Around the neighborhood

by Bryan

It’s nice to be back amongst the trees. Stranded for the last four years in Queens, I’m finally getting a proper fall, the type of which a cool, grey, wet day like today doesn’t completely ruin. Above you and on the ground are the oranges, yellows, and reds of October, with squirrels bustling through them looking for nuts, even in the street.

In the background, I can hear church bells chime from the Antiochian church on my block. It’s the same one that has a street festival every September, and at which this year I could hear a rock band playing loudly—and rather skillfully—from my couch. I thought there must have been a crowd of hundreds, the music was so good, but only after an hour did I rouse myself to go check. When I got outside, I saw the street was almost entirely empty. They were playing to a crowd of 12, and blissfully uncaring of it.

The community on my block is centered around The Victory coffee shop, a small, popular corner restaurant. The counter takes up most of the room inside, leaving only an L-shaped area for ordering and sitting, and when the weather is nice most of the patrons sit outside. It’s popular amonst the first- and second-kids crowd, and is a meeting place of sorts. Recently I got a flyer about the empty lot across from the shop; the landowner had promised to deliver affordable apartments but now there was talk of a school. The flyer warned that a school would only bring headaches to the block, and one can only guess that it was conceived of at the Victory.

Around the corner from the Victory is Kili, an odd little bar that, in the way it has hodgepodged different styles together is almost, but not quite, quintessentially Brooklyn-y. Originally conceived as a Kilimanjaro lodge replica, the area behind the bar has been gussied up and fancy cocktails are advertised, yet Doritos and similarly low-rent snacks sit in bowls at the bar. The dimly-lit dining room with candles on all the tables suggests intimacy until you actually go back there and see that the couches and decorations are in disrepair. There doesn’t seem to be any regular crowd to give the bar an identity, but logic suggest there must be enough regulars to make it profitable. The bar most suggests transience in a neighborhood where it is present but usually not so obviously laid bare.

Whirling around Kili, down an entire block of Atlantic Avenue and across the street is the Bedouin Tent, the second place I ate from alone in Brooklyn (the first night, I found Chinese food at the most familiar, bright counter restaurant I could find). The Bedouin Tent has a funny-looking menu printed on normal printer paper which has been folded in half, and is most notable for making their pitas made to order and for their “Middle PITA Eastern” sign. The falafel is high-quality, but almost too much so to be savory enough for my tastes. It’s almost too healthy. The real winner is the Merguez (spicy lamb) sandwich, which is bulky, fantastic and mixes with Louisiana hot sauce so incredibly that it seems like I’m jinxing it just by writing it down.

Curling back toward my building, there’s a small bodega where I go to get six-packs and the occasional drink, but that’s it. It’s oddly-shaped and always has owners sitting outside, and every time I walk in, I’m conscious that they’re watching me the whole time, even if they’re trying not to. I know they get stolen from a lot, because the one time they were feeling talkative someone had just nabbed something, and they showed me on the camera feed—turns out that if you turn around at the cash register, you see a four-windowed TV with camera feeds. That place is on lockdown, and they’re still nervous. I try to be as fast as possible, to spare us all the trouble, and I’m usually only buying one or two things anyway.

Now I’m hungry, but I have to do laundry. Not that it means going outside: for the first time in my adult life, I’ve got it in the building.