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Posts Tagged ‘neighborhoods’

south portland st brooklyn

One of the delights of visiting and revisiting a city: there are neighborhoods that become yours.

Last month, the hubs and I spent our third weekend in Fort Greene, which has become our favorite pocket of Brooklyn. I’d just spent three days at a conference in midtown and I was ready to get out of the bustle and glitz, to a tangle of quieter streets where people actually live. Coming out of Manhattan, even dragging all my luggage, felt like a much-needed exhale. And coming up out of the subway onto Fulton Street – even into a cold winter wind – felt like coming home.

We rented the top floor of a brownstone near Fort Greene Park, and spent the weekend popping into our favorite places and discovering new ones. It was the kind of travel I adore: the new and novel blended with the comforting and familiar.

We didn’t even discuss where to go for dinner on Friday night, but headed straight to Madiba for bowls of spicy lamb curry with raisin-studded saffron rice. When we told our hostess we were headed to the farmers’ market in the park the next morning, she laughed. “You’re practically natives!” And, indeed, it felt wonderful to stroll the stands and buy a cup of steaming apple cider and a scone the size of my fist. We perched on a bench and sipped our cider, watching dogs and children running in the cold, crisp air.

k-j-ft-greene-park

I’d made a short list of places to revisit, and we hit all of them: Greenlight Bookstore, the winter Brooklyn Flea market, the wonderful Greene Grape and its adjacent wine shop, and the bagel place on Lafayette Avenue. We ate Sunday brunch at Walter’s and strolled up and down the streets we love. But we also visited new coffee shops, turned down unfamiliar corners, ate guacamole and huevos at Pequeña. And we did something I’ve long wanted to do: took the gorgeous walk across the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan.

brooklyn bridge cables sky

New York, more than most cities, offers endless new discoveries, and I am surprised and delighted by it every time I visit. But I also love that certain parts of it have become mine, or ours. Fort Greene welcomed us back, and I’m already looking forward to our next trip there.

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The leaves on the Common are flaming out in color, shedding the thick, lush green of late summer for the panoply of fall. A few weeks ago, the spindly maples lining the brick path between the bandstand and the tennis court began flaunting their red leaves, and I thought, “These maples always turn first.” Autumn winds have now stripped off half their leaves, but vibrant shades of scarlet and orange remain. This, too, happens every year.

boston common maples autumn leaves red orange

I have lived here long enough to know a few things: which trees on the Common bud first in early spring, when the Swan Boats come out for the season and when they disappear. I know the stretch where the wind sweeps most fiercely down the east side of the Common. I can tell by the sky if the outdoor carts at the Brattle will be open, or if the booksellers will hedge their bets and cover the carts, but open the shelves. I have a favorite stand at the farmer’s market. I am a small part of the bustling routine of this particular city, these few square blocks, this everyday.

carrots peaches farmers market summer fall

And yet: I have not yet learned to hide my surprise when a grove of green trees turns orange overnight. New obstacles on familiar streets (construction, always construction) catch me off guard. There are still fresh delights to discover, like the food truck near the Park Street station, with its rosemary french fries, mulled cider and friendly staff. And sometimes I board a crowded subway train and snag a seat for the ride home. After a long day, a square of faux leather and plastic to perch on feels like grace.

I have been here long enough to know this blogging neighborhood, too. Eight years and hundreds of posts – today marks my 1,000th – is sufficient time to get to know any terrain. I have my favorite haunts, my well-traveled paths online. Some bloggers and readers are constant companions, others intermittent visitors. I know the landscape and can predict some of the seasonal changes. I have a practice, a process, a routine.

I began writing in this space as a college student in Oxford, posting commentary on The Lord of the Rings as part of a guided study conducted with a professor back in Texas. I quit posting when I came home, but started blogging a year later with a group of friends on a private site. At the urging of another friend, I switched back to this public blog, to muse about travel, books, college life and the looming uncertainty of my future.

I never expected to reach 1000 posts, as I typed in the crowded computer lab on Canterbury Road in 2004. The online world continues to surprise me: how huge and unknown it still is, how fast it can grow, how much potential it holds for connection. There is plenty of rubbish too, like the litter and grit along Boston’s streets: the Internet can be a venue for bickering, bullying, snark or simply too much shouting. Sometimes I retreat from it for a day or a weekend or longer. But I always come back. And this online corner of my own, a place to connect with readers and share my life, feels like grace.

Our digital world is changing so rapidly that I can’t predict where I’ll be writing in another eight years or 1,000 posts. But for now, I plan to keep coming back here, sharing books and travelogues and bits of my life story with you. The element of connection makes this space rich and sacred, and for that – and for all of you – I am so grateful.

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