More Brooklyn, experiments in perspective and capturing the essence of an afternoon, from two different sets of eyes — plus three questions that will forever remain unanswered.
Coming back from the US, it struck me that being jet lagged is *exactly* like being stoned.
Jet lagged, you’re a bit paranoid, easily confused and keep losing the thread of conversations. Everything takes longer than it should. The world feels like it’s moving very slowly and you are moving slowly through it. Your mouth is parched; eyes, dry and squinty. Sometimes you see things that aren’t really there. All you want to do is lie down.
Don’t believe me? Check this out.
See? The only difference is that everything is hilarious when you’re stoned. Nothing is hilarious when you’re jet lagged. Everything hurts.
You may be wondering — or possibly have already deduced — why I’m able to be so specific about this. I’ll tell you. It’s because Joel and I got really stoned in Williamsburg.
This is yet another big difference I noticed stateside. Weed is now legal. You may have already picked up on this from some of the roadside signs I mentioned in previous pieces. Clearly, things have changed. There are signs in Hindi and Korean on the subway. The hot dog carts sell Mexican fare as standard.
And weed is legal. Things are great.
Anyway, another similarity between jet lag and being high is, shall we say, a certain narrative unreliability. My recall of events, places and conversations is …. limited.
If I was to trace on a map our progress across Williamsburg the day we got stoned, it would start out, firm and sure, at the corner coffee shop on the lower east side of Manhattan where we met my oldest and dearest friend Constantine — and it would finish, firm and sure, some twelve hours later back at our hotel in Tribeca.
In between, things would be … hazy.
So, in an effort to chart a lost afternoon, here will now follow my account of our visit to Williamsburg — and then, Joel’s. A Doors of Perception for the digital age, if you will.
Whether reading both causes the afternoon to fall more sharply into relief will be a question that only the reader can answer.
The gummieskicked in just as we finished crossing the Williamsburg bridge and turned up Bedford Avenue. By the time we got to McCarren Park, we were pretty incoherent.
It took us a long time to sit down on a patch of grass. Constantine was wearing a silk skirt and we discussed at length whether there might be dog shit there and then sat down anyway.
Sitting smoking a spliff, Joel remarked that taking a deep breath felt better than normal.
Constantine flicked a hot rock onto her silk skirt and we all looked in sorrow at the little black O. Then I panicked I’d lost my phone and checked all my pockets and my bag and my jacket. Eventually, Constantine said it’s right there, under your thigh. And there it was.
She was talking pretty much without stopping. I marvelled at her ability to form thoughts into words and sentences.
“How did the first person survive? It’s kind of amazing if you think about it.”
There were three or four conversations going on at once but I couldn’t chart them all because they weren’t really conversations. We just kept looking at each other and laughing.
The “conversation” moved on to whether we had accidentally got dog shit on the aluminium foil the spliff was wrapped in or whether the foil was already dirty before.
The task fell to me to determine the truth of the matter. I was touching the foil, examining it and sniffing it when a woman appeared next to us.
“Excuse me have you lost a phone?”
I stared at her, mouth slightly open, how did she KNOW?!
But then I realised she meant a different phone, not mine, and she was pointing under the tree next to us, where a black phone was lying on the grass.
I closed my mouth slightly and shook my head, waving my phone at her by way of communicating “nope, here it is”.
Words being well beyond me at this point.
She looked the three of us over and, taking her child’s hand, walked away.
We debated eating at a restaurant called Allswell and Constantine asked me about five times if all’s well for us to eat at Allswell. Eventually, we decided to go somewhere else.
After we crossed the road, Joel told me he didn’t remember crossing the road. Did we check both ways?
The waitress asked if we wanted to sit inside or outside and we were too stoned to make a decision so she put us outside. The people next to us got served their main course as we sat down.
Joel was too stoned to pick up the menu. He asked me what I was going to eat. I told him a BLT.
The people next to us got served their main course again.
A guy with a ponytail left the restaurant and Joel asked me what I was going to eat.
“Are you serious? You just asked me that.”
“You didn’t answer.”
“Yes I did. I said a BLT.”
“Oh right. A BLT.”
The guy with the ponytail left the restaurant again.
When our food arrived, Joel said it all tasted like peanut butter.
He was holding his sandwich and fiddling with the lettuce.
I said I’m going to the toilet and he said “oh, you’ll love it.” I had no idea what he was talking about and worried why I didn’t understand.
Waiting in line for the toilet, it was going really slow. What is it about this toilet taking everyone so long? It’s like the black hole of toilets. Outside the toilet, under the kitchen hatch, there was a food waste bin, filth trickling out of its mouth and down the sides. My mind skittered ahead to tonight, after lights out, when the roaches will descend.
There was a beep. My phone pinged. It was my mom asking where do I want to meet to pick my son up? I considered this with some alarm — I’m not really in a fit state for parenting — and eventually settled on telling her to come out to Williamsburg. I figured that will take the longest time and maybe we will be less stoned by then.
It’s a big maybe.
