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I boarded the N train in the city at 57th Street and 7th Avenue. After a local stop or two the train emerged into the daylight.I could see the Brooklyn Bridge span over the East River through the window across from me, Just past the bridge, a looming Watchtower sign came into view. The last time I focused on these landmarks was on my TV screen, September 11, 2001, when thousands of Manhattanites mass exited the city. What looked Apocalyptic then, appeared as serene as a busy city could be serene on this sunny, humid morning.
Still, I could not keep myself from thinking What am I doing alone in this railroad car of strangers? Then I saw the chart of stops farther down the N line; ones that had a more familiar ring to them: Prospect Avenue, 59th St., New Utrecht Ave., 86th St. I remembered how my mother had so enjoyed wheeling her shopping cart in, through, and out of the small, Italian family-owned storefronts that lined 86th Street and 18th Avenue, before she became a reluctant Nutmegger.
The train stops ran all the way down to Coney Island. It occurred to me: I might not only be trying to recapture the past. Maybe I was starting a future.
I followed my cousin’s instructions and got off at the Fort Hamilton station. I had planned to pick up a dozen cannoli on the walk to his apartment. Within a half block I realized the 1950s “Little Italy” neighborhood I use to visit as a child had changed its milieu from Mediterranean to Far Eastern. Blueberry muffins from a Chinese bakery on 8th Avenue would have to do.
My iPhone Navigation App measured just over a mile from where I stood to Cousin Joe's address. I walked the ascent of street numbers quickly; the avenues, not so much, in the increasing humidity. In about twenty minutes I phoned from the front steps of his four-family apartment house.
He answered, "Be right down". Said his sister, the driver in the family, would pick us up on the stoop. Now there was a Brooklyn word: stoop. In Brooklyn, neighbors sat on stoops - in New England, porches.
(to be continued - just one or two more .....really!)
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