Once you cross the East River, you’ve entered Terra Incognita. Here be dragons, real bagels, and feral Quakers. Here also is a minor Brigadoon in Brooklyn, sans the Lerner and Loewe score. My neighborhood is lost in time, primarily built in the 1930s and 1940s, with little, if any changes, and people tend to stay here; there is little reason to leave, especially if you have a car, as most people do, and if your work is located somewhere other than Manhattan. This is a typical street:
Many of the row houses have slate roofs. Some of the brick houses have intricate patterns. People don’t have much in the way of back yards, which are mostly small and given over to garages, but they take pride in their front lawns and decorate them lavishly, sometimes with landscaping or koi ponds, but more commonly with little plaster woodland creatures, whirligigs, or inexplicable plastic and inflatable objects, now seasonal.
My neighbors are big on flying the flag, except when they have Obama bumper stickers on their cars, or pro-conservation signs in front of their houses. Sometimes they have both. They’re Italian and Irish; our local pub has more people of Irish decent than I’ve seen anywhere else except the St. Patrick’s Day parade. They’re also ultra-orthodox Jews, Muslims, Asian and West Indian. They have dogs -- 498 of them, which I know because the the website tells me so. And of course, we have those feral Quakers. In truth, as much as I might enjoy the notion of particularly intense and silent worshippers stalking the streets, these are small and very pretty parrots, and they live throughout Brooklyn, although whether their origins were intentional or an accident is unclear. There are large colonies of them at Greenwood Cemetery, which is one of Brooklyn’s very spectacular landmarks, especially if you go in for necropolis architecture, but they also live in our transformer boxes, and Bob tells me that they are a notorious cause of local power outages.
I lived in Brooklyn before, and there were things I knew before moving back again, to live with Bob:
If Brooklyn was an independent city, rather than one of New York’s five boroughs, it would be the fourth largest city in the country
The Battle of Long Island, a famous Revolutionary War, was actually fought in Brooklyn.
Brooklyn was home or birthplace to many luminaries, including poet Walt Whitman, composer George Gershwin and actress Clara Bow. More recently, this borough can take credit for novelist Jonathan Lethem, actor Steve Buscemi, and filmmaker Spike Lee. It was also home to several generations of Langs and Kirschs; I am the first person in my family, in nearly 100 years, not born in Brooklyn.
And there are things I didn’t know:
They have more sky here. I’m not sure where it comes from or how they fit it in, but there it is.
It’s like the New York City of my childhood, and the opposite of the Manhattan of my adulthood: Brooklyn has many neighborhoods, all distinctly different.
I like it here. A lot.
I came from a place of skyscrapers and moved to a place of two story buildings, sometimes three in houses with dormers. It had been a long time since I lived with anyone, even longer since I’d wanted to, so I also worried that I’d forgotten how. Everyone should have a hobby, and worry is one of mine, but it might be time to get a new one.
This is going to be a splendid adventure.
With the enormous religious and cultural diversity of this area, which looks like it would be completely homogenous, I'm not sure if my version of feral Quakers would blend right in or be the only possible thing that could stand out!
BTW, the 15th Street meeting referred to in that blog is one I attended when I lived in lower Manhattan, although I've also attended the Brooklyn meeting, was contemplating the possible bus routes that would go there directly.
Yay for living with Bob, it sounds lovely there.
Just like a home should be. Gary used to be all little ethnic neighborhoods everywhere when I was growing up. We were Greek and Serbian with some Lithuanian and Russian thrown in.
I am so happy for you Eleanor!
Yes, and Morgan and I go there on our morning walks. The problem is that I don't know anything about birds, other than the obvious (they have feathers, most of them fly, some of them swim) and Morgan only knows that ducks look tasty.
I need a book. Can you recommend one? For me, not Morgan.
I tend to prefer Roger Tory Peterson's Guide to the Birds of Eastern North America (although I understand the newer edition includes Central N.A. as well). It's partly familiarity; that was the one that was recommended to me years ago, and it's the one I feel most comfortable using. David Sibley's guide, which came out a few years ago, is also supposed to be very good, but it's also a bit bigger, making it a bit more awkward to shlep around.
Small is good, and so is specific; I don't imagine I'll become an avid bird watcher outside of the salt marsh.
My sister is a birder, and one afternoon I was out walking somewhere and heard a very pretty bird call. I got out my cell phone, called my sister, and said "Jane, listen to this!" After a moment, I asked her if she knew what it was. "It's a bird, El," she told me, in that special tone reserved for idiots and younger sisters.
Brooklyn is a great place to live, but most people wouldn't want to visit, although there's lots to see, from our side of the Brooklyn Bridge (and the best pizza in all of New York, to be had under the bridge) to Coney Island.