I typed out a response, laboriously. Every time I touched the keyboard it was like jumping into a swimming pool with my thumb, the screen rippling when I touched a key.
“I just told them to come here.”
Joel put his head on the table.
“You told them to come here?”
“It’s ok, they’re ages away. They’re still in Yonkers.”
Constantine sipped her drink and considered this. Then she leaned in conspiratorially.
“You mean yonks?”
She sipped her drink again, still considering this.
“She’s in actual Yonkers? Or you mean, like, she’s yonkers away?”
“No, actual Yonkers. The place.”
There are three or four conversations going on at once.
1. Where will we eat? “Allswell” is an option, which is hilarious.
2. Did a dog shit where we sat, right before we sat there? It’s okay to sit.
3. Constantine’s sitting in a silk dress. The dress got a hole in it from the embers.
4. Jill lost her phone and started panicking. It’s right there. She searches her pockets and rummages through her bag, eventually finding it on her coat.
We keep looking at each other and laughing. Everything is spinning, and I’m tuning in and out. It’s like going into a different dimension but having moments where you snap back and can interact with the world again for a few seconds. Then you go back out.
We cycle through snippets of each of the four conversations.
“Is that dog shit on the foil? You’ve got me all paranoid.”
“Is it all well with Allswell?”
“Can’t believe I almost lost my phone.”
“I burned a hole in my dress.”
“That’s the thing about rollercoasters, you can’t mess with rollercoasters.”
“Maybe we could just eat here (pointing across the road).”
“Can I have some of that hand sanitiser?”
“How are you doing? (laughing)”
Stranger: “Did anyone lose a phone? There’s a phone over here.”
“When you think about it, someone else is experiencing that in realtime.” Constantine is explaining that Jill looking for her phone was channelling the poor guy elsewhere in Brooklyn who had actually lost his phone.
“It’s called *physical* empathy. Tela… tela… telaportation.”
I’m losing it. I feel an overwhelming sense of laughter, and I feel like I’m lying down. Not actually down but in the process of laying down.
I have to capture this as it happens or I’ll forget all the details. I pull out my phone and try to type a note. This is difficult. My hands feel heavy and each tap is numb and strained.
Jill is reading the menu on her phone. “Starters, Sandwiches, Desserts…” “Sandwiches, that’s lunch-y. that’ll do”.
“A burger is a sandwich? Okay.”
“She was always a sandwich girl, was your Jill.”
We’re crossing a road, but we’re already on the other side. I don’t know how we got here or whether anyone checked both ways. I certainly didn’t. We’re heading to the restaurant at number 18.
Jill and Constantine are having a conversation but I can’t tell what it’s about. A moment ago, I thought we were in the park.
Waiter: “You eating in or out?” I say: “Out.”
We go to sit down at a table at the side of the road. I carefully put my bag down and think about my camera. I hope to god I don’t somehow lose it while stoned.
It’s so intense. I can hear every conversation and see every face.
Constantine is saying something about writing science fiction. “In the modern day, it’s time to find out who you really are. I think I’m going to make a sci-fi. About the first humans. It’s more like an old comedy. And then it’s like in the modern day. It would be like: ‘It’s time to find out who you are. You’re a direct descendent of the first humans.’ Then it’s like ‘never forget, no matter how good you are, you’re all descendants of the first humans’. ”
The couple next to us are happily served their food.
“What are you doing?” Jill says to me.
“Laughing. You two are just so funny.”
“I would just love to go somewhere and sing a song and play a guitar right now,” Constantine says.
I really need a wee. I check my bag again. Still there. I wonder how stoned the two of them are. Is it safe to leave my bag here? It would be weird to take my bag. I worry how weird it would be to take my bag.
I need to order before I go. “What are you getting?” I ask. I need to buy myself some time. I’m not sure I can process an entire menu.
“I’m kind of tempted by the BLAT.”
“What’s a BLAT?” “Avocado.” “Oh.”
“What are you getting Jill?”
“Didn’t you just ask me that?”
“Yeah, but you didn’t answer.”
“Yes she did. God, I’m really stoned.”
I stand up and walk backwards around the divider. “I’m just popping to the bathroom.” I am smiling but not sure why. It’s not funny, but I can’t help it.
With some difficulty, I walk across to the building and head towards a line of people standing in a corner at the back. The bathroom door is black and dirty. It has an old diving mask (the kind with butterfly nuts) on it. Next to the bathroom door is a hatch to the kitchen where the food comes out, right above a steaming waste bin.
There are two women at the front of the queue, followed by two men and then me. And things are moving slowly.
Stand up straight and don’t say anything, they’ll never know, I tell myself.
I watch as servers dash in and out, attending to a terminal with dozens of buttons. Through the hatch, men sweat in white hats and speak in loud, unintelligible tones. It’s probably perfect English, though not to me.
After the second woman goes in, the man in front of me says to the other man:
“I hope you’ll be a bit quicker than them (indicating the two women who went first).”
“Ha, yeah, totally. Jeez!”
What a dick.
