I made the very same mistake today that I made during my first days in NYC: I packed too much in one day. My plan for today was exploring Clinton Hill. I found a historic walk in my Big Onion Guide to Brooklyn, covering Fort Greene and Clinton Hill. In fact it was more Fort Greene than Clinton Hill. So having known Fort Greene from previous trips already, I still don’t know if Clinton Hill is less interesting then Fort Greene. I will have to get back to Clinton Hill and just stroll around.
My walk started on Hanson Place, right in front of the Williamsburgh Bank Building, which still is Brooklyn’s tallest building and is absolutely impressive. While I stood here and studied my walk, a woman addressed me and asked for the Mall. So now people take me for a New Yorker and ask directions. Great! I tried to explain her how to get to the Fulton Mall but as well advised her to ask somebody who is more familiar with the neighborhood, as I am not from a local. She asked the next woman, who then asked back, what exactly she was looking for. It was Macy’s. They do have a small branch on Fulton, but I could not have told her how to find it.
I passed BAM, the Brooklyn Academy of Music and learned that it is not only Brooklyn’s Lincoln Center but the oldest performing arts center in the US. Will have to go there for a concert or whatever. Fulton Street is full of restaurants for every taste. As I had not walked a lot so far, I decided not to have a restaurant lunch today, but just get a sandwich from a Deli and eat it in Cuyler Gore Park just ahead of me. I chose a Salsalito. That turned out to be a quite spicy ham or turkey. Lettuce and tomatoes? Mayo? What kind of cheese? On a roll? Meanwhile I am able to understand and answer these questions and got my Salsalito on a roll with lettuce, tomatoes, mayo and Mozzarella cheese, which is pretty different from the one I know. It is a bar of light yellow cheese like Cheddar, tasting different however.
Beyond the little park I passed a block that had been chosen as Brooklyn’s greenest block in several years. Across Fulton I reached Brownstone Fort Greene. Pretty side streets, leading to Fort Greene Park.
Although I had stayed in Fort Greene twice, I had never been to Fort Greene Park. It is nice, has a hill and a tree trail. It has been created due to the urging of Walt Whitman, who said the area would need a green lung. On top of the hill a young ranger pointed me to two big birds sitting on a tree. Juvenile hawks. He proudly told me, he had spotted four of them in the park so far.
I walked a bit through the park and left on Myrtle Avenue, the shopping street for as well Fort Greene and Clinton Hill. I came across Walt Whitman again here. Walt Whitman Houses and Walt Whitman Residences provide housing to people who cannot afford a Brownstone home.
Clinton Avenue is the border between the two neighborhoods. It is marked by four mansions, Charles Pratt built here for his sons next to his own one. Today they are part of St Joseph’s College.
Pratt was one of eleven children of a Massachusetts carpenter and made his money with oil. He was known as a great philanthropist and the founder of Pratt Institute, THE institution in Clinton Hill. It is a College offering programs in engineering, architecture and fine arts. Robert Redford is an alumnus from Pratt’s. It is pretty nice to walk through the campus, where lots of sculptures – like the Book of Stone and Steel – are arranged and not only students sit on the lawn, but as well mothers playing with their toddlers.
Having left the campus I walked north to Myrtle, hoping to get an iced coffee there. You can buy lots of stuff on Myrtle, from arts supplies to fancy hats, but somehow I did not find a coffee place. So I simply got a cold water from a Deli, where I had a little chat about the heat with the cheerful African American cashier. And I finished my walk without paying much attention to what the book told me. My alertness had sapped.
At Clinton – Washington station a Buddhist looking, elderly man, with a neck brace and a wheelchair asked me if I could help him down the stairs. He wanted me to get his wheelchair down. Of course I tried to help, but it turned out to be not so easy with a shoulder bag tangling around. After I had managed three steps, two young men came around, took the wheelchair from my hands and carried it down. Nevertheless he thanked me and may God bless me.
I felt so sweated and in need of refreshing that I decided not to go straight to Dumbo, where my evening event would take place, but go home first. That was not a good idea however. When I got home and checked connections from Clay Street to Dumbo, the MTA information system told me I should take the 62 bus to downtown Brooklyn and the C train from there. This would have taken me more than an hour, it was half past five, the event started at seven and I still had to paint my toe nails. I thought about skipping the event but decided not to do so. I ignored MTA directions and took the train instead of the bus, changing at Hoyt-Schermerhorn, what turned out to be pretty easy, because I didn’t even have to change the platform. So when I arrived in Dumbo and found the Powerhouse Arena Bookstore, I still had the time to pick up a slice of Pizza and eat it.
The bookstore is awesome! Another discovery and another reason to come back to Dumbo. They have lots of books about New York, a table for interior design, a table for summer readings, a table showing staff picks and many more. I instantly found at least five books I might have bought. But ok, there is the luggage problem.
Tonight’s event was a talk about the life and work of Shirley Jackson. I did know next to nothing about Shirley Jackson, just her story “The Lottery”, which I first had seen as a shocking movie years ago, not knowing that it was based on literature, before reading it during my annual writing seminar in Switzerland two or three years go. I had no idea that Jackson was not only a well-known horror writer having written many novels and tons of short stories. One of her main topics was as well relationships between people, especially woman, in a given surrounding. Her work is High School literature in the US. I put her on my reading list with a big exclamation mark. And I could not leave the store without buying at least one book. I have to support indie bookstores, don’t I? “New York Stories”, a collection of short stories by famous writers – Shirley Jackson among them – set in New York City. The kind of stuff I want to read anyway.
When I got out of the subway station at India Street, it had started to rain. As well it was lightning around Greenpoint. Nevertheless I picked up a bottle of wine on Greenpoint Avenue, knowing I would have to work long hours tonight, to get the whole day written down.