Bowling Alley in Brooklyn.

Much has kept me from biking in the past 4 months or so–weather and health–so I was reluctant to sign up for some mystery shopping assignments (a side job of sorts to add to my list of 30+ jobs I’ve held in life) again. When I started mystery shopping last summer, it was because I could not commit to a set schedule due to bad health and I could not have the responsibilities of teaching any longer. I was also attracted to the “job” because it meant I could bike to a lot of the locations, in Brooklyn and Manhattan, because it wouldn’t cost money to do so, some were too far from subways or bus routes, and it would let me explore the boroughs in a way that most New Yorkers don’t. Some locations I have done more than once, so I am familiar with the streets and bike route, but it is always thrilling to experience New York this way, above ground and wide-eyed.

Last week, I rode to the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, which is about 50 blocks past where I used to live in Park Slope. I love this ride because it takes me to a part of Brooklyn filled with warehouses, wholesale bakeries, small factories, and manufacturing businesses. People are creating things with their hands, producing or building, rather than the ambiguous work that occurs on Wall Street. Maybe I feel a little more at home here because it reminds me of Pittsburgh, the same decrepit buildings that sometimes you can peak into and see flames or machinery or gears cranking. Across the street from the Greenwood Cemetery is Weir Florist, a big greenhouse. I’ve always loved the top of it, shown below, and it turns out that the greenhouse was part of the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.

As I biked down 2nd Avenue, there is a strip of a few blocks that smells like raisin bread. Maybe they make the street vendor bagels here? It reminds me of going to high school and smelling the Nabisco factory that was a few blocks away. This part of Brooklyn is very close to the water, which makes sense in terms of shipping and receiving. There are many tracks on the streets where small streetcars or trains would have transported goods to the ships on the water, and they do still use some of these. There is so much history to be learned!

On the way, I stopped at 37th Street to find Spanish bricks from the 1500’s. The 1500’s!!! They were brought over at that time by the Spanish when America was still being “discovered”; much of 37th Street was once paved with the bricks. In the 1980’s, the city had them removed and sent back to Spain. I wonder why? They left a few, and placed them in the sidewalk here:


I also went to the Brooklyn Army Terminal, where Elvis was shipped out when he was drafted in 1958. There’s a plaque on the wall there with pictures, but unfortunately no photographs allowed. I did ask if I could walk around the Terminal and take photos, and luckily security said yes. I was in awe of this place, and you can probably see why: