Sunday, November 1, 2009

an open love letter to life in the city

Dear Brooklyn,

It is times like this weekend that make me remember why I love you so much. Even if you sometimes make me angry ($1,800/mo. for a small 1-bedroom, really?!), or frustrated (like when your A express train stops at High Street-Brooklyn Bridge, even though barely anyone gets on or off), or annoyed (why do I have to wade through so many busted hipsters in Williamsburg to eat at my favorite breakfast spot?), deep down my love for you is unwavering.

It makes me so happy that you have so much to offer me and my family. It warms my heart that you have so many friendly neighbors that smile and hang out around the ‘hood. The trees that line your streets and give at least one side shade at all times energize me, especially in the spring when they explode into pink and white fluff. The sheer amount of babies you have grown inspires me every day. The richness of your history and the depth of your convictions make me want to be a better person. But, Brooklyn (or any other city for that matter), the thing that makes me love you the most is this: I can walk out my door, baby strapped to my chest, and be within a few minutes walk to such a wealth of opportunities for playing, shopping, eating, seeing, singing, smiling, and chilling.

This weekend was no exception. Yesterday--Halloween--I got Ruby packed up and put her on. Within a 10 minute walk, we were at the main entrance to Fort Greene Park, where we stopped at the weekly green market (NYC’s name for a farmer’s market) to grab a 50 cent apple cider sugar doughnut and a glass jug (returnable) of Ronnybrook Farm chocolate milk. Yum. Then, we entered the park--Ruby dressed in her pumpkin outfit--and walked around admiring costumes and all of the hard work that went into turning the park into a children’s Halloween festival with hay rides, a pumpkin patch, a bug exhibit, games and races, and a “cemetery” full of activities.

After leaving the park, we strolled over to Habana Outpost, the fun, seasonal outdoor Cuban place in the neighborhood. They were having a Halloween party for kids for their last hurrah before closing down for the winter.
On our way back home, we stopped by the Brooklyn Flea (a weekly outdoor flea market full of crafts, antique furniture, delicious foods, etc.) so mama could get herself something delicious to eat. I ran into friends who were waiting for their food at the Asian hot dog stand and debated with them whether or not to wait in the long line at the pupusa stand. I finally decided instead to get an open-faced sandwich from the people with the pig leg sitting out who slice your prosciutto off for you to order and serve it on slices of baguette with homemade ricotta, arugula, olive oil, and sea salt for $3. It was so delicious that I decided to buy a 1/2 lb. of their ricotta to bring home.

As we got close to home, I heard a band playing around the corner, so we passed our place to see what was happening. The street next to ours was blocked off and there was a band playing music for children, who were dancing--in costume--to the song: “Roly Poly Guacamole” as we walked up. Ruby and I danced for a bit and then stopped at Choice Bakery to buy a baguette for my ricotta (which I have been eating for the past few days with various toppings, including honey, kalamata olives, berry preserves, and sea salt).

Last night, when Jude got home from work, we packed up Ruby again and headed back out into the neighborhood for the annual Carnival of Carnage that neighbors on Clinton Avenue put on each year. They do an amazingly well-crafted play every half hour from five until nine. This year it had a freak show theme. Ruby loved the bright lights on the dark street and the crowds of people.

This morning was the New York City Marathon, which always brings New Yorkers out in droves to celebrate their city. Lucky for us, it runs right past our place. Each year, we wake up and open our window so that we hear the first cow bells going that tell us that the wheelchair marathoners are coming through. By a little after 10 a.m., the top women run by, followed shortly after by the top men. We always watch this from our window so that we get a good bird’s-eye-view. It’s truly amazing, at mile 9, to see how fast they are going!

We always love marathon day, but this year was especially fun with Ruby. We went down to the curb to cheer people on--we had various friends running--and she was absolutely mesmerized by the hustle and bustle of the street and the rhythm of the runners. She was wide-eyed and alert while we yelled and neighbors talked and rang bells and celebrated the day. Lots of runners smiled and waved at Ruby and a few even touched her as they ran by. She liked the attention and I’m glad she could be a tiny source of joy for them as they accomplished their amazing feat.


You know what, Brooklyn? There’s something in the air here that just feels right. Exciting, yet relaxing. Electrifying, but calm. Maybe it’s the changing leaves and the cool, crisp air…but I think, more likely, it’s just you, Brooklyn, in all your glory.

Oh, Wisconsin…How often we are tempted by the seduction of your promises…grandparents, siblings, cousins within a stone’s throw…fresh, breathable air…big, bright stores with all our household needs…parking lots…yards with room for swing sets…open areas for big wheels and cartwheels…space, space, and more space.

You might win some key battles, Wisconsin. But you’re losing this war. Your modest charms cannot compete with the kind of perfection Brooklyn gave us this weekend.

Thank you, Brooklyn, for keeping it real. Keep on keepin’ on.

Love always,
Annie, Jude, & Ruby

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