Saturday, September 26, 2009

Belt Parkway East

I can still remember coming down Route 678 with my wife, then my new girlfriend, years ago for my first meeting with her family. She had a lot of family in Brooklyn and we were making a couple of stops before we reached her Aunt's house on Avenue Z near Batchelder

It was our first road trip together - come to think of it - and we traded off time driving from Boston in her old green Toyota Tercel coupe. It was a long trip and I'd never been to Brooklyn before, so we finally turned the car West onto the Belt Parkway I was relieved.

"Where's your aunt's house?" I asked; I'm a little fastidious about knowing my route to a place. 

"I'll know the exit," she said without concern, "It's a little further up."

I didn't understand her response, but I let it be. She was gazing out the window in a dreamy kind of way, looking like someone who's passing by a place with many memories; seeing and hearing things that are long past. 

I'd always thought of Brooklyn as a very urban place, so when we crossed over into the Sheepshead Bay area and the Hudson River drew closer to the road, I was stunned by how wild and beautiful it was. Seeing that broad river, the gateway to the city, shimmer in the winter sun was an awakening for me. 

There were big, big ships moored or riding on the wide water, and miles of green parks that lined it, and the legions of neighborhood people walking or biking or roller blading along it. The Hudson was an immediate and arresting beauty; one look and I was permanently hooked. 

"All this is a park?" I gasped, looking at the miles and miles of walkways along it's edge. 

"Yup," she said, smiling like someone who's letting you in on an open secret, "Nice isn't it."  

I just gazed out and agreed in silence. I'd never considered living anywhere outside my home state before, but I was starting to get the itch. 

We made a lot of trips down that way as we went from a new couple to engaged to finally married. I never got tired of it, no matter how bad the traffic or onerous the task that we had to perform. I loved that ride. 

I still do. 

"Hey look at that," my wife said as we came down 278 West from the city to the belt parkway today, "It's still quiet."

Today we had another errand on that old stretch of road. There was some family business that I'll not go into now. We had the kids with us and we were heading East, not West, making our way through Manhattan via the Holland and Battery Tunnels.  

I knew my way; had chosen a good route. It can be tricky with the traffic - things can change before you hear about them - but today we had the luck.  

"Good driving," my wife said as we merged into the Belt and drove up towards the Verrazanno Bridge. 

"Look," I said to my daughter, "Look at the beautiful bridge."

I could see her in the rear view mirror gazing out quietly for a moment or two. 

"Is this your favorite bridge Daddy," my daughter asked after a few more moments of quiet thought. She's four years old and apparently, the concept of a favorite has entered her consciousness. 

"I like this bridge," I said, "But this is my favorite road." 

"Oh," she said, considering it for a minute, "Why?"

"It just is," I said, drifting again and thinking that the answer to her question was both near me and all around me, "It just is." 

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