Today was as beautiful as yesterday was ugly, the only drawback being that after the foul weather that's been hurled at us all this past week, I didn't have sufficient trust in the "sunny and warmer" forecast. So when I left the house this morning I took, in addition to my usual bag of books, papers, etc., a jacket, a hoodie and an umbrella. It still wouldn't have been enough to keep me warm yesterday, but by midday the hoodie was in the bag, followed shortly afterward by the jacket.
It was around this time that I decided to walk to Greenpoint from the West Village, which as the crow flies is no more than a mile or so, but on foot across the Williamsburg Bridge is considerably further. Hopstop claims it's only 2.61 miles, but it also tells you to turn left on Kent off the Williamsburg Bridge, which from the side I was walking on, you can't do without a parachute.
My reasons for walking instead of training it partly involved it being a warm, sunny day, but were more about teaching the MTA a lesson For two consecutive weekends the L train from Brooklyn to Manhattan has been an utter nightmare, as they're only running a shuttle between Union Square and Bedford Avenue every 16 minutes. Any more than 6 or 8 minutes between trains and the platforms begin to fill up with dangerous numbers of people, which is bad enough, but what's really annoying is the MTA's spurious claim that they're using the shutdown to "make track improvements."
Now I'm no engineer or railroad man, but even my untutored ass knows that by now (this is either the third or fourth weekend they've done this) they could easily have replaced every bit of track from Union Square to Eighth Avenue. Anyway, sick of waiting in the subterranean equivalent of a cattle pen while sadistic MTA employees bellowed the obvious ("There are no trains etc.") at us through megaphones, I figured it made more sense to walk. Granted it took me twice as long and I got a blister on one foot, but I console myself by thinking of the president of the MTA losing sleep in his mansion tonight over my absence from his trains. "That Larry Livermore, why, he's one of our most devoted customers, and now he's deserted the L train. I think we'd better have a serious re-think about our customer service strategy." Or something like that.
It's been a couple months since I've been in South Williamsburg (well, it's really Central Williamsburg, but I confess that I don't give a lot of thought to what goes on south of Broadway), and quite longer since I've been there in daylight, so I had the opportunity to see some of the new glass condo boxes that have erupted in the vicinity since then. As you may know, I don't share the violent antipathy many of my fellow Williamsburgers exhibit toward all new construction higher than two stories or more modern than the earlier 20th century (or in some cases, toward any new construction at all). I actually like some of the glass boxes, others not so much, and there are even a handful that I would consider living in. In fact I saw one advertised today, a three-story, four-bedroom, six-car garage affair (I have absolutely no plans to acquire a car, but I do own two bicycles, total value approximately $125) just a couple blocks over from where I'm living now. Price? Why, a mere $1,250,000, which may sound a lot, but when you consider that it's only 10,000 times the value of my bicycle collection, it begins to sound a bit more manageable.
Anyway, one of the old timers on my block told me that one of the neighbors recently tried to sell his three-story house, which was not nearly as nice - is actually kind of tacky, if you must know, and had several feet of water in the basement apartment during last summer's floods - for $1.4 million. Didn't get it, though, and has installed several new sets of hipsters in the various apartments as a fallback strategy, but so the neighborhood goes. A friend turned up tonight wearing a t-shirt featuring a line drawing of an archetypal glass condo box with the legend: "My parents went to Brooklyn and all they got me was this lousy condo."
Speaking of hipsters and class resentment, my journey to Greenpoint took me through the Bedford Avenue side of McCarren Park, the section which, if the 30-something artsy type showing his parents around is to be believed, is known as "the hipster beach." Apart from the absence of sand and swim suits, it certainly looked the part, as the lawn was virtually carpeted with lounging hipster bodies in various states of disarray and déshabillée (yes, I know how much it annoys them to be called hipsters; why do you think I say it so much?).
I also saw, and you may find this hard to believe of someone who's lived in Brooklyn for going on two years now, my first kickball game (hey, I've never seen anyone taking cocaine, either). Several kickball games, in fact, being conducted simultaneously on every square foot of grass and field that wasn't already being lounged upon. The Ausländer among you may be unfamiliar with this sport, which is often spoken of (usually in derisory terms) as the ultimate stereotype of Hipster Brooklyn, but it actually looked like good fun, and certainly a lot less challenging and far more rewarding than yesterday's PPMB softball tourney played on the sub-Arctic tundras of North Central Park.
And in another touch that was notably missing from PPMB softball, the hipsters had brought in a club-sized set of PA speakers and a DJ to entertain the assembled kickballers with music that was - well, how about I avoid employing the H-word yet again and just acknowledge that it was no doubt very cutting edge and not entirely unpleasant. Oh, and the kickballers even had spiffy uniforms, indicating that they might take this business rather seriously, even if almost no one else does. Seriously, I support it, and find it infinitely less annoying than the clutch of hipsters who have taken up bocce ball to the point of pretty much driving the last of the old Italian men clear out of the park.
No shortage of old Polish men and women at the north end of the park, though, and they seemed to be having a great old time holding up a metaphorical "Welcome To Greenpoint" sign for me as my journey neared its end. I probably should have moved to Greenpoint a couple years ago when it was still "cheap" and "undiscovered;" now it looks better every time I wander over that way (which, truth be told, is several times a week, far more often than I set foot on the Hipster Strip over on Bedford).
But it's too late for that now, I fear, and the travails of the L notwithstanding, I'm not prepared to subject myself to the far less tender ministrations of the G train. But it's a great place for a walk, as was just about every nook and cranny of New York City on this stunningly beautiful day. It's still too early to say summer's finally here without jinxing the whole affair, but it's getting close, I tell you. And like a great yet gentle beast awaking languorously and luxuriously from a long winter's nap, the city stretches out in the sun and waits.