Tuesday, February 9, 2010

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)...

So, and this will probably surprise no one, I opted to use my last free day of housesitting to take a walk. This time, I meandered through Red Hook, which, although very different from Bedford Avenue, does evoke a similar Brooklyn-in-a-microcosm feel.

First up, I had to cross the highway separating my cozy Carroll Gardens base of operations from its more hardscrabble cousin. The evolution and separation of these two neighborhoods is interesting to me; I’ve requested a book from the library about Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs that hasn’t arrived yet—perhaps once I read it I will be able to tell you something more informative about shipping, the BQE, gentrification, and the like. For now, all I can tell you is that there’s a labyrinth of highway interchanges, tunnel entryway, and puzzlingly angled streets at the intersection of CG and RH, as well as one of Marty Markowitz’s omnipresent always-charming signs (the “Name it” one).

Once safely on the Red Hook side of the tracks, I found myself participant in a treasure hunt of sorts. To give some brief background: last year, I also took a walk through Red Hook (on my birthday, in fact), and found a perfect oval rock that I still carry in my coat pocket. This time out, I soon came across a small plastic bag of stones, one of which had spilled out onto the pavement, as small as a world and as large as alone. I picked it up for my pocket, and headed past the ragtag array of ex-factories and houses toward a park. One foot in, I found a midnight blue mancala stone; following a diagonal across the park, I encountered a stone spray-painted bright pink and, a bit farther on, a similarly-neon green one. I posed the two of them on a pillar at the far edge of the park. I kept the small stone and the mancala piece for me.

Continuing through the neighborhood, I saw all sorts of quiet Sunday things. Two cats in an overgrown junkyard lot, crouching underneath some sort of corrugated shelter. Snow untrod by the foot of man, marked only by pawprints (and now these excellent boots’ prints, courtesy of my sister). A bright yellow factory door; a man in red climbing artfully across a high roof. Coming up on the commercial thoroughfare of Van Brunt Street, a sudden welter of pedestrians waiting for the bus, the Red Hook doughboy memorial statue, a newly-opened hair salon with flags streaming in the cold wind, the gentrificationally tasty Baked (where I later picked up an excellent three-layer bar composed, as per the counterboy’s proud laundry list, of chocolate, apricot, amaretto, lemon zest, and more chocolate), my favorite amusingly-positioned streets Coffey and Creamer.

I met my parents for brunch at ye olde historical Fort Defiance, where one and all were charmed by the friendly flowery tablecloths, the blackboard summary of Red Hook’s Revolutionary War role, and the extremely delicious food (I had a pear pancake that was basically a regular pancake filled with egg custard and delicate pieces of fruit—wow). We left content, stuffed with food and the excitements of wandering.

In what I think formed a nice postscript to this day of walking, I left tutoring around 5:30, just in time to witness the sunset. I can’t remember the last time I was outside for a really good one—too often, I get out of work late or it’s overcast or I have some sort of indoor-requiring plan. Junior spring, I’d religiously make sure to be outside sometime between the hours of six and seven or so; I’ve tried to continue this thread but it’s hard, what with all the things that go into a non-college existence. But yesterday I hit sunset right on the nose, found myself walking back downhill towards the Gowanus, paused a moment to take in the stark perfect view: pale dusky red and yellow, orange and blue, in striking contrast to the elevated F tracks, their trestles suddenly performance art, spikysharp intersecting patterns. I watched a train make its slow silhouettey way down the curve toward Carroll Street, my ultimate destination.

There is something transcendent about this kind of quiet walk, I think. I returned to the site of my home-for-the-moment and took off my headphones to listen to night descending on the street, only to find my peaceful solitude punctuated by the barbaric yawps of schoolchildren out in their Sunday best. I found myself grinning, wishing I too could have grown up in the shadows of such things.


  1. Y'know, I still haven't gotten around to reading The Power Broker yet.

    I've had the book for a couple years now, and it just stares at me disapprovingly from my bookshelf, with its massive weight asking "Why do you insist on doing something else, when you should be reading me? And you call yourself a planner! For shame."

    Maybe this summer. I hope.

  2. Yeahhh, I want to read that too but the length is very daunting. I thought I would try my future–library book as a warm-up.

  3. Wait, there's *another* book about Moses v. Jacobs?

  4. Indeed. I forget what it's called actually. But it's more of a quick-read kind of thing, or at least that's what the review I read suggested...