A Birdhouse
In Brooklyn

By Linda Danz

Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old only by deserting their ideals. Years wrinkle the face, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, doubt, self-interest, fear, despair—these are the long, long years that bow the head and turn the growing spirit back to dust. —Watterson Lowe

Wednesday, September 10, 2014



Tuesday, September 11, 2001
ANOTHER GORGEOUS DAY, GONE TO WASTE. Lucy Walsh observed a sanguine dawn rise across her city, taunting her. It was where she was born and somehow manifestly reshaped until a lucrative position seduced her into a glass tower on Times Square. She stood looking out through the wall of windows from her corner office, watching a strand of pink pearl skim along slender shards of blood orange splitting the dark sky. Before dawn could draw too much attention from the kaleidoscopic urban canyon below, it dissolved into a clear blue sky above. Lucy withdrew from an imaginary flight beyond the glass wall, halting a descent buffeted by an early autumn breeze, to the freedom of the street below.

No one in New York City was left untouched by the events of September 11, 2001. For the characters in A Birdhouse in Brooklyn, life was going to change in many ways, both momentous and minor. This is a story of the lives of disparate people brought together by circumstance. Here are native New Yorker Lucy Walsh, the 50-year-old editor-in-chief of a wildly popular teen magazine, and her much younger gay creative director, Shawn Farman, transplant from
a small town in Pennsylvania. Here are the three sons of his Puerto Rican lover, who leaves them behind with Shawn and their grandmother. After a slow unraveling in the topsy-turvy, post-9/11 economy, Lucy, Shawn, and an unlikely circle of fellow New Yorkers are drawn together to help each other peel away the armor that has stood between them and their dreams.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Behind the Scenes of: 

On the pavement at the intersection of Lexington and 97th Street, Lucy saw her first De La Vega. A simple chalk drawing of a small fish hopping from its bowl, neatly labeled: Become your dream. The Upper East Side’s version of tagging seemed pretty tame compared with Williamsburg’s more brazen graffiti that grew along walls like a psychedelic rash. Further up the street was another signed aphorism: During peaceful moments watch for danger.

Lucy gauged her surroundings: downtown were streets of sober elegance defined by urbane brownstones and avenues of high-end retail; to the north, public housing—the projects—that marked Harlem. Across the avenue, the Burrito Deli abutting an open-air parking lot. Spanish Harlem.

Along 97th Street from Park Avenue little American flags stuck into fallow planters on buildings pockmarked with age were similar to the snippets of patriotism that sprouted from Williamsburg windowsills immediately after 9/11. High rises reappeared on the south side of the street. Peaked shrubs behind chain-link fence topped with loops of menacing razor wire. To the north, railroad tracks shot out from undercover, running through Harlem like a scar.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Behind the Scenes of: 

Unfortunately the trip to Washington, D.C had been a jarring wake-up. Her memories of earlier journeys to the capitol were filled with high-spirited protestors bent on getting the hell out of Viet Nam or ensuring women’s rights, and when there didn’t seem to be so many factors clamoring for attention. Marissa’s account of the national protest she’d joined—just a few weeks after the attacks—had little prepared Lucy for what she might expect.

Yes, the grim-faced Robocops were there, just as Marissa had described them: pumped up in riot gear, flexing batons and standing shoulder to shoulder along the marchers’ route, much more menacing up close. Others gripped intimidating weapons she’d never seen before, positioned in rigid, elbow-to-elbow formation, preventing any detour from the official route. Helicopters hovering overhead dipped their thudding propellers, drowning out the speakers below. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Behind the Scenes of: 

Shawn’s fundamentalist upbringing was something they’d sidestepped when it surfaced. Facetiously referring to herself as a Latter Day Atheist fell flat; you didn’t joke about religion. Shawn could be sanctimonious when provoked, but that was Shawn. Lucy claimed nothing more than a quizzical dip in the Lutheran pool. Her mother’s doing, dissatisfied with Catholicism and wanting something more conducive to escape. Left to their own, Lucy and her father never got around to religion and Lucy remained comfortable with the secular.

She recalled one of those marathon day trips they had taken when things started to fall apart with Carlos. Shawn always gravitated to Pennsylvania and the comforting familiar. She was his sounding board. They’d turned off the highway around Lancaster, headed for poky country roads and promising flea markets to take his mind off his lover’s chicanery. At the bottom of an exit ramp Lucy saw a cluster of people waving placards. They’d drawn closer and she’d gasped as the messages came into view: graphic detail of a bloody fetus, God’s wrath, eternal damnation, American Holocaust. She’d turned to Shawn, expecting an equally horrified expression to meet hers. He avoided her scrutiny, fidgeted with his CD player and sped from the scene.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Behind the Scenes of: 

One bright August morning, only a couple of summers since London, the normally incessant traffic along East River Drive was at a standstill. Drivers and passengers—some leaving their cars for a better look—watched, mesmerized by this speck of a man maneuvering his way across the cable strung between the towers, one hundred and ten stories high. Crowds gathered in the street below applauded his light-footed dance. Curious seagulls skimmed above. Lucy recalled something the diminutive tightrope walker said in an interview that followed: “You need dreams to live.”

Somehow Petite had thawed her resistance to the towers, and might have been the unwitting catalyst for her move downtown. The dust on her indecision had only just settled—the condo purchased, the furniture in place—when a car bomb attack in the garage of the World Trade restarted her conflict. She caught herself thinking about what else might never occur in these changed times, what other bits of magic would go unrealized. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Behind the Scenes of: 

Lucy’s father had been a subway traveler. Workbag in hand, he inhaled one of many morning Chesterfields while treading a subway platform in Astoria. If he had to, he’d step beween the cars for one last drag before he got to his stop. The shop was on east 34th Street in Manhattan. It was a cramped loft space, up one flight, in a five-story brick tenement, where he bent over a cluttered worktable splashed with shards of gold leaf, attending to the delicate labor of restoring antiques. The shop, or rather the memory of it, was somewhere inside of a multiplex cinema beneath a towering block of luxury apartments.