Issue 54 The Accident Summer 2014

Kiosk / Summer 2014

In “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” Walt Whitman’s paean to his adopted hometown, the poet sings his curiosity about the “crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes,” who come and go amid the “ample hills” of Brooklyn. We at Cabinet are also curious about the visitation of such crowds in their costumes upon our local “ample hills,” specifically the upscale ice-cream parlor by that Whitmanesque name that recently opened across the street from our building near the Gowanus Canal. Among their most popular flavors is a chunky, brown admixture called “It Came from Gowanus.” For long-term residents of the neighborhood, enjoying this dessert requires engaging in what Freud calls scotomization; the condition of looking at something but not really seeing it. For more on this, and what really comes from our local waterway, see below.

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While crowds are queuing to have overpriced ice cream, another local business seems not to have garnered any attention or custom. Or at least not yet. A few doors down from us in the other direction (away from ice cream and toward real screams), a cut-rate electroshock therapy business seems to have hung out its sadly unaccredited shingle. Simply looking at their doorway—blank, unsavory, and lacking even a street number—produces a level of anxiety in us that fairly begs for the high-voltage services that await within.

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Not having a street number is not an anxiety-producing experience only for those outside a door; it can also be traumatic for those inside. This we know from firsthand experience. A few months ago, we—who have long been under the impression that our address was 300 Nevins Street—received a summons from the Fire Department to appear in court for a series of major violations that we knew were not ours. After many confused exchanges with the department, we found the source of the error: according to the city’s official maps (but not the US post office), we were not in fact at 300 Nevins Street, that privilege belonging instead to the former telephone company warehouse that occupies the lot across the street. Soon other pieces of mail started to arrive for the catering businesses currently operating out of that building, slated to be demolished next year to make way for luxury condos. (The grandest of these misdeliveries was the happy arrival of several hundred cakes at our office.) Long story short, a few weeks ago, we presented ourselves at Brooklyn’s Department of Buildings, where after many Kafkaesque encounters, someone uttered these prophetic words: “Go to Topo.” At the Topographical Bureau, we chanced to meet a most extraordinary personage, a Ms. O’Brien, who opened an oversized map and explained that we were indeed not 300 Nevins Street, but that our long-term use of that number would have some bearing on the decision as to which party would finally get the address. “But who decides?” we asked. “I do,” she said. “I decide all the numbers in Brooklyn.” Apparently, all that was required was for her to take a pencil, open the relevant map, and write the new reality into existence. A week later, we received a letter from Topo confirming that she had done just that. Thank you, Ms. O’Brien.

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We were struck by the beautiful lines from Gilgamesh that Greg Siegel uses to begin his essay in the current issue, especially, given our location on the banks of the Gowanus, the bit about the river rising and flooding time after time. As some of you unfortunate enough to live or work in this area know, when this particular body of water rises and floods, it’s not quite like the Tigris or the Euphrates. That’s because long ago our city, in all its wisdom, decided that during heavy rain it was prudent to route into the canal not just the city’s excess water but also all its runoff raw sewage, so that when the Gowanus breaches its banks, it brings with it not only a tide of water but also a torrent of turds. In preparation for the permanent settlement of artisanal-ice-cream-eating, electroshock-averse, condo dwellers in our area, the city has undertaken a massive infrastructure project whereby its excess sewage will no longer be routed into the canal. We will still of course be flooded time after time in the future, but we look forward to knowing that the gonorrhea-infected, heavy-metal-laden water that will wash over us will at least be mercifully free of our fellow citizens’ turds.

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We do have one candidate for the local electroshock therapy business, and we are willing to sponsor a longer series of treatments for this fellow. He goes by the name of Drawers Cabinet and he seems to have rushed to register cabinetmagazine.xxx, where he has concocted a most unappealing mash-up, featuring smidgens of grad school theory, juvenile fantasia, and a fetish that would have Richard von Krafft-Ebing rushing to his commode. We can’t sum this thing up; you can look, if you’re curious, which we hope you’re not.

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Non-profits are always on the lookout for new opportunities for “development,” as well as for horizontal, vertical, and sometimes even diagonal integration. It is the last of these that best describes our current scheme: a potential merger with our favorite periodical, Parking Today, which takes an apparently mundane field and illuminates it with extraordinary acuity. Though the bankers are still hashing things out, we don’t think it’s entirely premature to start dreaming about commissioning a deal toy (see Graham Burnett’s article) that will truly do justice to this groundbreaking convergence.

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The cover of this issue not only depicts a miraculous intervention, but is itself something of a miracle. Seven days before going to press, we called our friend and colleague James Oles in Mexico City to see whether it might be possible to commission an ex-voto for this issue. By the next morning, James reported that he had managed to persuade folk artist Daniel Vilchis to take on the project. A second miracle: his fee was something we could actually afford. Four days later, we downloaded a digital image of the ex-voto (or retablo, as it is known in Mexico) at our office, happily still at 300 Nevins Street. Our enormous thanks to James and Daniel.

Cabinet is published by Immaterial Incorporated, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Cabinet receives generous support from the Lambent Foundation, the Orphiflamme Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Opaline Fund, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the Danielson Foundation, the Katchadourian Family Foundation, The Edward C. Wilson and Hesu Coue Wilson Family Fund, and many individuals. All our events are free, the entire content of our many sold-out issues are on our site for free, and we offer our magazine and books at prices that are considerably below cost. Please consider supporting our work by making a tax-deductible donation by visiting here. Thank you for your consideration.