It is impossible to give this day a more specific theme. It just was a bit of everything and except from the laundry nothing was unimportant or not interesting.
The major asset this week definitely is the Brooklyn Book Festival on Sunday and the Bookends Events during the week. It will keep me busy almost every evening this week, so the rest of the day has to be adjusted to it. It will be a week of small things.
Today’s small thing, after booking two one-day intensive writing classes – Food Writing and Memoir Writing – and doing laundry, was a visit to the Eldridge Street Synagogue on the Lower East Side. Yesterday’s visit to the street festival reminded me to go there and it is free on Mondays.
The Synagogue was built in 1887, when the Lower East Side was a bustling immigrant neighborhood and a great percentage of the immigrants were Jewish. The grand synagogue gave them an inspiring contrast to their crowded tenements and busy streets.
But in the 20th century the Lower East Side changed. Less Jewish immigrants arrived, those who had made some money moved away to escape the tenements and the depression did the rest. The synagogue was left to decline and stayed there for a long time until in the 1980s the Eldridge Street Project was formed to save it.
The building was completely restored and got a new stained glass window.
Now it is home to both the Museum on Eldridge Street and a small orthodox congregation.
I was in a small tour group together with an Israeli family of four. That was good, because they asked a lot of question that I could not have asked. Our guide, Lee, an elderly Jewish man who called himself a liberal Jew was very knowledgeable and offered his own explanations for curiosities. After the tour, when I thanked him, he asked me if I needed directions. I told him that I was quite familiar with the neighborhood as I have been here for a while. We got into talking and he invited me to join a Friday evening service at his synagogue on Lexington Avenue. It is open to everybody, Jewish or not. I will go there one Friday. This is definitely a chance to get an insight in Jewish life. Thank you, Lee!
Afterwards I went to the Vietnamese sandwich place that Soh Ang had shown me and had a Vietnamese meatball sandwich. Vietnamese sandwiches are real French baguettes with Vietnamese ingredients on it, like herbs and sauces. Mine was spicy, delicious – and huge.
While I was waiting for it a man came in and addressed the girl in Chinese. She angrily complained about that. “I am not Chinese”, she said. “But all the time they speak Chinese to me.”
Well, the shop is in Chinatown.
Today’s Bookends event was a trivia called “What’s so Literary about Brooklyn?”. The alternative would have been a talk about John O’Hara. I chose the trivia because I was interested in the answers to the question. It took place in my current local bookstore, BookCourt on Court Street. Three blocks from my current home. It started half an hour later than it should have started but we got free Whiskey and dumplings. Three young members of the literary scene were competing. They had to answer questions, easy, medium and hard ones, and could use jokers for asking the public and get a hint from the moderator. There were public questions as well for getting admission to a celebration afterwards. I could have answered some of the questions, not many though.
I knew that the literary grandfather of Brooklyn was Walt Whitman.
I would have been able to name three books having “Brooklyn” in the title.
I knew which one of four given authors (Jhumpa Lahiri, Jonathan Lethem, Jonathan Safran Foer, Siri Hustved) is not living in Brooklyn.
But I am really proud that I knew the answer to the final 50 point question: Which Russian author gave Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Namesake” his name?
Back home I tried to plan Sunday’s events, being provided with a printed program now. Extremely difficult. Events take place at several locations parallel from 10am to 6pm and there are several times where not just two but three events are interesting. And in between the events I should find time to walk through the booths as well. I set up a schedule. But there is so much I will miss.