Magazine article The New Yorker

Red Hook Revisited

Magazine article The New Yorker

Red Hook Revisited

Article excerpt

Take One: Red Hook, pre-deluge. A tall, glowering man sits at the bar of Fort Defiance, an artisanal-cocktail joint. "Look at these ice cubes," he says, studying his glass. "Aren't they beautiful? They're so big and square. Man, this is a good drink." He urges his companion to take a sip. "Isn't that bitchin'?"

The actor Michael Shannon--bug-eyed, restive--has lived in Red Hook for six years. He and his partner, the actress Kate Arrington, and their four-year-old daughter, Sylvia, share an apartment above Fairway. "It's a quiet neighborhood, once you get past the industrial corridor," Shannon said. He wore paint-splotched Converse sneakers and had a pencil behind his ear. "Sometimes it feels almost Southern. It reminds me of where I'm from."

He grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, and dropped out of high school to act. He's often cast in creepy-neighbor roles: an escaped mental patient ("Bug"), a suburban schizophrenic ("Revolutionary Road"). It was his day off from the Broadway play "Grace," in which Arrington co-stars. He reached for a jar: "You like pickled okra? This shit is awesome. Try it."

Someone tapped him on the shoulder. It was Steve Buscemi, his cast-mate in "Boardwalk Empire," in which Shannon plays a self-flagellating Prohibition agent.

"I lost my keys," Buscemi said. "I just came to bum an extra set." (His brother Michael also lives in Red Hook and is often at Fort Defiance.)

"Holy smokes!" Shannon said. "How's Episode Twelve?"

"It's good," Buscemi said, before heading out to a waiting car.

"That is beyond random," Shannon said, after Buscemi had left. "That was like Halley's Comet." He twirled a toothpick. "Hey," he said to the waiter, "is there any bacon floating around back there?"

Out on Van Brunt Street, a man who looked remarkably like Steve Buscemi--same face, longer hair--sat reading. "I just saw your brother," Shannon said.

Shannon walked to Fairway, where he towered above most of the shoppers. "What happened to my chocolate-covered cayenne peppers?" he said. He bought a bag of chocolate-covered almonds and, on the way out, greeted a security guard named Tarik. "I've seen all his movies," Tarik said.

Up at the apartment, Arrington was helping Sylvia make a collage. Shannon and Arrington met as actors in Chicago; "Grace" is their first play together. Arrington and Paul Rudd play married evangelicals, and Shannon is their creepy neighbor. "We kind of fall in love," Arrington explained as Shannon wrestled with their cat, Pouce. …

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