Friday, May 03, 2013

Exercises in Loosely Connected Observation #1

It’s hard to imagine that some or all of this could be under water one day. The models show the possibility, though. They also show that this neighborhood could withstand a bigger force than Sandy. That’s only reassuring until you remember that by the time it hit, Sandy was a ghost of its former self, registering at the lowest setting for the definition of hurricane.

Perhaps I’ll walk down Ditmars today. Anyway there’s something to drop in the mail, and why cross the street in the wrong direction even if the walk to the train is longer than the walk to the bus? With my luck I’d miss the bus anyway. You can hardly plan for buses.

Spring in New York City divides the people into distinct thirds. The first third, hesitant to admit it’s actually Spring, insist on wearing heavy coats or at least jackets no matter the temperature outside. The second third grasp Spring with their entire being and eschew the jackets, though they still dress sensibly enough according to temperature. And the final third, well, they’ve skipped the season entirely and seem to believe it is in fact Summer.

Of all the streets I’ve seen in the city, and I have seen many now, I think my favorite is Steinway. I live near, but not on it. One would think my favorite should be Ditmars. But no, it is Steinway. I’ve been up and down it now more times than I can count, on foot at multiple paces, by bus and by taxi. Only the hard-working delivery people are crazy or desperate enough to do it by bike, I think. Steinway is not a pretty street, and indeed there are stretches of it that are decidedly ugly. But it is beautiful in other aspects. On a given evening, especially in the hot summers, you can find the smoke from the kebab trucks mingling with the shisha smoke issuing forth from the bustling hookah bars. The young arrive here from elsewhere on their dates, dropped off by black cabs. Over there a backgammon game, and over here a chess game. A football match is on, maybe the same on all televisions, or maybe different ones. Some of the signs I can read, but many I can’t. It doesn’t matter. Get Lebanese food here, Egyptian fare there, or stop by for some empanadas a bit further down the road. Halal, says the sign on the butcher shop.

The city presents a curious juxtaposition of nationalities even as it forces them to intermingle to a large degree. In the North of Queens live the Greeks, and in the South of Brooklyn live the Russians. If history should replay itself in this new geography, Cyril would have to walk a mere ten or fifteen miles toting his letters to the Russian people. South instead of North. In the intervening spaces live a hundred other nationalities. Though the borders of the neighborhoods are porous, one can begin to sense them through careful observation of the train passages. Perhaps it’s just the 7 train that’s like this, but I’ve been on others and seem to have noticed the same phenomenon. Each new stop changes the balance of nationalities ever so slightly until once suddenly realizes that it has finally tipped decisively, only to have the process repeated at each new stop.