly delicious frozen appetizers, I watched Brooklynite Lupita Nyong’o (perhaps you’ve heard of her?) win a much deserved trophy and delight us all with her rare, composed brilliance. I got to enjoy Ellen being Ellen, always a reliable source of goodness and well being. Spike Jonze rightly won Best Original Screenplay for his masterpiece, Her, and 12 Years A Slave beat out the very overrated American Hustle for best picture. Also, John Travolta introduced us to the talents of a previous unknown, Adele Dazeem, and the workweek thereby began in convivial laughter and pleasant bafflement. It was such easy fun, and lighter than a passed puffed pastry washed down with the Prosecco I was drinking. A perfect way to hit the pillow on a Sunday night. 

So this week, I remain committed to continued Lightness. Lightness damnit! I suggest that you download Pharrell’s familiar and chipper song Happy from GIRL, the happiest gosh darn album of the year, and listen to it as accompaniment while reading further—with some daffodils in a jelly jar sitting right next to you. Here’s a list of items I’d like to share, collected unscientifically, that I think will make you feel generally, overall, basically, pretty nice.

Let’s start small: Free Irish Soda Bread samples have been made available at Mazzola on the corner Union & Henry Street. I eat most of them when the staff turns their back, so it’s unlikely there will be any left for you. (Do they keep the mirror there next to the counter to shame you? Make you behave morally? I’ve never understood a mirror in a bakery.) Either way, I’ve been greedy and I’m sorry about that. I suppose this counts more as a makes me happy item; other people not so directly. Anyway, can’t you just be happy for me?

Now let’s go big: I think the sanitation department might come back soon and rescue us from the grime wave. It’s as if they’re here, but more in spirit than in practice. Their work is obviously deeply hampered by the weather, but it’s looking bleak in these parts. I’m tired of wondering if it’s actually snowing outside or just dirting. Also, there’s been a discarded toilet in front of our house awaiting pickup for a week, frozen into the snow at a jaunty angle. Like a beret. Every time we leave the house and encounter the commode, my nine year old says, simply, Jesus, Mom. So I would be happy, for example, if the toilet was taken away. This is anticipated happiness; very valuable to human beings. It’s also called hope.  

Mardi Gras has just passed me by. I missed it again. It’s kind of a tradition, accidentally missing it. I’ll get there though, hopefully after I’m no longer frightened of Louisiana as an entire concept thanks to True Detective (more on this below). What we do have here is a new Blue Bottle Coffee right on Dean Street, and I suggest you order one of their much too tasty New Orleans Iced Coffees. It is a chicory, cane sugary encounter with bliss, and not scary at all. This combo will cost you the better part of ten dollars, but paired with one of their super spicy Ginger Molasses cookies—definitely a grown person’s treat—you’ll feel happy for the entire three minutes it takes to suck down all of the syrupy, rich, tingly flavors.   

This one won’t actually make you happy per say; more like petrified in a subterranean, primal way. If you’re not already, please do watch HBO’s True Detective. It will scare me less if as many folks as possible are watching it, and couch cowering, and feeling just as traumatized by it as I am. There’s only one episode left this season, before it moves on and gets entirely recast, but you will find no spoilers here (except to promise the twitchy, jittery terror you’ll be racked with). Since we’re still in relative hibernation here in New York and game for episodic odysseys, there’s time to devour it. The whole season is available on demand for those of you lucky enough to be just now embarking. This makes me very jealous. And yet, unsinkably happy for you.

Scholarship on the show can be found everywhere online and in great, theorizing depth, so perhaps all I’ll say is that it will haunt your dreams and consume your waking hours, and that Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey will relentlessly cloud the periphery of your thoughts if they don’t taken up residence there completely. It’s terrifying. In a good way. The good guys are terrifying. The creeps are terrifying. The good guys are creeps. The bad guys are unspeakably bad. It’s brilliant and obsidian dark, created by talented novelist and story writer, Nic Pizzolatto. He masterfully weaves his literary ambitions into every scene of the pulsing narrative. Even when I consider the “women problem” the show has (no-name, writhing, gratuitous toplessness, background and foreground objectification of female bodies, all familiar to watchers of modern dramatic television), I still think it aims for honesty in depictions of hideous crimes against women and children; physical, emotional and psychological. Perpetrated by the heroes and villains alike. And now, I leave this spooky realm to eat free Irish Soda Bread cubes, before I become too afraid. If you are the Yellow King, or know the Yellow King, and you’re reading this, please leave me alone. That’d make me happy.

Jason Collins

Jason Collins

This here, is a happiness layup: On Monday, Jason Collins, the first openly gay NBA player, appeared in his premiere home game this season as a Brooklyn Net. This is good for all of us in a million ways; good for sports, good for fans, good for kids. He rejoined the Nets, where he began his professional career in 2001, after an interesting year. He revealed to Sports Illustrated last May, “I’m a 34 year old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.” Collins checked into the game Monday for the final minutes of a Nets 96-80 victory over the Chicago Bulls. Best of all, he hit the court at the Barclays, in front of a sellout crowd of 17,732, to a standing ovation. What could make a Brooklyn fan prouder that that? Perhaps only the fact that Collins wears number 98, in honor of Matthew Shepherd, who was murdered in1998, because he was gay. The Nets will sign Collins to his second ten-day contract this week. Welcome home, number 98. I hope you’ll stay a while.

This essay first appeared on South Brooklyn Post on March 6, 2014.