The sun has just come up in Brooklyn as I attempt to dodge another patch of glass on my bike.
I spent the previous day biking past scenes from a Ralph Lauren polo ad: the pastoral fields and white-capped waves of Montauk. Today, I want to scream at the shady street characters drinking Pabts: “Can we get some brooms and clean up this hellhole?” Instead I peddle on to my destination: Brighton Beach.
Since moving from a nearby drug infested neighborhood to Manhattan 17 years ago, my life, like most New Yorkers, has become pathetically confined to a 40-block radius of what I consider upscale Klansman, given our striking similarity in lifestyle and thought. My grocery store, daughter’s school, library and favorite diner are right out the door.
The bike ride is a cathartic reminder of why I scurried out of Ohio in the 80s and gives the ride a Margaret Mead expedition vibe.
The starting point: mosque territory where signs warn my “activity is being watched on surveillance cameras.” This eventually gives way to Mexican laborers – “Hey mommy,” they shout – and Chinese fruit markets. A sharp turn onto Ocean Parkway and I’m biking past endless blocks of temples and tacky, gated homes belonging to the Sephardic Jews until I hit a weathered Coney Island amusement park, and finally my destination.
Brighton Beach is swarming with Russians. The benches are dotted with old timers socializing and 250-pound women wearing bikinis, shamelessly flaunting huge rolls of fat and making me feel ever-so-thin. Everything they say sounds to me like “bulshvt.” Or did they bullshit?
The trip culminates with lox and bagels. I ask the staffers at the bagel shop for directions to Sheepshead Bay. The gold tooth Mexican mechanic in line “speak no English” and the Russian woman has a heavy accent. She flips flops on her directions, and I think I hear the word “bulshvt.”
This is bullshit. I’ll figure it out. I hop back on my bike and ride on.