Friday, September 30, 2011

Brooklyn Revisited

The chocolate egg cream at the luncheonette on Prospect Park West was the perfect ending for my Brooklyn day. It had begun with a walk through the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens with a memory that brought me back to Easter Sunday 1947. The sunny day was cool enough for Nancy and me to smile and pose wearing our new toppers and Easter bonnets. On this day last month, the cherry blossoms were no longer in bloom and the Japanese gardens were not quite so colorful. Nevertheless, the gardens were pleasing and quiet.

When my friend Landra, her husband Ron, and I left the botanical gardens, we exited onto Flatbush Avenue at the corner of Empire Boulevard. Another memory, this time when I was perhaps 14 or 15 years old. My friend Carolyn and I had pleaded with our parents to allow us to go to the Empire Rollerdrome on Empire Boulevard where our favorite singer, Guy Mitchell, was appearing for one performance. We wanted to hear "My Heart Cries for You" and "Truly, Truly Fair" in person.

A few blocks away was the Empire Diner where Mom and Dad and Nancy and I sometimes had supper, always keeping an eye on the door for any signs of Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges or Roy Campanella. The rumor was that members of the Brooklyn Dodgers sometimes had a bite to eat here after a game at nearby Ebbets Field.

After Landra, Ron and I crossed Flatbush Avenue we entered Prospect Park. We skipped the zoo which had been a favorite of mine all those years ago and took the path leading to Prospect Park West. The park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted who also designed Central Park in Manhattan. There are some who think the Brooklyn park is more lovely.

Now that I have more free time, I have decided to use some of it to explore certain areas of the city where I was born and raised. Some recent day trips included the Frick Museum on Fifth Avenue and East 70th Street. My friend Nancy took the bus from Albany and we spent the afternoon visiting what once had been the home of Henry Frick. Each time I go, I make sure to view again video of how this man made his millions and built this residence and an amazing art collection. The Frick, unlike the Metropolitan Museum of Art a few blocks north, is small enough to view all the artworks in one visit.

On a beautiful morning a few weeks ago, I met my friend Robin at the southern tip of Manhattan where we took the free ferry for a short trip over to Governors Island. From the Trust for Governors Island:

"In 1995, the Coast Guard closed its facilities on Governors Island and, as of September 1996, all residential personnel were relocated. President Clinton designated 22 acres of the island, including the two great forts, as the Governors Island National Monument in January 2001, and on April 1, 2002, President George W. Bush, Governor Pataki, and Mayor Bloomberg announced that the United States would sell Governors Island to the people of New York for a nominal cost, and that the island would be used for public benefit. At the time of the transfer, deed restrictions were created that prohibit permanent housing and casinos on the island. On January 31, 2003, 150 acres of Governors Island were transferred to the people of New York. The remaining 22 acres were declared the Governors Island National Monument, which is managed by the National Park Service."

The day we visited there was an art show in a few of the buildings that once housed the U. S. Coast Guard. It's a great place, too, for walking or bike riding or just to view the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty or lower Manhattan.

Autumn in New York is a wonderful time, with the theatre season getting underway and museums opening new exhibits. And always, there are the streets where you never know what you'll see or what memories you'll make.

Next time: the theatre and the National Museum of the American Indian.