Crown Heights Contrasts

I had brought a Roti from today’s extensive walk through my neighborhood. It was late for lunch – 3pm – but I had not found a place to eat. Rotis are a Caribbean snack, flat bread filled with curry. Mine was filled with curried potatoes and channa (that’s chick peas). The woman behind the counter in the take out restaurant on Nostrand Avenue had asked me if I wanted pepper on it and I said yes. I took my roti which had the size of a coconut home, put it on a plate, poured some water and started eating. The first bites were innocuous, then my mouth was on fire. Pepper meant hot sauce and there was plenty of it in my roti. I poured more water. Didn’t really help. Finally I emptied a bottle of East India Pale Ale. As long as I’ve been here now I never had beer or wine with my lunch. I promise! But that roti needed it. The beer indeed helped to cool my palate down and I survived my first experience with Caribbean food in New York. Afterwards however I fell asleep.

Construction noise on our street had thrown me out of bed in the morning. They are digging holes for whatever. I cannot easily close my window because a window fan sits in there. So I had breakfast, read a fellow student’s story and then left towards the Jewish part of Crown Heights. A bit of googling had told me it must be around Kingston Avenue south of Eastern Parkway. I followed Eastern Parkway in eastern direction. It really Looks like a parkway there. Lots of trees on the wide 4-lane streets with an extra side lane on each side.
As I approached the intersection with Kingston Avenue Jewish buildings came up, among them a synagogue.
Further east towards Utica Avenue the typical two story brownstones with bay windows give way to small inornate apartment blocks. The intersection with Utica Avenue then forms a busy shopping area.
I followed Utica Avenue downhill. Crown Heights again is a Heights and is up on the hill. Utica Avenue shows a lot of Caribbean flair, like Nostrand. Dresses in the Jamaican colors, reggae music, food places and fruit markets. Halfway down the hill I walked into Crown Street which is lined by terraced houses and becomes more and more Jewish towards Kingston Avenue.
But Jewish people there look different to the ones in Williamsburg. Men wear black suits and hats, but not the black frocks. Women wear wigs or head scarfs but decent normal clothes instead of strictly black. Kingston Avenue is the shopping street and hold lots of  Jewish businesses. A kosher supermarket, a bookstore, a shop selling religious goods and other shops for all they need in daily life.
I found a very busy bakery and walked in. They sell challah bread and a lot of mouthwatering pastries. A small bread with poppy seeds and some some tiny pastries found their way into my bag. I was surprised to see Caribbeans in the bakery as well. The two groups are not really best friends in Crown Heights. The bakery had told me that I was hungry and indeed it was time for lunch. But the only restaurant I found was a sandwich place in the Jewish Children’s Museum. That was not what I felt like. So I crossed Eastern Parkway and zigzagged my way through Carribean Crown Heights until I found Gloria’s on Nostrand.

It was 6pm when I got up again, after laying down on my bed past my roti to read the last story, and started thinking about what to do with the rest of my day. I decided to have a look at nightlife in western direction, that is Prospect Heights and northern Park Slope. I followed Park Place to Vanderbilt Avenue where I came across that creamery again. The line was long but I could not resist another ice cream. It is just too good. Salty Caramel chunks today. Awesome! There are some restaurants worth trying out and a nice bar on Vanderbilt along with the creamery and Unnameable Books. I followed Park Place further on to Flatbush Avenue where it meets 7th Avenue that goes into Park Slope. It started getting dark and the northern part of 7th Avenue is dimly lit. Nightlife starts around Union Street. There are several of places of all kind. I walked back on 5th, which is packed with restaurants, bars and shops. I was not hungry though, the roti and the ice cream had done their job. So I took a train from Atlantic Terminal and went back home.

There I found Rachael in the kitchen and we had a little chat about writing. She likes writing poetry and carries the same problem as I do: lack of time – so we both don’t get it done.

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