With Thoughts of Bridges and Tunnels and Amplifiers and Girls

I was in bed for what felt like five minutes (it was actually five hours) when the little alarm clock let loose its hybrid buzz-chirp: 7am, time to wake up. I stumbled into the bathroom, my mind filled with thoughts of the previous night at Maxwell’s. The fluorescent white light above the cracked mirror blinked on and off for a couple of moments before steadying itself, reminding me of the camera bulbs that flashed while we were on stage. I heard myself think: “We’ll never play a bad show again. That’s all behind us now.”

By 8am, Bagheera was finally just dipping into her food, while Huckleberry was darting and thumping across the apartment like a crazed thoroughbred. I was out the door and on my sleepy way through the refreshing, cold morning air: 49 degrees, going up to a chilly 62. JA, who also lives in the neighborhood, was waiting for me to join him in what he refers to as “The Glamorous Side of Publishing.” This is when we break our backs over 200-lb amplifiers and six-foot tall monster speakers and so on. [Note to everyone: It really makes us happy when the writers review small, light gear.] Yes, we do this mostly on our own. And when I say “we,” I actually mean JA. Yes, John Atkinson does this mostly on his own. He lugs monoblocks through his home—up and down staircases, one step at a time—out of (and back into) thick crates, up and down his driveway, and into his small garage, which is completely devoured by audio gear.

On this occasion, we hauled the PS Audio GC-100 and Hybrid Stereo amp, the Musical Fidelity Hybrid preamp, the Ensemble Fonobrio, and the E.A.R. 912 into the truck.

John Atkinson and I, two out-of-shape asthmatics, wheezing in the wind, enjoying the glamorous side of publishing:

“Well… it’s nice to have your help,” wheezed JA.
“I’m happy to be able to help,” wheezed I.

The drive, however, was lovely. Because the highways were so congested, JA decided to take the surface roads. I was glad he did because it offered me the opportunity to see bits of Brooklyn I’d never before known.

“And this,” JA said, as we entered an area of docks and warehouses and narrow, cobble-stoned roads, “is Brooklyn’s red-light district.”
“Really?” I looked around and noticed a few fine gentlemen’s clubs.
“I bet you didn’t know it existed.”

We made a right-hand turn, which opened a view out over a parking lot and onto the Jersey City skyline.

“That’s the Goldman-Sachs building,” I said.

It was then that I began to realize, despite the ridiculously long subway ride, how very close Jersey City and Brooklyn actually are.
“It’s funny,” I continued, “because this area is so similar to the area of downtown Jersey City they call the Powerhouse Arts District.”

We continued on until we reached a stoplight near 23rd Street, which sparked a memory of sitting at a certain girl’s porch, waiting for her to arrive. I sat out there for maybe fifteen minutes, watching the Hispanic kids play stickball in the street, and watching their grandparents smoke and smash dominoes into the concrete. I remembered thinking that it seemed a lot like home, that it seemed a lot like growing up. I sat there wondering if she would kiss me again like she had a few nights earlier. I was surprised by it, and didn’t know what it meant or what to expect from the future. When she finally arrived, I met her halfway and trembled awkwardly towards her lips, but she turned her head slightly and offered me her cheek. I was disappointed, embarrassed, hurt and confused, but I followed her up her staircase—watching watching watching—and, finally, into her apartment where, slowly, nothing would happen.

The light turned green and I realized that every girl I’ve ever loved has lived in Brooklyn. It was then, as we approached the entrance for the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel—the longest underwater tunnel in all of North America—that the Goldman Sachs tower again came into plain view, this time just as large and palpable as from my living room window. Jersey City and Brooklyn, so close and so similar, but only separated by a bit of water: like two halves of the same broken heart.

I imagined a gold charm on a thin necklace, and thought to myself that I should remember the image and use it for the blog.

Then thought again: “No, that’s too corny.”

And all along FDR Drive and beneath its many bridges: the Brooklyn, the Manhattan, the Williamsburg.... And at the Fulton Fish Market, where, profoundly, I observed: “It smells fishy….” And the sunshine dancing on the water…. And the sunshine decorating the tallest buildings…. Closing my eyes with thoughts of bridges and tunnels and amplifiers and girls, I remembered John saying, “It’s nice to have your help,” and I heard myself reply:

Yes, I could live in Brooklyn.

John Atkinson's picture

As well as the glamor of having to manhandle many cardboard boxes -- it's the boxes, note, that live in my garage, not the gear, which takes up temporary residence in my test lab for measuring and sometimes in my listening room for, er, listening -- you get a weird sense of time in publishing. The gear that Stephen and I were schlepping back to the office yesterday was: the EAR 912 preamp, reviewed by Art Dudley next month; the Musical Fidelity kW Hybrid preamp, also next month by Mikey Fremer; The PS Audio GCC-100 integrated amplifier, to be reviewed by Robert Deutsch in January 2006; the PS Audio HCA-2 amplifier, reviewed in December 2002; the Ensemble FonoBrio phono preamp, to be reviewed next February by Brian Damkroger; and an Audio POrecision test filter. Yet I have spent past 10 days working on all these reviews in parallel, as well as on the subjects of Stephen's and my next haul, the NHT CXd digital speakers that I following up in January.

John Atkinson's picture

Oh, and I forgot to mention the 200lb Chord monoblock that Paul Bolin is reviewing in January, which Stephen helped me pack into its flight case and which is currently in the vestibule of my listening room waiting for the FedEx man. Yup, it's a glamorous life being the editor of a high-end magazine!

Donald N.'s picture

Love the description of Brooklyn! With Sam's writings of Europe, I am clearly in the right place! Sometimes wish I could be a reviewer/ writer but, of course my mind fashions a fantasy setting (no lifting required!). Tell us more of what you guys/ gals deal with in the biz - I find it compelling.

Rocker's picture

I am hoping to live in brooklyn soon myself.

Stephen Mejias's picture

Brooklyn is a pretty wonderful place, but there are certainly parts of Brooklyn that I like more than others. Specifically, I like the parts that remind me of Jersey City. (Hee hee.)

Todd Steponick's picture