a different path back to school
it was so lovely to read all your comments on my last post! as much as I am no longer (-slash-was-never-really-) interested in building an audience, it was surprisingly gratifying to see notes from old internet friends. and of course my mom.
[not so lovely: spam comments. good grief.]
today is the last day of summer vacation. I have had a remarkably happy and enjoyable few months, not just because I got married (and had a wedding, which I now realize the purpose of is to get everyone you love to hang out with you) but also because I did every bit as much carefree running, ocean swimming, bike riding, peach-eating, and dog-snuggling as my heart desired. somewhat unlike a summer spent traveling or working on big projects, this one has left me with an unprecedented feeling of satisfaction. as much as I would like to continue making spontaneous beach trips on weekday mornings, the mere fact that I have been able to do that for the last nine weeks clearly means that I have nothing to complain about. and while the water is still warm — almost eighty degrees this week — the air is starting to bite a little on the way out.
so, back to school we go.
it’s an odd back to school for us this september, because our whole entire school has been rehomed. same principal, same teachers; new building, new neighborhood. our new neighborhood is part of east new york, which sits in the northeastern corner of brooklyn. for those of you who are not familiar with it, the collective reaction at our staff meeting when we found out about the move was something like this:
principal: the DOE wants to put us in a brand new building…
principal: …in east new york.
everyone: [horrified jaw-drop]
for a long time, the new neighborhood seemed like the end of the world: distant, dangerous, crime-ridden. a significant number of staff members purchased cars or made plans to start driving to work, a change that made me dizzyingly ill and still does if I think about it too much. (the walk from the subway is barely more than a mile, far by new york city standards, but completely doable. there are also buses that come much closer.) those of us who remained committed to the bike ride — from my house, it is about twice as far to the new building as it was to the old one — swapped horror stories about the dearth of bike lanes, dodging trucks on the four-lane linden boulevard, riding along torn-up pavement beneath the clattering menace of elevated train tracks.
the reality of the ride has been a little different:
this is what the first half of my ride looks like, three miles straight down the eastern parkway bike path, and this time of the year, straight into the sun. my old route hugged the brooklyn waterfront, along a beautiful but relatively desolate path where I mostly just saw other bike commuters. eastern parkway, though still a bit sleepy before eight in the morning, is a major pedestrian thoroughfare. I imagine it will be frustrating at times to be constantly watching out for people dashing in and out of the subway or walking in the wrong lane, but so far I rather like the touch of humanity that crown heights has given my commute.
at the end of the greenway, I plunge downhill into the streets of brownsville, where the oaks and maples give way to crape myrtles and weeping willows. it’s a neighborhood I haven’t spent much time in, but I love riding along its wide streets, past churches and housing projects and playgrounds and bodegas. in the morning it’s quiet and I can say hello to every driver who waves me through an intersection and every pedestrian who crosses in front of me while I balance on my blue pedals.
it’s embarrassing to admit, but I didn’t know much about east new york beyond my trips out to the UPS facility and its reputation as the homicide capital of brooklyn. it’s true that my ride to work takes me past a few garages and warehouses, and also true that the crime statistics aren’t the prettiest. but… that’s not really what it’s like. what I see on my bike ride: neat little row houses, many with pretty gardens in front; children playing hide-and-seek in garage doorways, or a mysterious hopscotch-like game that seems to be permanently spray-painted on to the street; pitbulls dragging their owners down the block; and even the occasional someone else on a bicycle. there is an odd sense of otherworldly detachment, once you get past the trainyards and across the boulevard, as if it could be any day or any decade. but it’s a sweet detachment, filled with godliness and friendliness. I am wished a blessed day every time I go to work.
there are train tracks to ride under, but they are flanked by an ever-present basketball game (in the middle of the street) and a plaza with scattered, brightly colored chairs where senior citizens eat their deli breakfast sandwiches. the clatter of noise comes more from the hollers of the kids shooting hoops and people greeting each other as they leave the station than it does from the train itself.
as commuting goes, I have to say, I really don’t hate it at all.