January 11, 2012, I went on such a trip through East New York, Brooklyn, driven by an old friend. But now, I was to be the driver and guide.
This was my unplanned agenda for Easter Sunday (after the Easter Parade), when I accompanied a friend and her mother to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, for Easter dinner. Before dinner, we decided to take advantage of the extraordinary weather in the mid-60s and see the places of my friend and her mother's where they were born and had grown up.
This type of mission is not about efficient driving, nor will it necessarily be a tour of the scenic or architectural wonders of New York City. It will be punctuated by stops that have deep meaning only for your guests being toured and for the small number of others who at one time shared the same addresses.
I accommodated every twist and turn, circling and back tracking, zigging and zagging, providing chauffeur services - convenient for them and enjoyable for me, since I was at one time a New York City taxi cab driver. Patience is required for such a mission, since often only foggy or partial memories are available as a guide to locating addresses. There were places which were of zero difficulty to locate, such as my friend's former grade school, P.S. 102, and the church where her parents married, Our Lady of Angels.
A special treat was Owl's Head Park, a place which I had heard about and driven by but never actually walked in. This was special for my company, too, since my friend's mother had taken her there as young as when she was one year old, their residence only one-half block away. The waterside park affords vistas of the bay of New York, the Verrazano Bridge, Staten Island, Memorial Pier, and the skyline of Manhattan. We took in the views while basking in the warm afternoon sun setting over the bay.
Other stops were the former homes of parents, grandparents, brothers, and sisters - this is an Italian family with deep roots in this section of Brooklyn. Some exact addresses were known. For others, we became Big Game hunters, tracking our quarry. Details of buildings were examined, proximity to other buildings and shops, all with a singular goal - to identify with absolute certainty that, yes, THAT'S the place.
Like a modern African safari, our trip through the urban jungle was to see and shoot our game with eyes and cameras only. Once positively identified, we would sit and look as my guests would ooh, aah, and reminisce. And that is how I spent my Easter afternoon. Starting on the highways of New York City, I watched the sign posts, looking for An Exit Marked Memory Lane :)
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