Two Ends, and One Beginning
As this year approached its end, I found myself cleaning house – both mentally and physically – making way for 2014 to be a year full of hope and promise.
For several months now, Bonnie and I have been searching for the right time to go to the end of the 3 – New Lots Avenue. In a way, it has been hanging over our heads – needing to complete our ride along the 3 line. So to make way for the New Year – we decided to conquer it on New Year’s Eve – the last day of the year.
I first went to East New York in 2003. I was a big sister in the Big Sister Big Brother program and my little sister Sydnei , a teenager, lived off of Liberty Avenue. I probably did not make the best impression with her family when the first time we had an outing I sent a car service to pick her up and bring her back to my neighborhood. Sometimes we would meet in the city, but I frequently spent time with her at her home, in her neighborhood. We went to the movies, shopped… but most often went to get our nails painted. Some of our best talks were at the nail salon, she taught me so much. I always felt safe with Sydnei, although I did not always feel comfortable on my walks back to the subway alone, particularly after dark.
Sydnei and I lost touch several years ago, and I did not love the idea of going back to East New York without her. Alas, such is the nature of end of the line dining. We must go. And when we do, I always feel foolish for not wanting to go in the first place.
Bonnie and I departed for the terminus of the 3 line from 14th Street at 11:36. After our normal catching up on the Christmas holiday (Bonnie did not disappoint with a wild time to report with a particular gentleman in Oakland and the receipt of several infomercial gifts), we reflected on the year. Was it mostly good or mostly bad? I get the sense that it was a hard year for many, it was a hard year for me.
A woman on the train complimented my boots (although hers eclipsed mine in coolness 100% – they were Ugg style boots that said “I love men” in rhinestones – with an X over the N – so really they read “I love me”). I did not notice until she was leaving, or I would have returned the compliment post haste. She asked if Bonnie and I were sisters, I replied that we were not, but that we have been friends for a very long time. I take that as the highest of compliments. I once had a plan to become Bonnie’s sister by winning the heart of her brother Steven. Our friend Sabree had the same plan and we were bitter rivals for some time in the quest for his hand. Alas, neither of us was so lucky as to snag Steven. He really is a great guy, it’s a shame!
We arrived at New Lots Avenue at 12:36. One of our longest journeys to date. We were greeted by a Christmas tree with a flood light for an angel and several street vendors peddling New Years regalia. A slight air of festivity in a rather raw urban landscape.
We walked around for a bit – deterred by the bitter cold and the need to use a restroom. There were a few Spanish American Restaurants, but we opted for a pizza joint near the subway – Caterina’s.
The first thing we noticed was that there was an out of order sign on the bathroom door. We decided that the desire to keep out of the cold was the current winner on the scale of basic needs and so we stayed. I ordered a slice with mushrooms, and Bonnie, a slice with olives. Two cokes. No sharing this time. A simple meal – a last lunch of 2013. The mushrooms and olives came from very large cans, but the slices tasted good. One really should not judge a mushroom by the size of its can. It just might turn out to be a very tasty mushroom indeed!
Bonnie and I had a sneaking suspicion that the bathroom was functional and that the sign was just a cover. It had to be. There really were none of the usual spots in the neighborhood to duck into – no coffee shops, no bars, no Whole Foods.
Bonnie decided to try her luck, and as luck would have it, she was granted entry to the bathroom that did in fact work. The guys at the pizza place were very nice to all who came in, and I suppose there are reasons for which I would rather remain ignorant that that sign exists, but I was peeved. I decided that if the rest of the general population could not use the bathroom, that I would not either and I left in silent protest.
Caterina’s was established in 1971. I wonder what the neighborhood was like then, and how long that sign has been on the door. I read once that for decades East New York has been the murder capital of Brooklyn. I imagine that sometimes when I tell people that don’t live in New York that I live in Brooklyn, East New York is what they think of. The thing is that really beautiful things come from East New York – like Sydnei, George Gershwin and the Fat Boys to name a few. I suppose the same could be said for my 2013. It was hard and it was sometimes cold, but it was also at times very beautiful.
I am very much looking forward to 2014 and our adventures at the end of the line. It just might be the best year yet. Fingers crossed!