New York WeddiMoon: Day 1
… In which we arrive and spread out.
First afternoon in Brooklyn/Park Slope. Everything you’ve heard about the Panzer Divisions of baby strollers is true. If Paule Marshall were writing her 1959 classic about Barbadian immigrants, Brown Girl, Brownstones, today, she’d probably call it Brown Nanny, White Babies. Remind me what decade (and what latitude) we’re in…
In the evening, Fifth Avenue is overrun with trendy eaters seeking out trendy eateries like packs of tundra wolves, but all is forgiven because of the extravagant pleasure of being in a real city with normal city people in it. We passed a whole store dedicated entirely to cheese. Then walking a block and fiddling slightly with two letters, we found another one dedicated entirely to chess. “What’s missing? Bookstores. So far, haven’t seen a single one.
M remarked that Prospect Park, where we took a long walk after lunch, struck him as European just for the way that people seemed to be using and interacting with public space, something we haven’t experienced for three years. No, the beach doesn’t count somehow; it’s not the same thing.
Brooklynites are seriously ATT (addicted to their telephones) and, whereas there was once the danger in NY of being mowed down by a cab, now the worry is being knocked into the path of a cab by someone walking with a cell phone held two inches in front of his face. Sidereally, I’m reading the late Stephen Jay Gould’s Full House, in which he demonstrates, inter alia, the folly of the notion that human evolutionary success is inevitable or that human superiority is implied by such proof as technological achievement. Here on these sidewalks, theory meets empirical evidence.
Today is also the second day of Sukkot and the beginning of the sabbath, and we happened to pass through Grand Army Plaza, with its Arc de Triomphe-like Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch, kitty-corner from the stately-yet-kitsch façade of the Brooklyn Public Library, just as scores of adolescent Hassidic boys emerged from services or school or somewhere, carrying small bundles of lulav (fronds of the date palm tree, I discovered later) and citron fruit In their hands. As they fanned into the park, their brand-new beards scruffy and the fringes of their tzitzit blowing in the breeze, they asked just about anyone who crossed their path and wasn’t blonde, “Are you Jewish?”
“No,” I said over and over. “I’m sorry.” One boy in particular seemed friendlier than some of the others, who had turned immediately away, and I asked him, “What are those branches called?”
“Hadass,” he said in a strong accent. “I don’t know how you say it in English.”