So much has changed since I was last home. I really needed this trip, and not for any of the typical reasons that anyone might think of. Since leaving Brooklyn 16 years ago, so very much in my life shifted and changed. I went through a lot, a whole lot, that was quite stressful and life changing. Part of that was living through several incidents of hospitalizing Michael for pneumonia, sometimes for 10 days at a time, and I stayed with him the whole time, so there was very much of an immersion in the experiences that we had together, although I wasn't the one who couldn't breath. The last time he was hospitalized was a few years ago, and both my sons had pneumonia and were both admitted to the hospital. But, while George was getting better, Michael was getting worse and had to be transferred to a children's hospital into their ER ICU. I truly thought he was going to die, and made some kind of peace within myself at that time to enable myself to deal with the possibility. So, when I say that I am not the same person that I was when I left Brooklyn all those years ago, you have some sense of what I mean. Sixteen years is not all that long, but it feels like several lifetimes to me.
Going back 'home' to Brooklyn felt like a reconsolidation for me...as though neural pathways were being rewoven and restructured in some sense. I didn't know where I would go, exactly, or who I might see, so I let myself be led by my memories of the roads and places that I was on. I took the Outerbridge Crossing into the southern part of Staten Island. I wanted to go through there, as I had lived there for a short time after getting married, though I couldn't tell you what street it was anymore. We had what was originally intended to be living quarters for a maid, if I am remembering correctly. It was such a fantastic apartment, above the garages of a very beautiful, custom built home. The living room doubled as my first photography studio, 25' x 25' with windows on two sides. The landlords were exceptional people, and I think my life would have been quite different if we had stayed there. That's a whole other story, but after that we moved to Brooklyn again for a few years.
So, I ran into quite a lot of traffic going through Staten Island, and at one point got off the highway, figuring that I would remember to some extent which way to go. I did, but I was wondering what I was doing, and then saw a sign over a real estate sign that said 'It's for the experience.' Well, I truly felt that it all was, just to drive on certain roads, see certain sights, nothing that I knew ahead of time about, but it just felt that I needed to be exactly where I was at that time.
That's pretty much how the whole trip went. There was lots of traffic. Sheepshead Bay was not what I remembered it as, though many of the old landmarks are still there. It seems to have gone through a revitalization and there are quite a lot of fancy eating places, alongside the big lobster at Randazzo's. It looks like a great place to be, but there was no parking to be found, and it was too crowded for me to want to get out of the car and walk around anyway. I took a few photos from the car, and then headed for the streets. It truly was like being in a place that I had never been to before, and yet at the same time it was entirely familiar to me.
I had taken everything that I thought I would need, money, coins for tolls, though I was handed an EZ Pass at the last moment and that made everything a breeze! What I hadn't thought of was that I would need a bathroom somewhere down the line ;-). That's when Kings Plaza mall showed up in front of me, and I decided to stop there. My mom and I used to go shopping on Saturdays there, it is totally different now, though I did see some stores that helped me to remember what it used to look like. What I was feeling was that I didn't belong...I didn't feel welcomed...and that was good, because that feeling morphed into a feeling of being at home anywhere and knowing that I was always welcome no matter where I was. It wasn't that I had to reason that out, I know that already as a concept, but this was an actual inner shift that I felt happening, and I think that was a big part of what the trip was for.
I left there, after getting a slice of Sbarro's pizza, and just drove and saw familiar sites. As I got closer to Canarsie, I noticed that what used to be Pizza places had become Jamaican Jerk joints! So amazing, like being in a different country from the one I grew up in. I realized that places will change with the people who inhabit it, and that this is part of the natural evolution of a place. It wasn't meant to be primarily Italian forever, and it just is what it is now, and will probably be something else with the next generation of business people and residents.
When I drove down my old street, I had a moment of fear...just a little one...that I might not recognize the house! Everything was so different, but there was the house, just the same as ever, though the big maple in front has lost a few limbs. I'll have to go back for a proper visit some day soon, but I think I had to do this trip this way just once for my own inner evolution. I hadn't told my parents that I was coming in to Brooklyn, I wanted to see how it all felt to me when I got there, but then it was a little too late in the evening to surprise them, so I contented myself with seeing the block and the house from the outside for now.
I headed back up Rockaway Parkway and onto the Belt Parkway. At least there wasn't as much traffic as before, but it was still pretty full. I had fun listening to the variety of radio stations, I do miss that...and a great version of Peter Frampton's Do You Feel Like We Do? came on and carried me all the way through Brooklyn and across the Verazanno Bridge... The sound was great, and it felt very appropriate, though I'm not exactly sure why, except that I was feeling so different. Here's a video that I found, though what I heard was much clearer and I was able to put it up pretty loud and enjoyed it quite a bit.
Peter Frampton - Do You Feel Like We Do? (1977 LIVE)
It was quite interesting that the minute I got on the Belt Parkway I found that I was able to slip right into Brooklyn-style driving again, you just never forget some things ;-).
Today's horoscope had talked about how hard it can be to reintegrate back into life again after spending time alone...I did find myself very much in my own alone-ness, not as a negative thing but just as the state of being that I needed to be in, but I had no problem shifting back into life again at home. I do feel different (and Pennsylvania feels different to me now as well), and I think that I will be feeling the effects of this trip for a while, and that I will be different in some fundamental way now, as well. It's as though I re-centered myself in Brooklyn...re-orientated to life from a different perspective, but one that was part of my life from the time of my birth.
It was very much needed!
1-Temple University Children's Hospital-Philadelphia (from the website)
2-heading back to the highway in Staten Island
3-on the ramp to the Verazzano bridge
4-Sheepshead Bay boat
4a-Randazzo's lobster sign (borrowed from their website)
5-ship's wheel in fence, Sheepshead Bay, probably from a long time ago
6-marina as seen from parking garage at Kings Plaza Mall
7-inside parking garage at mall
8-Arch Diner, corner of Ralph Ave and Flatlands Ave.(there's an old photo here, third one down)
9-corner of Foster Ave in Canarsie, at the end of my old street