My favorite shops in Flatbush and Crown Heights are old hardware stores, fabric stores, and pharmacies where I’ve found relics that I imagine have been on nearly the same shelf for decades. I find so much joy in the graphic styles of the Caribbean and African cultures. Some magical earthly wonder of the unknown and known in repetition.
Of course, not everyone cares for my curiosity. Thumbing through a newspaper in a language I did not understand, the shopkeeper approached me and asked if I needed something. I inquired about the price of the paper and he said, “This is mine, not for you.” After a bit of back and forth, I told him that although I could not read it there was something for me to learn by seeing it. Still, he refused hatefully. I said,”You are wrong,” and left. Perhaps it was a religious paper. In any case, I hope to never feel the need to communicate that hatred in my own eyes. This encounter prepared me for the difficult moments I will surely endure throughout this project.
A few blocks later, I found a box of free books outside of a French and Creole bookstore and entered. It seemed as if there were five salesmen at least, the first of whom told me all books were buy one get one free. A woman was tutoring the most dapper boy in Brooklyn along the farthest wall. The next man walked me through the shelves and explained each section. I could have listened to them speak for the entire afternoon. I left with The Metamorphosis.