I’m originally from New York City, where there are people who still talk about the Brooklyn Dodgers.
The Brooklyn Dodgers were a major league baseball team that went all the way back to the nineteenth century, played at Ebbets Field in Flatbush and moved to Los Angeles in the 1950s, two years before I was born. New Yorkers who remember are still bitter.
Even as a ghost of the past, the Brooklyn Dodgers remain an icon of that borough, as much as the Cyclone roller coaster and Nathan’s hot dogs in Coney Island.
My parents are from the Bronx, and when I was six years old, we moved to the suburbs. So I’ve only visited Brooklyn a few times.
My first Brooklyn experience was at the age of ten or eleven, when my sisters and I rode there in the back seat of my father’s metallic blue Dodge Coronet. They were there to interview a woman who had applied to be a live-in maid in our home. My parents had busy professional lives and the three of us were a handful. We had a spare bedroom downstairs, near the garage, which we referred to as the “creep room.”
My parents never could bring themselves to hire a “creep.”
As an adult, I had a wild hair one day and decided to embark on the solo adventure of driving to the New York Aquarium in South Brooklyn. This involved about two hours of driving to Manhattan, then down the West Side Highway, through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and all the way around the great western curve of the borough on the Belt Parkway. The killer whale was amazing.
My last time in Brooklyn was just before I moved to California, leaving New York for good. I attended an engagement party in Brighton Beach, making the long trek home in the middle of the night.
These days, I think of Brooklyn when I stop by the local Subway sandwich stop to pick up dinner on the way home from work. Subway has a sandwich called the BMT (not to be confused with a BLT, which they also sell), which is pepperoni, Genoa salami and Black Forest ham, topped with whatever veggies and dressings you want. Don’t ask me if it’s any good. I don’t eat meat.
I have to wonder how many of my fellow California and Arizona desert rats have any idea that the BMT, aside from being a sandwich, is the name of the Brooklyn subway line. Back east, the décor of every Subway sandwich shop location that I ever visited prominently featured a map of the New York subway system papered on its walls, from the IRT up in the Bronx, to the IND in Manhattan and the BMT in Brooklyn. I once remarked to my wife that the Subway in our little town lacks this New York memento. Au contraire, she responded. And sure enough, I discovered she was right. The pale yellow subway map wallpaper is so faded that I never noticed it until I stood right next to the wall and squinted. Only then was I able to make out the pale outlines of the J and Z lines to Utica Avenue and Broadway, and the D and M lines that rattle and hum all the way down to Coney Island.
When I lived in California’s Central Valley, I attended a synagogue where I occasionally heard the rabbi or his wife wax nostalgic about the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Borough Park. These days, however, I don’t think about Brooklyn that much.
Last night, my wife and I were eating dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in Yuma, Arizona. We struck up a conversation with the two women at the next table, who were accompanied by a little girl who was coughing her poor head off. One of the women went out to the car to get the kid’s inhaler.
Our neighbors explained that the girl has asthma, and that they had spent the day at the ball field where the dust had aggravated her condition. The three year old’s mother explained that she had planned to name the girl Olivia, but that when she was born, at the last moment she changed her mind and named her daughter Brooklyn.
I’ve heard of other people named Brooklyn, but the whole idea of naming one’s child after a New York City borough seems kind of goofy to me. Still, I suppose Brooklyn is a better baby name than Queens or the Bronx.
As for me, if I had a daughter, I think I’d name her Staten Island.