It was long past embarrassing – approaching shameful – to have lived in Brooklyn for the better part of a decade without once crossing the threshold of Defonte’s Sandwich Shop. I have no excuse: not ignorance (Defonte’s was a favorite of the old Outer Boroughs Chowhound board, which I used to read avidly); not convenience (it’s a bit out of the way, but I run and bike close by often enough); not lack of hunger (obviously).
My world, like everyone’s, has shrunk these last two months. I no longer live in a vast metropolis, one in which $2.75 lets me hop on the subway in brownstone Brooklyn and emerge, a little over an hour and one change of trains later, at Pelham Bay in the Bronx, an easy jog from Long Island Sound. There’ve been no trips to Coney Island, or Plumb Beach or Fort Tilden or any of the other favorite places that take me away from the city while being very much of it.
Instead, there’s my block. The surrounding blocks. Prospect Park. Green-Wood Cemetery. The Gowanus Canal.
Red Hook has long been one of my favorite running destinations. When Eric and I were first together, and I was using my visits to explore Brooklyn, Red Hook seemed to me like the quintessential Brooklyn neighborhood: low-rise, industrial, unpretentious, tight-knit, nautical.
Once I moved here for good, I decided that I loved it because those same attributes reminded me of Detroit.
It’s also a great neighborhood for street art, and over the years, I’ve compiled quite a gallery of snapshots taken on the run. Some of the works still exist in more-or-less their original state, some have gone the way of the old Revere sugar refinery, and some are weathered and tagged-up (kind of like me).
For you non-birders, “corvids” refers to members of the family Corvidae, which includes jays, magpies, crows and ravens. They’re smart and playful, often raucous, and you can find them in the most urban of environments. Blue jays gather in scrawny street trees; crows patrol city streets; and ravens, the wildest of them all, are presumed to nest on the roofs of old warehouses and factories along the South Brooklyn waterfront. (As far as I know, no one has actually discovered our ravens’ nest location, which is probably for the best. Let the mystery be.)
Go ahead and try to wrap your mind around the concept of Lutheran halal. (Spoiler: it’s not really cuisine prepared according to the dictates of both Lutheran and Muslim dietary laws, but the name of a coffee shop by Lutheran Medical Center.) It’s as Brooklyn as . . . well, as a large extended family, all dressed up, the women wearing hijabs, smiling for a group photograph in front of Junior’s before their traditional ‘Eid al-Adha feast of pastrami and cheesecake. Continue reading →