For my first weekend off this summer, I leapt on the opportunity to get a cheap cheap Bolt Bus ticket to New York City to see what’s good with my old roommates Peter and Patricia, who have been living in Brooklyn for a few months. I hadn’t seen them since December when we finished finals and parted ways, they for a month long Europe trip trekking through the cruel winter winds of the north and I for the Middle East. Six months later, and it was like no time had passed, which only reinforced my deep appreciation for my college friends. Patricia has an enormously soothing presence, cool as a cucumber. And Peter shares my limitless caverns of curiosity, which earned him the nickname Encyclopedia P at an early age. I will never forget the week that I used him as my Google Search when our Internet connection failed. This weekend meant a lot to me: to sleep to laugh to eat to think. And I can appreciate the extremism of this city– one weekend at a time, an appreciation for New York creeps up on me. The brashness, the noise, the collisions, and smoke all the same. It is a region that has been defined as uninhibited and temperamental, unique in its character.
Saturday, we grabbed iced coffee from Van Leeuwen in Boerum Hill and rode the F all the way to the end to Coney Island for a unique urban beach experience in one of the most diverse cities in the world. I had only seen shots of the Coney Island boardwalk in Requiem for a Dream, Annie Hall, and Seinfeld, each with a bizarre back story–the rollercoaster framed against the sea that swells against the city. Socially amiable entrepreneurs combed the shoreline pushing everything from corner store pina coladas and nut crackers to empanadas to loose cigarettes. And my ears were happily assaulted by a jumbled but powerful and excited sound wave comprised of every language of the world—I was sucked into trying to decipher patois from Arabic, Chinese from Brooklyn slang. And baaaaad tattoos. And everybody letting it all hang out. In Peter’s words, so ratchet and so good.
Riding the metro system only reminded me how much Philadephia’s SEPTA needs an update. Even though the weekend construction can turn navigation labyrinthine, the NY metro offers reloadable swipe cards payable by credit/debit. I have started a collection of trans passes–and so far Tokyo’s is the most impressive and Philadelphia’s the least being nonexistent.
By night, we went to a nameless bar in Green Point with a wooden façade painted green for Korean food and drinks in their backyard bar. An elderly Korean couple stuck it out amongst the Brooklyn hipsters, barely disguising their disgust towards tattoos and facial piercings while serving up some truly awesome kimchi pajeon. It was followed by drinks at the dimly lit cocktail lounge Beloved, with gin drinks over candlelight while we waited out a passing thunderstorm. In Brooklyn, people start their nights much later and the bars don’t close until 4 AM. After working 50-something hour weeks for more than a month there was no way I could last that long. And for those who know me in action, it’s not uncommon for me to shut down and doze in inappropriate locales (last week’s concert. hardwood floors of friends’ apartments. Mid-sentence. 10 minute drives.).
The next day we took a walking tour of much of western Brooklyn. We passed through Prospect Park — a huge and open masterpiece with six baseball fields, long running trails and tamed fields for any sort of activity. If not for the buildings peeking over the greenery of the park’s edges, I would have been completely transported out of New York City.
And then, at its northeast border, we stopped to see the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. It is probably best closer to May, when the Japanese wisteria are in bloom. We walked past rows of brownstones and fire escapes, easily navigated on a numbered grid. There was even a sidewalk library, where people could exchange books for free. I have always envisioned the city to be the nucleus of activity, where ideas can be freely interchanged, even subconsciously due to the heightened sense of exposure. The interweaving of different backgrounds served to create a visually stimulating arena where each contributed to the design of the streets, the architecture, and the tone of social interaction.
And as a city that praises and inhales all alternative lifestyles, it serves up some seriously good vegan ice cream to boot.
The spatial limits of my world continue to expand.
Now listening: GZA-Liquid Swords