Friday, May 25, 2012

A Boy Grows in Brooklyn

The post I put up on Trees and Small Towns made me a bit nostalgic, and got me thinking about how neighborhood in big cities are very similar to small towns.

When I was six months old, my parents moved to Brooklyn, NY, right around the corner from where my mother grew up. The neighborhood is Borough Park, and I lived on 18th Avenue, half a block away from McDonald Avenue. We lived over a Deli, and we walked to school.

18th Ave is the street on the right. I lived where the third building is.
The original we lived in was destroyed by a gas explosion sometime in the 1980's I think.
That fire alarm on the corner is the same one that tempted me nearly every day, 40 years ago.

McDonald is very similar to New Utrecht Ave, which is where the train chase scene in the French Connection was filmed. We used to walk to the corner and ride the train to Coney Island. It was just like in the movie. Minus the guy with the gun. And the car below chasing us. And the wreck at the end.


 My grandparents' house. My mother, her three sisters, and her brother grew up in the house with the two white chairs on the stoop.

The red brick building is "new". My grandparents owned that lot also, and had peach trees and a grape vine growing there. I have hostas growing in my yard that came from that house. I can't imagine losing all the light on that side of the house. How depressing.

My brothers and I used to walk to school every day, from the time I was six. My brothers would have been 8 and 9. The church and school are on opposite corners from each other. Cub Scout meetings were in the church basement.

Holy Ghost Church, where I received my First Communion. Now they call it Holy Spirit.
I attended Holy Ghost Catholic School from 1st to 4th grades. Again, now they call it Holy Spirit. Google maps tells me the walk from our apartment to the school was a third of a mile. I walk further than that to my mailbox now.
It seemed like everybody in the neighborhood knew who we were. Whether you walked to the bakery across the street to pick up a loaf of fresh baked Italian bread, went down to the Deli on the corner, just talked to neighbors as you walked by, or made friends with Woody (the biggest German Shepard you've ever seen in your life), there was never any sense of being alone in a big city. It was in effect, a "little town", where you could travel from one side to the other in under 10 minutes.

Of course it didn't hurt that my grandfather was a very prominent man in the neighborhood. I don't know if I really thought about this until now. He had lived there for many years... since my mother was a girl. I'm sure that most of the neighborhood knew we were his grandkids, and were watching out for us.

It really is all just variation on a theme. I've lived in the midst of one of the largest cities in the world with a population of about 2.6 million people. I've lived in mid-sized cities and small towns. And now I live in a rural area, with three wooded acres, a pond out back, and horses for neighbors (no pun intended). And in many ways they are all the same. Whether "next door" is the building which shares a wall with you, or it is 1/4 mile down the road, a "town" is a state of mind, and we are all neighbors.

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