Map of the Terrain

The auto auction mascot . . . his roar is the endless noise of traffic.

Isaac was the last tenant to move from the last building. All of them had been cleared to make way for the “Future Site of Brooklyn Works,” as the huge sign there proclaimed. He had no lease, so his eviction had been looming for a while. Engrossed in his work, though, and in denial over his imminent displacement, he spent little time trying to find a place. So his last resort became his only option: he had to move into his studio. He’d been dreading the prospect, less because the studio promised little in the way of homely comforts than because he had always thought it crucial to keep his art space separate from the rest of his life.

He would especially miss the walk to the studio. A certain comfort and alertness took hold as he moved through the landscape . . . Flat Fix, auto glass, check cashing, car wash . . . plastic bags snared on barbed wire, flowers of the built world . . . in the distance, the auto auction mascot, a giant blue inflatable gorilla, looming over the highway fringe where the peripheral car trades gathered, his roar the endless noise of traffic.

Etched in the skyline

Layers of history

At a certain point in the walk his stomach would churn with anticipation. Then his pace would quicken, along with his heart, as the pungent smell of petroleum by-products hit his nostrils. That smell signaled his entrance into the industrial zone. It was all steel, brick and concrete. Its black/red/gray palette surrounded him. He felt a ghostly aura—the spirit of industry. Decades of productive energies lingered there with a heavy but elusive presence, like something far-off and epic. Relics from the borough’s industrial prime were visible everywhere: cobblestones and train tracks peeked up through spots of worn asphalt; faded letters on buildings and huge metal signs announced long extinct companies—layers of time etched into the skyline.

Derelict factory: Testament to ruin

Vintage decay

The landscape of working factories and copious decay intermingled created a street-level intimacy that immersed the senses. The enveloping soundscape would grow more distinct with each block, especially on warm days, with the exuberant sounds of hammering, sawing, humming motors pouring out from open doors and trailing him down the street as he walked past. The familiar sights and sounds implanted in Isaac’s head a map of the terrain.

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