I had to get out of the house today and, lucky enough to have a car, drove twenty blocks away to the edge of Brooklyn.
I ended up on the streets around Bush Terminal, once a huge complex of manufacturing buildings that fell from use in the 1970’s and have come back to life in the last decade. A long row of buildings is now called Industry City and house artist studios, work shops and high-end furniture and retail manufacturer. A hipster-ish retail and restaurant mall stretches along the ground floors, from building to building.
I stayed closer to home, ten blocks south of all that, in a part that still rumbles with factories and warehouses. An empty rutted cobble stoned street ended in a building where the great Irving Bush continued to overlook his handiwork.
I came for the ruins. They arrest me, remind me the past is always present. There are, too, the echos of how they once served us and of the lives that flowed through them.
And, almost always, there is something to find. Today I discovered this.
An art installation, carefully composed and positioned against a weathered brick wall. Dangling from the anchor-shaped tree branch were wires and strings,a chunk of wood from which medical masks filled with flower pods droop. There were bits of plastic tubing, a coffee cup lid, a desiccated orange, and a strange CD disc on a draped beaded metal chain. The rest of the stuff would have been weird if not so carefully crafted and symmetrical. The whole balanced so precisely that when the wind threaded through the branches the pieces gently shudder in complete harmony.
The entire site felt like a memorial to a once grand, now fallen, economy and a previously unimaginable national tragedy, the mobile perhaps a reminder that one of the city’s major hospitals was down the street.
On the other side of the buildings there was a small park, build several years ago upon landfill–rocks dug up at construction sites and parts of old buildings. Cornerstones and stone pillars, steps still attached to brick walls and chunks of pavement scattered about.
None of the chaos of the ruins seeped in here. No more than seven people wandered about–parents airing their children, a dog walker, several people trying to stay in shape.
The silence composed of wind and water was astonishing.