Sitting off of Flatbush Avenue, the Brooklyn Academy of Music seems like a fortress bent on liberating the locals with blasts of aggressive performance. Even the acronym (BAM) reeks of combat. As is common with invading armies, the locals view the occupation with an uneasy mixture of appreciation and hostility. Most of the folks who live in the vicinity can't afford to go and probably wouldn't want to if they could.
The first time I went to BAM I was still living in Manhattan. Maria and I had moved into a one-bedroom on 103rd street a block away from gorgeous Riverside Park. The seed of our eventual breakup had long been sown but dying plants often flower beautifully. We did our best to enjoy New York and what it had to offer.
We found a Chinese restaurant down on the edge of Broadway and 103rd that could get food to our door within 10 minutes, delicious food that we incorporated into our routine until I bit into what seemed to be a small bit of wire meshed screen buried in my noodles. We ate at the Metro diner around the corner until I saw an Indian man put his finger inside the ketchup bottle and lick it clean before going back for seconds. Disgust, it seemed, was always right around the corner.
We fought viciously from time to time, eviscerating each other in public. Shame reunited us and we apologized to each other and the world for each other. City life didn't seem to agree with Maria the way it did me and I put pressure on myself to combat this undeniable fact with activities that might up her enjoyment level.
But our first visit to BAM was of her own design. Tom Waits had collaborated with avant-garde theater impresario Robert Wilson on a version of 'Alice in Wonderland' using a troupe of German carnival actors. Waits' songs combined with Wilson's vision laid over the ultimate head-trip of 'Alice'? Seemed like a winner.
To add to the attraction, there was still the lingering memory in both of our heads of Maria's performance as Alice in a production in Rhode Island. She'd been quite good in it. However, the creative circle that spawned the show had fractured since we'd lived there. There was some sort of strange umbilical connection between the show we were going to witness and the past that we'd participated in.
Waits and Wilson concocted a nightmare roller coaster ride of a play. At one point Alice is about to go through a door and through the use of light the door grew to an immense size. The caterpillar sat on a cushion and while singing the Waits original inflated into a blimp like creature. It was like being trapped inside of a graphic novel with songs.
Our seats were way up high in the balcony which was enervating to Maria. This led to tension between us which escalated to the point that we barely spoke at intermission and rode all the way from BAM back to the Upper West Side in silence. Our conflicts often dovetailed with subway rides and silent transport.
The next time we went to BAM we took Cashel to see an animated film festival for children. We'd split up by this point and the echo of the musical hallucination we'd seen had long since ceased to ring. The silence of the post show ride home had ultimately prevailed.