9/15/13

South Brooklyn, as i know it

11pm on a Saturday. Not so long ago that meant teased hair and tight jeans, stepping into a red shiny car only to drive up and down the avenue (as 86th street was known back then). Today that same strip is quiet, deserted save a taxi or two. The roller rink has been replaced by a national liquidator and a local supper club, Lenny's Pizza holds its ground a few blocks north, and that movie theatre is now a Rite Aid, neither of which are open right this second.

South Brooklyn. That's where I am from. The South Brooklyn of the 70s before the real estate market redefined neighborhoods and invented fancy acronyms like BoCoCa (aka Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens). When looking at a map, the actual South Brooklyn  includes Coney Island, Gravesend, Bensonhurst and Homecrest--parts of the borough that unlike every other area just close enough to the Big Island of Manhattan have survived without regentrification.

When my dad was growing up, Luna Park (as the amusement park was called back then before renamed Astroland) was an integral part of his childhood. One of his uncles or cousins leased the Tornado, a predecessor (along with the Thunderbolt) to the famous Cyclone roller coaster, and he spent many a summer handing out and collecting tickets from enthusiastic thrill seekers. My Aunt Millie had her own claim to fame working at the Brighton Beach Bathhouses. I'm not sure what (or where) Uncle Dom was at the time.

This is where my roots are, where my family tree was planted and flourished. In a 3-story brick house, 2.5 miles northeast of the magic of carney in Coney. There is a slate path of multi-colored slabs leading toward my front door, alongside where once stood a towering pussy willow tree, the branches of which my mom and I would harvest each Fall. The backyard equal parts concrete and grass conjures memories of leap frog, sprinklers in summer heat, of baloney sandwiches and games of hide and seek.

It is here that my brother's children played corn hole with my dad, here where I taught  neighboring children how to make snow angels after the season's first snowfall.  There are so many memories lingering in the eaves of this house, in the branches of the bare bushes in hard winter soil, seeping into the concrete foundation that I call home.

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