Sophia and Philosophia


I am haunted by a memory I never lived. My mother and father are sitting in their house in Brooklyn with my baby sister watching the 1969 moon landing. Born in 1971, I wasn’t there. But I spent my toddler years in the waning residue of excitement about the landing and listening to adults talk about where they had watched it. As a child, I was baffled by how vivid this event that occurred without me was to people of my parents’ age. Except for some surviving pictures of the living room, I never knew the house in which they saw Neil Armstrong take a giant leap for mankind. My father burned it down within a couple of years of purchasing it and collected the insurance on it, because, as he repeated anytime I asked him, “suddenly, within a matter of months, the street went from all white to all black,” or as he actually said in the Dominican-Spanish of his time, una balsa de morenos. My dad didn’t realize or didn’t want to admit that he was among the first blacks or morenos in the balsa to move into the area. So I, a man who spent his formative years after his parents’ divorce living in Washington Heights, Manhattan, as a border in the apartments of Dominican immigrants, am fascinated by that day. The moon shot. American flag in an alien world. A house in Brooklyn. New York City. My dad. Property owner. Less than a decade after immigrating as an exile from Trujillo’s dictatorship. The American Dream. Burnt to the ground because of the grimy, earthly meeting of U.S. racism and good old fashioned Latin American racial self-hatred.


Stevens, Wallace, 1879-1955; Larkin, Philip