Sunny Brooklyn

Coffee and a muffin at Sit and Wonder.  Bustling with holiday traffic.  People just want to hang out and talk about their court cases, stemming from violence directed toward a barricade last month.  This place is clearly part of the caffeinated bicycling with your yoga mat urban archipelago.  Billboards advertizing Portlandia abound.  Pulsating Apple logos everywhere.

The city here isn’t so tall.  Three or four or five or six stories.  At this density you get a residential neighborhood feel when you’re not on one of the main roads, but busy is only five minutes away.  Maybe more than anywhere I’ve ever been, I can’t believe they let cars into this city.  Whenever I walk somewhere I’m shocked at how quickly I get there.  Oh, there’s a wine shop just a block away.  Well look at that, Babeland is right next door to Ride Brooklyn.  Chinese take-out behind bullet proof glass (a holdover from the rougher days of… 4 years ago), Cuban cafe, Israeli vegan hummus cafe with steaming fresh pitas and silver Stars of David, Very Tight Pants, and comically enormous bleached blonde bouffants.

I biked from Park Slope to the Upper West Side yesterday in the frigid wind and glorious sun.  The protected lanes on 8th and 9th Avenues are great.  They could be better separated though, and much longer.  I made a loop around Central Park to meet up with a friend who works at the natural history museum.  My phone battery died for no good reason in the park, leaving me stranded in meat and paper space.  But I had a map.  And it turns out people are friendly, if you find yourself with a reason to talk to them.  We headed back toward Washington Square, where I spent the first part of the week at the coal finance conference.  Funny how just 4 days in a place if you’re walking around somehow makes it feel homey.  Familiar, relatively.  A tiny urban home range.  We sat on a cafe couch and drank beer and coffee, talked about how academics have started marrying into their departments.  Until she had to catch her train out to the hinterlands of Lon Guyland, and I pedaled off into the night along the edge of the towering bank buildings, accelerating for take-off across the river through the old Chinatown.  Pedaling hard to stay warm, and then sliding down the other side.  Brooklyn doesn’t feel as familiar, I think mostly because I’ve been biking around it instead of walking.  Or, it feels familiar, but at a slightly different scale.  Miles instead of blocks.  A different resolution.  I don’t know what’s hiding in all the in-between spots.

With only one introduction here, to Misha, who works for ITDP‘s New York office on (of all things) international parking policy, and a couple of days of socializing and conference schmoozing, the place doesn’t seem completely foreign.  It makes me wonder how difficult it would have been for me to go to a completely new place two years ago.  If I’d just headed to Portland, what would that have been like?  Would I have gotten connected quickly enough?  Found a place and a people to come home to?  Faster maybe, without the crutch of familiarity?  But I can’t really remember what I felt like then.  How lost.

The sidewalks are wide enough to hold hands here.  If only I’d brought a hand to hold.  Looking forward to getting back to my funky home by the mountains.

By Zane Selvans

A former space explorer, now marooned on a beautiful, dying world.

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