You’d think I’d like living in a small town. It seems most people say they do. In some ways, I grew up in a small town. My block, 53rd Street between 4th and 5th Avenue in Brooklyn NY had all the elements of a small town. We had neighbors who looked out for you, knew your name, who your parents were and where you lived. Like other small town inhabitants, they had no problem correcting your behavior and sharing your antics with your parents.
Without crossing the street I could go to the candy store, the drug store, a delicatessen, a clothing store, a bank, a variety store (5 and dime store, remember those?) and more. Also without crossing the street, I could board the bus or descend into the subway. The world was literally steps away.
On our block, we had all manner of people except people of color. Eventually that changed as well. We had a Jewish woman, a single mother, who had the tattoo markings of a German concentration camp. People spoke in whispers about her perhaps fearing her pain.
We even had a bad neighborhood on our block. My mother would hold more tightly to my hand when we walked passed 3-4 apartment houses that she called the “tenements.” I was admonished to never play with any of the children who lived in these apartments. That always seemed sad to me because there were so many children. Always on the stoop without supervision, they seemed to have lots of fun. They must have been told things about me as well, as they were the ones who made fun of those of us who lived a few doors down in apartments, rather than tenements.
What does this have to do with South Dakota living? Nothing. Today it is colder, grayer and windier than yesterday. Yesterday was beautiful; today it is just dull. We are waiting for rain.
I live in an apartment again. I don’t think they have any tenements to avoid here in Brookings. I am not even sure there are really bad neighborhoods here. But if I walk out of my door here, there are no friendly faces, no one knows my name. I can’t walk to a corner for a slice of pizza fresh out of the oven dripping with olive oil served by a guy named Sal.
I should be studying but I can’t focus. My heart is somewhere else. I wish I could travel back in time to those days when my world was 53rd Street.