Monday, July 6, 2009
I was making pesto the other night and with my face over the bowl of fresh basil experienced a sensory memory of my last neighborhood in Brooklyn: Windsor-Terrace. I moved in there in January of 2001; my apartment was across the street from Prospect Park and not far from the start of Coney Island Avenue. It was an unspectacular 'hood in some ways - there were no nearby bars worth visiting, the bodegas closed before 11:00 (unthinkable), the only grocery store within a reasonable distance was a pitiful Key Food and most of the people who lived there had grown up there and never ventured very far. Greenwood cemetery was only blocks away and sort of set the tone of the area: quiet.
For what the neighborhood lacked in amenities, it overcompensated for with character. The bodega owner was Egyptian and usually tried to sell me 40 oz bottles of Pharaoh brand malt liquor because it was made in his home country. (I still don't believe that such an old civilization has no other inebriates to offer.) I befriended all the neighborhood dogs and the woman who worked in the laundromat told me all about squirrels in Russia (they're much prettier, apparently).
On my way to the subway one morning I passed a house that had a garden. Gardens in NY tend to vary -- this one was no exception -- the front "yard" was entirely paved, of course, so the garden was contained in flower boxes and tubs of various sizes. That morning a man was outside tending his plants. He noticed me admiring his work and handed me a sprig of basil. "Something nice to smell on your commute" he said. It was.
(I found this photo on Google - the people in the picture are standing by my former front door.)
Winsor-Terrace was quite possibly the only neighborhood in Brooklyn devoid of good pizza.
My bedroom faced the back of other apartment buildings. One night I woke to a floodlight streaming in my bedroom. I jumped out of bed to find the person responsible and scream at them. But it was the moon. A full moon that managed to beam it's light into my bedroom despite the buildings and pollution standing in its way.
Trees can grow and the moon does shine in Brooklyn. Things happen in Brooklyn. My first apartment happened in Brooklyn. For the first month I lived there I would open my eyes in the morning and marvel at my life. I fell in love with the wrong people in Brooklyn -- and was someone else's wrong woman there, too. People climbed through my bedroom window unannounced and the neighborhood telephone company man who frequented the fire escape saw me naked on a weekly basis -- all of it in Brooklyn.
I do this a lot, reminisce about places I no longer live, mostly Brooklyn and Manhattan, (occasionally Alaska). I have a lot of friends back east and am asked all the time "when are you moving back?" Truthfully, I don't know, maybe never.
It's true that I hated California at first, but that's no longer the case. I could never afford to buy a house here, (which is convenient seeing as we have no intention of settling here permanently, nor do I find home ownership a worthwhile way to spend my life and especially my time), but for now I am in the right place with the right job and moving back to New York, no matter how much I love it and desperately miss it, does not make sense.
Instead I bore you with these sweet little nothings -- love notes to a time and place gone by.