A day in the park

The day was Memorial Day and we were meeting my cousin and his wife in in Brooklyn’s Botanic Gardens. The price was right at $5 per senior. And in we walked checked by a polite guard.

My cousin and his wife hadn’t arrived yet, so my wife and I walked along the long wide entrance field flanked by paths with innumerable, beautiful flowers and plants, reminiscent of Edgar Degas’s painting of the same name. Children were playing and parents taking pictures with their smart phones. Though the sky was overcast with clouds, the glare of the sun shone through. At some point, my cousin Eddy and his wife Laura gave us a cellphone buzz that they’d arrived and we joined forces to check out the array of plants, mini-ponds with Koi in them. The temperature was in the high 60s and ideal for walking.

We walked over to the hot houses, past the fields of various flowers, each with their perfumed scents. At some point, we stopped for a soda for refreshments. My wife and Laura thought we could have lunch later at one of the Italian restaurants near their co-op in Brooklyn Heights. They would wait on the reservation line and Eddie and I went to hear some music he’d written for his first album. He had some beautiful vocals in a jazz style and one piece for the jazz group without his singing, called “Remembering.” I thought it interfered with the mood the vocals had set, but he insisted it fit. I deferred as composer.

At some point, a call came from our wives, who are often taken as sisters. They had secured a table at the restaurant. “Come on over,” Laura said on the phone. The Italian food was excellent, and prepared by new owners, young men who arrived from Naples and opened the place which became an instant hit. We ate and talked about a variety of subjects. And by then, we’d had a rain shower, which had passed, making the Italian neighborhood shimmer with light. The faces of the buildings and people looked like those I grew up with in Williamsburg. A wave of the past came to mind. We finished the hour-long lunch stuffed to the gills and walked through the park as the clouds darkened around the sun that still shone with brilliance around them.

Laura had an idea. “How would you guys like to see the sunset at Red Hook?” Great, my wife and Eddy agreed. This was another famous part of Brooklyn I had not much seen. It ran along the waterfront from north to south. We arrived after going through the rough and tumble streets that led to the Lehigh Barge Museum, which in fact a local Red Hook historian had created. It was painted red and bobbed slightly on the waters. But the pièce de résistance was the view beyond the pier whose end we walked to. To the west, you could see the notorious Freedom Tower injecting itself into the sky, northwest of that, you could see the Statue of Liberty light up as dusk fell. And to the south, you could see the shadow of the Verrazano Bridge in the charcoal light. It was a spectacular view and revealed a new development in real estate, complete with a huge Fairway market that occupied several floors of an equally huge warehouse that had been developed for lofts of artists, writers, musicians, dancers, et al.

It was an absolutely magical experience as the dusk sent out its first tug boat and a wedding took place on shore. This was a piece of Brooklyn that totally hypnotized me. The warehouse architecture perfectly preserved the heritage of Red Hook, once a working waterfront, today lined up with water taxis of all sizes that would carry New Yorkers from the east to the west side of Manhattan in less time than surface traffic took.

A whole real estate market was booming around it, clubs, parking lots with expensive cars, the rich kids of the mob mixing with the artists. As the dusk finally turned into night and Lady Liberty shone brightly, we turned back, and Laura gave us a lift to the Borough Hall Subway stop, which easily made its way back via the 2 Train to 96th Street, near our apartment on the west side.

Entering our lobby, the doorman handed me a beautiful bottle of wine with a card attached. Less than a week before, I had helped a neighbor named Laura who tripped on a broken sidewalk and taken a bad fall on her hands. I was right behind her, and had come to her assistance, especially not to leave her to passing strangers. But I was surprised by how many decent, respectable people offered their help. Fortunately, her sister was there, and I suggested we called the police, who came amazingly quickly in a car, two of the biggest cops I’ve ever seen. All through this, I stayed with Alice, reassuring her she’d be alright. Her sister called for an ambulance, which finally came. A debate ensued as to where to take her, St. Luke’s or Mount Sinai hospitals. Actually, they are affiliated, and I she decided to go to St. Luke’s on the west side of Manhattan.

Alice’s husband works out of town, at a Boston investment firm and flew in. I received a note of thanks from him that evening. A day later Laura was operated on one of the two shoulders she’d broken. Today, the second shoulder will be repaired. And last night she sent me a touching card of how much she appreciated my concern. I felt like the Good Samaritan and his advice of “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Well, I would have expected the same treatment from someone if it were my wife; actually, she did have a similar experience years back, receiving help from the film crew she was working with when she tripped over a sidewalk with her arms filled with wardrobe she was carrying. She received a cast as well and wore it for weeks.

Getting back to Eddy and Laura, they had planted some new ideas and scenes, especially the river views of Brooklyn Heights that would percolate in me as we continued our search for a new place in which to live. It would be a start since brokers had been buying apartments in the building for profit and resale. Eddy’s advice was to see more than one. Previously, I had been reticent to do that, but now it seemed to make sense if we wanted to move on with our lives. There were places of beauty to live in all around us. It was just a matter of finding the right one—no mean feat!

Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer and life-long resident of New York City. An EBook version of his book of poems “State Of Shock,” on 9/11 and its after effects is now available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. He has also written hundreds of articles on politics and government as Associate Editor of Intrepid Report (formerly Online Journal). Reach him at gvmaz@verizon.net.

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