The Lullaby of Brooklyn

20 April, 2009

“You wanna be a man, yeah, you doin’ a real good job, muthafuckah.”

To my friends who live beyond the five boroughs, Brooklyn is a dangerous place to live, the fodder of nightly news items, Spike Lee’s early films, the Beastie Boys and Crown Heights Riots.  To me, and to most of my friends who live within New York City, my tree-lined Brooklyn block is homey and quiet, as brownstones link arms with brownstones and Italian families with overdone religious paraphernalia in their gardens mix with recent down-to-earth, relatively new imports like me.  My neighborhood bears the character of it’s old school Mafia heritage while boasting the charm of a village within a city.

Enter The Drama: my next-door neighbor, who’s suspicious activities and dealings in angry piece-meal Spanglish intimate that perhaps its not just the Italians who control shady business around here.  Oh, how my poor neighbor longs to be Mafioso! From his backyard (which backs on my kitchen), I hear him spitting out covert instructions in his hybrid language; I know he rarely leaves the house; I hear his dogs howling from within on a daily basis; I see his wife, constantly taking long, sad walks while avoiding eye contact; I hear his son? tenant? daughter’s boyfriend? who lives in his basement thump god-awful music that reverberates through the concrete walls that we share. Sometimes, it seems as though my neighbor goes to greater lengths to make sure everyone around here knows that he’s up to no go, rather than to hide whatever likely-illegal activity he’s participating in.

Last night was no exception to this, as, for the second time in about a year, an expletive-laden, explosive argument burst through his front door and out into the garden at about 3:00 am.  Who he was fighting with I do not know, but given the threats that came spewing from his lips (and the silence of his opponent), I can only guess it was someone who had ‘deeply’ wronged him.  My sleep was delayed further by the banging of garbage cans, the smashing of bottles to be yielded as weapons, more f-bombs than The Sopranos ever cared to use, and threats that “if you don’t get your goddamn face out of my fucking sight, I’m gonna call the fucking cops and you’re gonna be a fucking deadman.”

I was afraid to open my curtains and get a visual on the live show taking place not 20 feet away from where I sleep.  Even after the victim of my neighbor’s wrath had surely fled into the night, said neighbor continued pacing and grumbling in his front  yard.  My favorite moment was when he called the cops (not very Mafia, I know) and reported, in a faux-gentility that The Simpsons‘ Fat Tony would be proud of, that the ‘perpetrator’ had absconded with some trivial piece of personal property and, therefore, should be hunted down, drawn and quartered.

I relaxed into slumber knowing that surely it’s not the last time an altercation like this is bound to happen, but at least tonight’s drama had ended without a bodybag, and with nary a police siren’s flashing lights in sight.