The woman came out, and the first man dashed in. We all waited in anticipation, the man in front of me getting increasingly impatient. He finally came out after about the same amount of time as the women. Even I’m shocked. Maybe he had a shit.
The other man rushes in, leaving the door half open as if to prove a point. He won’t even wash his hands, I think to myself. Minutes pass. He eventually comes out.
Now it’s my turn to perform, and let’s be clear: I’m stoned as fuck. I hold onto the handle and move my body around the door, closing it behind me. There’s no lock, but that’s alright since there’s a long queue keeping guard.
I move to the toilet and unbutton my shorts, wondering what it is that keeps people in this particular bathroom for so long. The relief is immense as I start and seem to continue forever like Tom Hanks in that movie with that one funny scene. When I eventually stop, I realise this is the bathroom’s secret. No one stands in a line that long unless they really need it, and when they finally make it, they *really* need it.
I get back to the table and checked my bag and camera again.
“Is it okay to tell my mum we’re in Williamsburg?” Jill to me in concerned undertone. “I don’t ever remember being this stoned. I think it was mostly the gummy and then…”
Constantine: “You know what you have right now? You have a head hit and you have a body hit. From the gummy and the spliff. Head hit plus body hit.”
Jill keeps asking what I’m doing on my phone. “I’m just taking some notes because this is all very funny.”
“I want to get off.” She looks miserable. “Show me what you’re writing.”
“What shall we do? Shall I tell my mum to come here or shall we meet her in midtown?”
“Are you getting paranoid?”
“I feel like he’s writing everything I say.”
“You’re actually the one who started the writing thing. You’re paranoid about the thing you thought. So then you created the paranoia for yourself. Joel didn’t look up and say, ‘I’M WRITING EVERYTHING YOU SAY NOW’ and then look back down. You asked him. That paranoia you have you can now release.”
The couple next to us are served their first meal again. Didn’t they just have a meal?
Constantine is explaining her perspective. “I’m looking at the guy with the red, but I’m seeing the girl with the purse. I’m looking at the world as a horse might see it.”
She stops herself. “Not a horse. A fish.”
The food arrives. I try to say “thank you”. It doesn’t sound like my voice, but fuck it. It worked.
The chips are dry, like peanut butter or a mouthful of semolina. This must be what it’s like, semolina, I mean. I spend what seems like several minutes working out which glass of water is mine. It’s on the second table next to the salad bowl.
I take a sip. The water is dry too. The tomato looks juicy, though.
The couple next to us are served their main meal. This is the third time now.
I pick up my BLAT and take a bite. It’s dry, too, but salty and feels good to eat. There’s a bit of lettuce sticking out of the side and I try to push it back in. I want it to be in alignment with the bread; can’t eat it otherwise. The whole task seems to take a number of minutes. I look across at Jill’s plate, assuming I’m falling behind and that everyone else has already finished. She’s barely started.
I’m eating chips one by one, lining each down the side of my mouth and crushing it all at once along half my teeth. The texture is great like this and I don’t mind the dryness.
It’s been an hour since we smoked.
Constantine is advising Jill. “You should get a cola. That’s actually helpful, a sugary drink.”
Jill needs the bathroom. “Just go wait in line,” I say. “You’ll really enjoy it.”
Jill’s mother is coming over, she’s texting her.
“Do you think she’ll notice?”
“I don’t know what you guys are normally like around her.”
“Well, not stoned.”
“It depends on her state of mind.”
“They only just got on the train from Yonkers,” Jill said. “So they’ll be awhile.”
“From actual Yonkers or yonkers away? Actual Yonkers. Okay.”
They won’t be here for like an hour.
“Imagine if laughter was all you had. Like, that’s all you got.”
“What’s our favorite thing we’ve consumed today?”
It’s time to pay. Do we divide it with or without the tip. Jill thinks we should add the tip first, round it to an easy number and divide that. Constantine wants to know what proportion of her part will be tip. We’re both confused as to why this information is necessary.
Constantine is talking to a friend on the phone. “We’re here now, so that’s where we are.” He turns up in a T-shirt that says: “It takes courage to enjoy it.”
Everything around us is surreal, with pops of colour. A girl with an old-fashioned film camera is shooting b-roll. There’s a man in conversation, working on a bright teal lolly. A lady walks past, delicately carrying a tiny plant pot.
Jill is quiet and looks terrified.
“You look scared. Do you want me to sit with you?”
So, there you have it. One afternoon, two vantage points. Have we arrived at the truth of it? Are two unreliable narrators better than one?
There are inconsistencies. Was it a silk dress or a skirt? (Skirt, I think). Was there avo on the sandwich? (There was). Did we elect to sit outside? (I think so.) Where did my phone turn up — under thigh or on coat? (In fact: on coat, under thigh).
There are other things we’ll just never know.
Was it really dog shit on the foil?
Who lost their phone?
And what were they all doing in that bathroom?
For Joel. Happy anniversary.
Brooklyn, not colonial.
CBD gummies. Enjoying using Notes for mini-digressions, like this one, about where we got them….
He means A League of Their Own (objectively, one of the greatest movies ever made).