Some days, time disappears as quickly as a breath of fog on glass, and I wonder where all the minutes went. But there are other days where time just seems to work in my favor, and I can fit a whole week’s adventures into one day. Last Saturday was one of those splendid days.
I started by walking from my apartment to Prospect Park, and admiring the pretty brownstones that border the western park of the park. I love the details, like one block that had all these lion sculptures with pipes running from their mouths, that I’m assuming used to go to gas lamps. I would love it if the Brooklyn blocks were still all lit by flickering gas lights, but I suppose electricity is a bit safer. I’m glad remnants of the past remain.
I had a surreal moment during the walk when I heard someone singing “La Wally”, featured in the movie Diva, from an unseen apartment. It’s my favorite aria, but I’ve never heard it outside of the film or my music collection.
After swinging by the library, I took the train up to Williamsburg and walked to McCarren Park where I met Eszter for the Renegade Craft Fair. It was a huge arts and crafts market that covered much of the park, and thrifty me even bought a necklace with a scarab on it. It couldn’t resist, as it looks like it’s dancing and has a vaguely steampunk vibe to it. And you know, it brings me part way to being in an ancient Egyptian funerary cult.
From the craft fair, we walked down to the Second Stop Cafe for cold drinks. The coffee shop was actually the first place I went when I moved to New York. The cab from the airport dropped me off at Lorimer and Ainslie, and I remember standing with my giant suitcase and feeling somewhat terrified that I had really just moved my whole life to a city where I knew no one. Well, I knew one amazing person, and I soon was thrilled to see her outside Second Stop, and suddenly it was a lot less scary. And then I had an iced coffee in the very charming place, and started to feel like I could live there. About eight months later in that same coffee shop, I no longer feel like a stranger in a strange land.
From Williamsburg, we took the train to SoHo for the Housing Works Open Air Street Fair. I volunteered for Housing Works when I first moved to New York, and love the organization and its mission of combating homelessness and AIDS. At the street fair, there was music, festive people, and best of all, books for $1! If I have a weakness for buying anything, it’s books. I limited myself to three, and they are all wonderful and I’m going to show them off. The first is Voyages to the Moon by Marjorie Nicolson, and is a study of cosmic trips and flying machines, such as airships powered by birds. It even has illustrations of the imagined air crafts.
The second is A Bunch of Blue Ribbons by M.M. Johnson.
Which is a collection of poems and writings on hair, complete with charming illustrations.
And third is The Bird Watchers Anthology, which had this beautiful blue cover with black sparrows hidden under its dust jacket.
The anthology is a collection of writings on birds. Look, there’s even a scissor-tailed flycatcher! (State bird of Oklahoma.)
We continued south to Chinatown, walking by the always intriguing stores and markets. It’s crazy how quickly and drastically the neighborhoods change. I like days like this when I move through so many of them, and really get a feel for how diverse the city is in its architecture, culture, speed, and identity.
We ended up at the dynamic Columbus Park, where I’d never been before. It was built in the former place of the notorious Five Points, the tenement area also known as “murder’s alley” and the “den of thieves.” Now it is a lively bridge between Chinatown and the Financial District, where elderly Chinese men and women play intense games of mah jong and people do Tai Chai in the pavilion. There was even a man practicing his nunchuck skills.
We got some ridiculously cheap dumplings from a nearby restaurant and returned for some amazing people watching. A small band, including a couple of people playing erhus, were accompanied by slightly off key singing in Chinese. Next to us on our bench, a man was drawing a surprisingly good charcoal of the checkers players in this photograph. Kids on skateboards were careening around the concrete. It would be easy to spend a whole day relaxing in Columbus Park.
We walked south along the water. I realized I’d only really looked at the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges from the DUMBO side, and it was cool to get another view. I like being close to the water. It reminds me that New York isn’t just concrete and glass (although there’s definitely a lot), that there’s actually land under there and these are islands. Plus, there’s something very romantic about being near the ocean, even if the closest I’ve gotten to any nautical adventure was on a sailboard.
Our plan had been to catch the ferry to Governors Island for the free Yeasayer concert. Unfortunately, thousands of other 20-somethings who had probably also been in Williamsburg that day thought it was a grand idea. We waited in line for about an hour before hearing that there was no more room on the island (capacity was 3,500). I guess that band is more popular than I thought. I would still like to see one of the Governors Island concerts, though, so maybe I’ll try again.
Thrown off course, we decided to go up to the Beer Garden in Astoria instead. Last time I was there it was too cold to be outside, but it was a nice evening and we drank Czech beers in the open air while listening to a band that really sounded nothing like Yeasayer, but it was wonderful to be there all the same.