Alex DiFrancesco has had a busy year. Their essay collection Psychopomps was released by Civil Coping Mechanisms in February, and their novel All City is being released by Seven Stories Press on June 18. While both books are excellent, this interview focuses on All City. It is an important book, and very possibly a prophetic one. All City speaks for the people whose stories do not often get told, much less told with nuance and compassion.
All City takes place in a New York City of the near future. The chasm between the haves and have-nots is wider than ever, and climate change has sent superstorms of increasing violence to the shores of the city, tearing it down with wind and water. Those with the means always leave before the storms hit, but those without resources and means, those who have nowhere else to go, must remain and hold on to what they can by sheer force of will.
I’m sorry I let you cut in front of me at the store. You see, I noticed you only had a can of soda in your hand, and I knew that my overladen basket of groceries would take a while to scan and bag. Also, I had my eye on that giant can of Diet Red Bull in the case near the register, and I thought that letting you go in front of me would give me time to get some of that delicious highly-caffeinated goodness. So I waved you ahead of me, only half noticing how you nervously avoided my eyes as you muttered your thanks.
One of the many things I love about Brooklyn is all the neighborhood stores: the tiny supermarkets, the hardware shops that are so long, dusty and narrow you feel like youâ€™re in a topiary maze, the â€œspecialty serviceâ€ stores that hearken back to Alaskan-businesses in that they offer so many different services in their efforts to remain competitive with the larger national chain stores. These are the stores which are owned by locals, many of them have been there forever, as evidenced by the dust, and the cluster of regulars which invariably seem to gather round the register discussing scratch tickets and last nightâ€™s game.
New York City has this reputation as a shopperâ€™s paradise, a place where the consumerâ€™s version of Rule 34 of the Internet has been realized: if it exists, there is a place to buy it in New York City.
That is, unless the â€œitâ€ in question happens to be food coloring.
Several months ago, Sean and I were in desperate need of some food coloring, you know, to make fake blood for a zombie movie â€¦ what else do you use food coloring for in NYC? â€¦ cake bakerâ€¦.
Sometimes, the universe conspires to send a message, and we, poor humans, can only hope we are aware enough to hear it.
My message came in a can, or, more specifically, a can of eggnog.
I was doing laundry at my favorite local laundromatâ€”you know, the one thatâ€™s well-lit and doesnâ€™t have too many aggressive creepers loitering, trying to strike up conversations. After starting the washer, however, I realized I was out of dryer sheets. Rather than purchase them from the vending machine (convenient but expensive) I decided to duck into the bodega next door.