When Google Takes You Elsewhere
Preface: A few months ago, Lexcie and I were in a Goodwill store in Connecticut when I picked up a book called A Writer’s Book of Days by Judy Reeves for 25¢. The book is full of great writing inspiration and has a prompt for each day. I’m going to try and write from a prompt as many days I can this year (although my brain sometimes gets fizzled out since I’m constantly writing for work). I need to get my mind focused on more creative writing again.
A Writer’s Book of Days (01/01) – Write About Sunday Afternoon
New Year’s Day fell on a Sunday this year. Although it has probably fallen on many Sundays in my lifetime, this is only one I’ve remembered. What made it different was the absence of the annual Tournament of Roses parade on TV. Each year, I’d sit in my pajamas and watch it on TV, noshing on the previous night’s leftovers. But Pasadena, Calif. has a city ordinance that doesn’t allow the parade to be held on a Sunday, so it will instead be held tomorrow.
This change led to slight boredom this morning. But Mom, in her annual New Year’s Day calls, found out that my cousins were going to the Bronx Zoo for the afternoon. Perfect! We haven’t been to the Bronx Zoo in quite a while and would join them. (Last week, we went to the Central Park Zoo, which is considerably smaller, and the animals decided it was too cold to be out and about.)
Mom, Lexcie, and I made the hour-long drive to the Bronx. It was a clear, warm day, and despite being a holiday, there wasn’t much traffic on the road. We’d traveled this route to the Bronx often when I was a student at Fordham University – Southern State Parkway to Cross Island Parkway, across the Throgs Neck Bridge to the Bronx River Parkway. Usually, we encounter some sort of delay, but today, we zoomed across the bridge and the tolls. A giant green sign greeted us: BRONX ZOO PARKING. We turned right.
The parking lot was empty. The gates were locked. The zoo was closed. Turned out to be a Googling error on my cousin’s part.
But now what? It seemed silly to turn around and pay another $6.50 just to head back to Long Island. So I suggested we go back to my old stomping grounds of the Bronx’s Little Italy, which I hadn’t visited in over five years. We called my cousins, who were on their way to the zoo, and they met us on Arthur Avenue.
Of course, it was New Year’s, so most of the world had closed up for the day. We walked up and down the street, looking for an open pizza joint, but the only places open were some fancy restaurants and pastry shops. It was the quietest I’ve ever seen Arthur Avenue – I always went home during Christmas break, so I never saw it so desolate.
I was also slightly disappointed, since it was my cousins’ first time to the Bronx’s Little Italy, a place I find superior to Manhattan’s Little Italy. No one was shucking clams in front of Cosenza’s Fish Market. There was no scent of freshly baked bread wafting from Madonia Brothers Bakery. Once in a while you’d get a whiff of a cigar, but the hustle and bustle of the Arthur Avenue Retail Market wasn’t there. No residents were sitting on park benches or on their fire escapes. Even the doors to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church were locked.
For the most part, it was a time warp. Most of the same stores and restaurants remained, while the push of Albanian retail in the neighborhood didn’t seem as pronounced as it once had been. However, the further down Arthur Avenue and East 187th Street you walked, the more diversification could be seen – sushi restaurants, Mexican groceries, cell phone stores, and other spots that weren’t part of the area six years ago.
We had appetizers at Trattoria Tra Di Noi and dessert at Palombo’s Pastry Shop, neither which I remember from my Fordham days, but most of my old haunts were closed. Even so, it still felt like home. I miss the days of just walking down Arthur Avenue and taking in the neighborhood – it’s a feeling of community I haven’t found in many other places. I’d like to bring my cousins back there in the spring to show them what it’s really like during the day.
Not a bad Sunday afternoon for a Googling mistake.