Sunday, September 19, 2010

Brooklyn walking tour: after the storm

It was determined that two tornadoes touched down early on Thursday evening in New York City. One in Park Slope, Brooklyn - my previous hood before I moved here; and the other, worse, in Queens, where winds reached 100 miles per hour and did more damage. Amazingly, with all those trees falling, only one person person was killed in her car when a tree crushed it. Bad enough, but not as bad as it might have been.

For those of us who saw the storm, or who did not see the main event, there seems to be a wistfulness.  When I remember our own scary experience with weather early this year in South African weather, I remember the time happily, even though at the time I was jittery with nerves. We live intensely, then. Perhaps every second counts, and is inhaled and experienced on every level of perception, as it rarely does  in our everyday, safe lives. I'm not suggesting that being caught in tornado is fun, but we were clearly not in danger of our lives.

Yesterday the Frenchie and I walked from Henry Street, east, doglegging past Los Paisanos on Smith for a dried sausage for a picnic in Prospect Park, and then to to Stinky for a Sullivan Street baguette (because not all baguettes are created equal), and some excellent brie, and then down Union Street and across the unprecedentedly awful, chalky-looking Gowanus. I do not think that the $9 million  aeration system is working too well.

A mystery on Union Street

Up Union as it rises towards the park and Park Slope and we started to see some big downed branches, some being sawn by Parks Department workers. Past the farmers' market at Grand Army Plaza where we chose a mixed bag of Golden Delicious, Honey Crisp, Bartlett and some heirloom variety apples whose names I've forgotten: Black twig? - these for dessert...

Just a few feet into the park's Grand Army Plaza entrance and trees were flattened. No clean up crew had been here yet, as they have been prioritizing street-clearing and then damaged cars and, finally, parks. Huge limbs had come crashing down. In one corner, the tops of a clump of old, 50 foot trees had simply been twisted off as though by a giant wrenching hand, leaving big branches frayed like twigs in the air.

The park was packed with people. A bright, crisp, sunny day.

We picnicked on a grassy slope between snogging couples and overlooking the mixed bag of picnickers, frisbiers, volleyballers, dog walkers, stroller pushers (fertility boom?), playing children, and enormous, barbecuing packs of hipsters across the Olmsted-designed dip.

Formula: Sharp knife, small bamboo cutting board, large white napkin; sausage, cornichons, cheese, bread and apples. Ah, and red grape juice, of course: a rather vile Sicilian Nebbiolo.

We did not tour the park, though perhaps we should have, to see more trees. It was just too full of humans, who rather spoilt the effect, en masse.

We made our way home and west, doglegging again, this time via 6th Avenue in Park Slope. Trees seemed struck down every twenty feet or so, sometimes more often. We saw at least six different tree felling companies at work: good times for them. The boom of  '10.

The air was filled with the smell of cut wood.

Down towards 4th Avenue, past typical Park Slope trash...

...and backyard chickens.

And warnings.

And signs.

We crossed the canal again at 3rd Street, and it looked a bit better now -  maybe the tide had come in.

And then went sideways and walked up Carroll, back on our side of the border again.

So, we were very lucky. If that thing had touched us, and I swear it or a cousin passed me on Atlantic that evening, two blocks away - the terrace and roof farm would have been toast.

It is now a perfect Sunday. Not a storm-green but a sky-blue, and October is only eleven days away. More importantly, The Atlantic Antic is only seven days away! Next Sunday.

Bring on street-grilled sardines, pizza Moto and cold cups of beer.


  1. The picnic looks absolutely scrumptious, the damage to many trees is heartbreaking...but who is the barefoot mystery woman in colonial garb??

  2. I wish I had your lunch.

    I think prospect park did better than other parks in Queens. My father lives near Forest Hills, ugh is the word.

    If I learned anything about windstorms in NYC -get the eff out of the car and into a shelter!

    Now's a good time for the beach farm to get woodchips. I'll call tomorrow.

  3. i enjoyed this post! i too, have a frenchie and understand that "not all baguettes are created equal" - scouring cape town to find the best one.. any ideas?

  4. Great pictures, Marie, and very frenchie delicious picnic!

  5. An impressive storm! I miss thunder and lightning of which we have too little in Cape Town. The baguette looks good, very good indeed - it makes me think of lunch - which is 2 hours away still!

  6. QC - kein idee...I would guess the garb of unknown religious fervour, but really, no idea.

    Frank - it was a good one, the cheese was exceptional, now I must go back and find out what it was. Your dad? Yeah, Queens still seems to be receiving less press about the storm. Fewer bloggers in Queens? We talked to a guy collecting wood chips for his compost.

    Bonjour mol-d - really? Cape Town...hmmm...thinking. You know, we indulged in a lot of Woollies croissants from the Constantia Woolworths, which were awesome - they fly the pastry in from France, apparently (frozen!). But baguette, we never met a real one. Maybe the Olympia Bakery in Kalk Bay, or even Giovanni's, at the other end of the peninsula, in Green Point? Or the Neighbourhood Goods Market in Salt River? Please report back, because it's a serious matter!

    LIU - grazias y merci :-)

    Anairam, hi - yes, we're lucky with thunderstorms here. I grew up with them in the Free State and found the Cape a bit calm...

  7. Your picnic in the park looks awesome. Love the chickens in the backyard. Was there a fence? I wonder if the chickens wander out to the street.


Comments on posts older than 48 hours are moderated (for spam control) . Yours will be seen! Unless you are a troll. Serial trollers are banned.