Last Thursday some friends and I took a ride to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn. We originally planned to go in the spring but for various reasons had to postpone the trip to September 13. As we watched the weather channel on September 12, we talked about postponing again since a hurricane was scheduled to hit the Carolinas that evening and it was pouring rain outside. We agreed to hold off on our decision until 8 the next morning. Best decision ever. We will go.
We met in Hartford and drove on 91 South to the Merritt Parkway and then to the Hutchison River Parkway. After going through Westchester County for a short time we drove through the Bronx and across the Throgs Neck Bridge into Queens and finally into Brooklyn. We drove up Ocean Parkway past Abraham Lincoln High School to Brighton Beach Avenue. We took a left on Brighton Beach Ave and drove up and down numbered side streets (Brighton 1, Brighton 2, etc.) until we found a parking spot. We put some money in the meter and then walked right down to the beach.
It’s just another world when you get there. The main street, Brighton Beach Avenue, has an elevated train running above it and some really interesting shops. Produce stands line the street. Walk one block south and you’re on this huge beautiful white sand beach. It’s just amazing!!
Some of the apartments on and near the beach are large enough to be their own voting district! Between the beach and Brighton Beach Avenue are many older apartment buildings in a variety of architectural styles. North of the avenue there were single family homes with tiny little driveways that you have to be careful not to block when parking.
We walked around the beach filling our senses with ocean smells and the cool water on our feet and legs and the sounds of sea birds and crashing waves. Only a few brave souls were swimming but the boardwalk had a lot of pedestrian traffic. People were walking, biking, roller blading or sitting on the benches up and down the board walk, alone or in pairs. They were talking to each other or reading or people-watching or looking at the ocean. We didn’t see many cell phones and nobody seemed to be in a rush.
Then we found a spot on the boardwalk, Tatiana Grill to have some lunch.
After lunch we walked back to Brighton Beach Avenue for a little shopping. It was an overcast day with a nice breeze coming off the ocean. Just a perfect day to make a trip like this. Imagine that you can take the subway to get here!
Vicki and I stopped to get henna tattoos while Sue and Laurette went on a hunt for candy cordials; especially ones filled with peach brandy.
There are many little grocery stores, bakeries, specialty clothing stores, produce stands and restaurants up and down the avenue. Once our tattoos were finished we joined them on the hunt and also stopped to buy fruit and veggies. Although many thousands of people live and work in this neighborhood of the “Big Apple” there was a peacefulness to the flurry of activity generated by the crowds. Our 4 hours of parking were coming to a close so we headed back to the car.
Sue grew up in Brooklyn and it’s always better to visit a new place with a local as a tour guide. She took us on a tour of Coney Island where we saw Nathan’s and all of the rides, Brooklyn College, Bedford Ave, past Midwood High School where Sue and 2000 other students graduated one June not too many years ago. We went through some beautiful neighborhoods and stopped to look at the apartment building that Sue lived in as a child.
Sue told us a story about growing up on the fifth floor of this apartment building in Brooklyn. She and her friends used to play outside in the summer. When they heard the bells for the ice cream truck they would shout up to their mothers sitting near the apartment windows, “Mom, the ice cream man is here!” A few seconds later little pieces of white tissue paper wrapped around 15￠would come flying out different windows of the apartment building.
As we drove through the various parts of Brooklyn we noticed middle school students in uniforms walking home from school in groups laughing and talking. We didn’t see any of them with cell phones. They all seemed to be enjoying themselves on the busy city streets.
After our tour of Brooklyn we headed up Flatbush Ave and began our trip home.
There are occasions in our lives when we experience the wonder and beauty of the great outdoors and the warmth of humanity all at the same time. These times for me have been rare: a Bruce Springsteen Concert at Rentschler Field, sitting by an outdoor fire in our driveway on Halloween with our wonderful Manchester neighbors distributing candy while watching a movie, a Red Sox game at Fenway Park shortly after 9-11 where the Sox fans sang “New York, New York” during the 7th inning stretch. The Brighton Beach trip was spectacular and fascinating and serene and definitely one for this list.