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Yugoslav Steward knocks on my door, says “You stay on the ship? Okay?” and goes off into Brooklyn to get drunk with the crew— Alyce and I are waking up, at one A.M., arm in arm in a dreadsome ship, agh— Only one watchman alone on the walk— Everybody drinking in bars of New York.

“Alyce” I say “let’s get up and wash and take a subway to New York— We’ll go to the West End and have a gay beer.” But what’s in the West End but death anyway?

Alyce wants only to sail to Africa with me. But we dress and go hand in hand down the gangplank, empty pier, and go crossing huge plazas of Brooklyn’s hoodlum gangs with me with a bottle of wine in my hand like a weapon.

I’ve never seen a more dangerous neighborhood than those Brooklyn housing projects behind Bush Terminal pier.

We finally get to Borough Hall and dive into a subway, Van Cortlandt line, takes us all clear to 110th Street and Broadway and we go into the bar where my old favorite bartender Johnny is tending bar.

I order bourbon and whisky— I see the vision of haggard awful deathly faces one by one thru the bar of the world but my God they’re all on a train, and it endlessly runs into the Graveyard. What to do?
— Jack Kerouac from Desolation Angels (1965)

South Brooklyn 1998

South Brooklyn 1998

Photograph by Brian Berger

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