I could spend weeks without leaving the block in Brooklyn I lived on. Eighteenth Avenue was my world, complete as far as I was concerned. I knew every one of the 182 concrete squares on our sidewalk. There, where I fell and cracked my head open trying to learn to ride a two-wheeler. There, where before I was born, a dog had stepped into the wet cement and left four perfect paw impressions, a canine fingerprint. And over there, where Uncle Saul hoisted me in his arms when I was four years old to see the silver spaceship float across the sky, or at the curb opposite the store, where an indomitable clump of weeds grew from a crevice of black dirt, my only flora, for there were no trees on this block in Brooklyn.
Our block was the Borough Park bus and truck company of Grover’s Corners, with our own characters and plot twists. Would Mr. Fleischman, a haughty German Jew who wore a pocket handkerchief and owned the gown shop down the block, have a second heart attack? Would Old Man McGlynn drink himself to death in his dark saloon, McGlynn’s Inn, where he and other scary men sat in shadows, hunched over the bar all day? Would Sima, the lovely young woman with hearing aids who lived above Klenetsky’s kosher butcher and made papier-mâché marionettes for the neighborhood children, ever get past her deafness and find love and have children of her own? Did jolly Mr. Silverstein, of Silverstein’s Fine Delicatessen, with the best stuffed breast of veal in all of Brooklyn, know his son, who lived in Los Angeles, was a pornographer? Was it true that the window display of Schecter’s Smock Shop hadn’t changed in fifteen years, and no one had noticed?
You may find Steven Gaines new book very interesting. It is a memoir about a gay Jewish boy growing up in Brooklyn. One of These Things First