Coney Island and Washington Heights, circa 2015

I have an unfortunate tendency to refer to the nearest large body of water as “an ocean.” It’s unfortunate, because sometimes it is inaccurate, but much more unfortunate because it is not always beautiful. I find it much lovelier to think of all water as “the sea.” And how much more bountiful! There are only four oceans, but there are famously seven seas. To sail them was to know the world.

I used to attempt to know the world from the bottom of my foot up. I would take long, meandering walks in my city. Flanerie is the term, derived from the French Flaneur. To wander, to peruse, to aimlessly loiter. To know the sea from the bottom of your foot up is tricky. The sea erases what you learn as your foot wiggles down, down, into the sand. The waves are crashing and pushing you back, your foot and the sea bottom, the mud, is holding you in place, you may break in two!

But of course my city is the same as the sea. Sometimes the waves are history, sometimes the waves are money. You wiggle your toes against the wet pavement in summer, and you can almost feel the city pushing you, trying to rob you of this memory, all memories and time in the city. For now, the asphalt is hot, the water is cool, the spray of the fire hydrant, that crystalline fount! In French, the bottom of an ocean is a fond, which sounds quite similar to fount, although instead of water springing up, it is water pushing down, the underneath of water, what your feet move in when you are in the sea, what you must push against to get out of the sea. 

But of course my city is different than the sea. To leave, to be moved out of my city, you don’t need to push against anything, you just lift your feet, and let the waves of money and forgetting push you right out.

Published by Mordecai Martin

A luftmensch, a Jew, a way with words, all in one.

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