The last time I saw Augie in town he’d sold a painting and he was celebrating with the girl who’d modeled for it. She was a grad student at Chaney and she didn’t have much to say to me so I said how’d he get you naked? She shrugged. He asked. It won’t work for you. A week later I was clearing a storm drain on Howe Plaza and she walked by. I said hey. She kept walking. Her friend said what was that.
Tremont’s Chaney’s town. It’s relentlessly gentrified, determinedly artsy and enlightened. But pedal your Trek out the River Road on a rainy day and the ivy withers quick. NO FRACK signs thin out and when you look up you’re in Northern Appalachia: Failing dairy farms, new wellpads. TOPSOIL. FIREWOOD.
Waiting at the railroad crossing for a long line of graffitied tankcars I wondered what looked different. One new wiper slapped the windshield post. When the last car passed I saw the slumping barn that had stood across the tracks was gone. They’d leveled the site, already leased the space: A row of watertrucks was parked there. Where the new ground fell away raw and chaotic a corner of the milkhouse stuck out like a whitewashed outcropping from shredded asphalt, broken sidewalk slabs. CLEAN FILL WANTED. The crossing arm went up. I went on.