The Occasional Tales of Ailsa B du Bois

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Brooklyn, Civic Centre & the Lower East Side

Posted by Ailsa B du Bois on May 11, 2009

Back on-line again, following another thigh thinning day of walking from Brooklyn Heights to Civic Centre and up through the Lower East Side (via China Town) , the scunge of the Bowery and up and down the little back streets full of Jewish tailors).   I suppose the unaccustomed might think this was a day of slumming it a bit, but actually Brooklyn is pretty groovy, or at least the parts we went through were.  Certainly Dumbo (can you believe that name?) was really great with fab ware-house conversions and art galleries, and very cool cafe’s.  Despite the curious name of this suburb, I’d be happy to live in Dumbo!  It’s kind of like Milson’s Point in Sydney – well only an itsy bit, but anyway, walking up over the Brooklyn Bridge and toward the city-scape of Manhattan was really spectacular, and the visuals will stay with me forever. 

When we got to the other side, the Civic Centre, with it’s grand public buildings, we took a right and walked past all the major criminal justice law courts (3 mammoth state buildings in a row), so as you can imagine that made for some interesting roadside observations of NYPD, the accused and their families outside and all of that stuff… then we found our way into China Town, which struck me as the largest, busies CT I have ever been through.  We were amid an absolute throng of people for  many, many blocks, and at one point I had this almost outer body experience from an aerial perspective of how little we were amid all of that seething humanity, and was imagining that we could indeed have slipped through a worm-hole straight into real China. 

Then suddenly we were through it all, and into another world again, the gritty  world of NYC in old 70s cop shows, and Taxi Driver and stuff, along the Bowery, and then we struck the amazing post-modern architectural statement piece: the New Museum we were seeking, only to find that it was closed on Mondays (hate that!).  So we had a wander around a really cool wine store for a while, then turned the corner onto East Houston and went straight to the institution that is Katz Delicatessan.  What an experience that was: Laurie was in shock for a good five minutes, so I took charge, grabbing a table, sitting him down, navigating the chaotic system they have there, and coming forth with a giant pastrami with mustard mayo on rye and fries, and once he’d digested the whole old (since the 1800s) Jewish deli scene there, he kind of snapped back into consciousness, and said “Thank You Ailsa.  This is really something!”  It was messy cool.  The 3rd or 4th generation owner personally comes to each table and has a chat with you, and I can’t go into detail here, coz the whole scene deserves several pages of explanation.  So, moving on – We went straight to Russ & daughters, Jewish providore, after that and bought a fresh cream blintz, then meandered through the tailor trade streets to Economy Candy, which I found fascinating (on my daughter’s behalf) – the largest old fashioned candy ware-house imaginable – they have every candy curio you can recall from child-hood, and everything your Grand-parents might recall also…  About 5 mins after entering the store, Laurie notably transformed into a zombie, and I realised I’d better get him home.  Note that I have now claimed the Washington Square Hotel as my ‘home’.  Straight down to the sub-way, 3 stops along, and here’s where we live at present: near West 4th Street!  I am a very determined & driven tourist; I would have kept running with my ferocious agenda if I hadn’t had to think of my loved one!  I had designs on The Pickle Guy Store, The Old Tenement Museum and then a walk over to Tribeca – Now the rest of the Lower East side may have to wait until ‘next time’… You see – I’m already planning a return!  But I will get to Tribeca in the morning, and also to the Forbes Magazione Museum for an  exhibition (and yes, I’ve checked: they are open tomorrow – phewww…).   So as for now, off to Soho we go, again…  Oh, I really, truly do love New York.

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