Message Font: Serif | Sans-Serif
No. of Recommendations: 5
We haven't taken a lot of walks over the last few months -- too cold then too hot or other commitments. But yesterday we took a great walk!!

It was the coldest day of the season thus far but a very bright and sunny day with no wind. So off we went. Where did we go? Well, as I have been incredibly busy at work, I let my walking companion make the decision. (She “early retired” several years ago and hates to make “executive decisions” so I often push her to do so.) We went to the Greenpoint area in Brooklyn.,_Brooklyn This is my “hometown”. Until I was 11 years old, we lived in the same house that my Dad grew up in. (His mother owned the house – a 2-family residence with a commercial space on the ground floor. When my dad was young, his mother owned a restaurant on the ground floor and during Prohibition, Dad helped make bathtub gin which my grandmother served in tea cups!)

I haven’t been back there for over 40 years. (We moved in 1959 but my maternal grandparents continued to live a few blocks away until sometime in the late ‘60’s.)

It’s still a very Polish community with lots of Polish meat markets, restaurants and other stores. We planned to have late breakfast/early lunch in some small Polish place but it didn’t work out that way. We did eat in a “yuppie” (do they still use that expression?) place where the food was good (and inexpensive compared to what we are used to paying in Manhattan) and we were by far the oldest folks in the place.

As for the walk – well, I don’t know where to start. I was very disappointed that we couldn’t get into St. Stanislaus Kostka Church – you may have heard that name as Pope John Paul II once visited there. The Church was built about 1890 and the spires can be seen for miles, including while on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (the “BQE” to local residents). (note that the correct name is “Kostka”, not “Kortka”.) - has some very good pictures of the beautiful interior.

But we walked past St. Stan’s elementary school – where my dad went to school as well as my sister and I. Around the corner, there is still a candy store where there was one way back then. And the neighborhood still looks very much the same. Interestingly enough, the architecture guide which we sometimes use(the (AIA Guide”) refers to the “painted aluminum clapboard and asbestos shingles that line the local streets like exterior wallpaper, Archie Bunker style”.

Then there is McGolrick Park – which was called Winthrop Park until sometime in the 1940’s and which we always called Winthrop Park. The big attraction here is a monument honoring the Monitor’s designer, John Ericsson, and the battle of the Monitor and the Merrimac. (The Monitor was built in Brooklyn.) It’s strange that I remembered that monument as a ship – I guess as a young child, I wasn’t interested in the hulk and only noticed the maritime connection.

We went past the block where my maternal grandparents lived and it still looks pretty much the same. And then we walked four more blocks and I was amazed to discover that the house I grew up in is still there! (Looks totally different and there is now a deli on the ground floor.) The back porch on the second floor (where we lived) is gone and the adjacent three garages are also gone but the house is still there. (Have I ever mentioned that the house is in the center of the underground lake of oil from the largest oil spill in this country? ”…the presence of a supertanker’s worth of the stuff submerged in the age-old geology of Greenpoint. It’s actually more than a century’s worth of spills, leaks, and waste dumped by oil companies that has pooled into a vast underground lake, more than 55 acres wide and up to 25 feet thick. First discovered by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1978, the Greenpoint spill has been estimated at anywhere between 17 million and 30 million gallons—three times more oil than the Exxon Valdez spill. That makes it the largest known oil spill in American history.” (the article is from 2007 and lots has happened since.)

We had hoped to have lunch at one of the small store-front restaurants but we should have done so earlier as once we passed my old house and basically turned around and headed back in the direction we had come from, but on a parallel avenue (Driggs Avenue), we couldn’t find such a restaurant so we walked a few more blocks and found a couple of “yuppie places” near McCarren Park (whose pool was recently renovated and where there was some problems this past summer reported on the front page of the newspapers).

After lunch we continued to walk down Manhattan Avenue which is the main shopping area. There were very few shops that I remembered. Both the movie theaters are long gone but I knew that the huge Greenpoint Savings Bank building was still there – although now is a TD Bank. Unfortunately, it was closed. I had wanted to go in to see the huge interior. At least we got to see the shingled dome – which is in a fish-scale pattern in slate.

Another church that we couldn’t get into was St. Elias Greek Rite Catholic Church – like many churches in NYC, this edifice (built in 1870) originally housed a different religious sect - it was formerly the Reformed Dutch Church of Greenpoint.

We did stop in an old-fashioned Polish butcher shop so that I could buy myself both fresh and smoked kielbasa – after explaining to the butcher that I wanted the smoked kielbasa that has a lot of garlic in it and larger pieces of fat. (He had greeted us in Polish but I responded in English.) He knew immediately what I was talking about. This place makes their own fresh kielbasa and smokes their own smoked kielbasa. Needless to say, I ate quite a bit of the “red kabasie” (which is what we called the smoked while we were growing up) cold last evening and then for breakfast this morning fried some for “kabasie and eggs” (the traditional day after Christmas breakfast for my family). Tonight I’ll be having the “white kabasie” (fresh) along with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes.

When we first started walking down Nassau Avenue after getting out of the train station, we passed a gentleman sweeping the leaves off the sidewalk. He looked up so I said Hello and he immediately launched into a long talk IN POLISH. I only understood about every 6 words so I eventually stopped him and told him that I didn’t understand Polish that well so he then proceeded to speak in half Polish and half English – something that my mother often did with her father. We “chatted” for about 5 more minutes before going on our way, after I did use a few Polish phrases I remembered. And I have to say that all during our several hours walk we passed many groups of people – all ages and both sexes - speaking in Polish to each other. So that much hasn’t changed since I lived there.

I left my apartment at noon and got home around 6. Needed to take 3 subways each way but it was 3 stops on the first, 1 on the second and 2 on the third – pretty fast actually.

All in all, it was a wonderful walk and a trip back through time for me.

Print the post  


When Life Gives You Lemons
We all have had hardships and made poor decisions. The important thing is how we respond and grow. Read the story of a Fool who started from nothing, and looks to gain everything.
Contact Us
Contact Customer Service and other Fool departments here.
Work for Fools?
Winner of the Washingtonian great places to work, and Glassdoor #1 Company to Work For 2015! Have access to all of TMF's online and email products for FREE, and be paid for your contributions to TMF! Click the link and start your Fool career.