New Times in Old Places

My much anticipated trip has been set, and now I’m in a state of half-doing and half-reflecting. I think back on my first 12 hours as the most interesting time so far.

I took the red-eye flight out of PDX. Unfortunately I was unable to sleep because some inconsiderate people thought it would be a great idea to bring their babies on the 5-hour plane ride. I kept checking in with the air map to see what state we were over, from Idaho to Minnesota to Pennsylvania, and finally the slow-down and gradual descent over Long Island.

Upon finally landing, I gathered my half-conscious state to wake up in the aircraft. The flight attendants said welcome home to some of us, or enjoy your visit to others, I guess I was somewhere in between.

I waited to be picked up, and watched people caravan themselves and their luggage into the line of yellow taxi cabs to take them to whatever metro-region location they needed to go. After getting picked up and then driving along the pothole infested highway roads, we somehow got lost and ended up in Nassau County, Long Island, and determined we should go the other way.

We drove back into Queens and then into Brooklyn, where we were supposed to be. Walked out and walked around the boro, observing the scene just past the rush of 9-5 commuters who had already boarded the subway and were off to their air-conditioned offices. It seemed now the time of shipments, where trucks full of cargo were unloading themselves into the many convenience and other crowded retail stores.

Brooklyn was a fun escapade, in contrast to JFK and then ending up in Long Island. At a friend’s apartment, an interesting technique to kill time is to sit at the edge of the building’s rooftop and watch pedestrians, coming and going and observing their range of surroundings, but never looking up. And then turning your personal range of vision upward from the street to take in the vast New York skyline.

The next task was a bicycle journey to Coney Island. We started off in Bushwick, and cycled our way through about five or six different neighborhoods. Biking in New York City is definitely a different universe than biking around Portland, full of taxis and jaywalkers and a whole lot more one-way streets which you cross and navigate anyway and try to figure out the correct arrangement of traffic without obvious red and green lights.

The most interesting part was the bike path down on Ocean Parkway, which was lined with benches of senior citizens, dressed up in scarves and strange floral patterns that were apparently in style 30-some years ago. Trying to guess their ethnic background, not sure if they were new immigrants that brought over something from their home culture, or old immigrants who never really left the neighborhood or learned English, but stayed in some sort of static existence that they will probably never leave.

Brighton Beach and Coney Island certainly have their own thing going on. We locked our bikes on the boardwalk, then walked on the sand which was covered in green and brown broken glass shards and assorted cigarette butts from angry New Yorkers who make a choice to pay $11 a pack.

We set down in front of two overweight young men and listened in on their conversation, one asking the other if a girl would like him if he had a nicer car. The lifeguard sat above us on a high chair, watching the panoramic make-up of people set down on the sand for a few hours, all the while wearing an uber sun-protective outfit of a heavy rubber jacket and baggy pants, their way of beating the necessity of sunscreen re-application. I took a walk above the boardwalk and Russian-speaking voices elevated up and echoed from the below, through the voids between the wooden boards. In the woman’s restroom, all of the women in there over 30 were having a slow grooving dance and sing a long to Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” and I had to stand back and wait to exit to not ruin anyone’s moment.

This southernmost tip of Brooklyn was quite an extreme concentration of stimulation, considering I was still delirious from no sleep, worked by the 12-mile bike ride and fried by the hot sun above.