Lyman and I delayed starting our three day bike ride from Brooklyn to the eastern tip of Long Island because of weather: rainy, with temperatures in the thirties. We finally started Monday morning east of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, with a prediction that the weather would clear by noon. A mix of drizzle and snow pelted us as we slogged through heavy traffic in the bike lane up Bedford Avenue, turning towards Queens in Williamsburg. Trucks would park in the bike lane every couple of blocks, and we would have to swerve out into the melee. It was a genuine good time.
Lyman sums up the three day trip: Riding through the diverse neighborhoods beginning with Prospect Park transitioning through Chinese, Korean, Jewish, various Hispanic and what have you ‘hoods in Queens onto Long Island and ending in waspish Hamptons was interesting and intimate on a bicycle. We borrowed a sink in a Chinese tire shop. The grinning ear to ear mechanic did not speak any English. We were aliens gliding on small bikes.
We ate at the counters and engaged conversation easily with bartenders and local patrons. The Italians with those amazing heavy accents. And the women, their fashion sense so exuberant. Leather pants, high heels, painted nails out to there, huge hair and ear rings.
That first day passing through Queens, we crossed Flushing Meadows to check out the site of the 1964 World’s Fair, also where Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones chased aliens in Men in Black.
Chinese neighborhoods in Queens go on for miles and miles. In Bayside, near the border between New York City and Nassau County, we stopped for a late lunch at an Italian restaurant, where the neighborhood was transitioning from Asian to Italian. Most of the employees and customers looked Italian. A sixty something gentlemen entered and sat by himself at the bar. At the suggestion of the bartender, he ordered seafood salad. One by one, several men in the restaurant came and greeted him like they knew him, but as someone who was owed respect, often with a kiss on the cheek. It was like something we had seen in the movies.
Cycling further that day, we transitioned from city to suburbia. We stuck to the North Shore, as the car traffic that a cyclist avoids is almost always safer in high income areas, where big houses sit on quiet streets. That evening in Roslyn NY, we sat at the bar of a very expensive steakhouse, and ordered low cost appetizers. The bartender struck me as a true professional.
Over the next day and a half, what I can only call suburbia went on and on. We transitioned from the wealthy neighborhoods of the North Shore to more conventional middle class tract housing. Late the afternoon of the second day, we were sixty miles by car from Manhattan, and still really had not seen much undeveloped land;’ the sprawl continued. We stopped for a beer at an Irish bar in a strip mall near tattoo parlors and motorcyle shops. I spoke briefly to these women. All three were originally from Brooklyn, but say they hardly ever go back there now. They spoke of all the crime in Brooklyn. (photo by Lyman)
It was not until midway through day three that we started to see sumptuous “second homes”, interspersed, finally, with farmland and open space. I did not know that “The Hamptons” refers to a series of towns at the end of the south fork of Long Island; Westhampton, Southampton, Bridgehampton, East Hampton, etc. As soon as towns started having “Hampton” in their names, we started seeing these large houses, not even necessarily on the beach. Yes, the deer is fake.
We had a great ride along the beach on the barrier island by Quogue “Village”. In the off season, it was desolate and beautiful. Lots of big ocean front summer houses. This one would have made Tony Soprano proud.
Southampton is a beautiful colonial town completely inundated with money. Realtor ads in the windows downtown seriously offered oceanfront estates for over two hundred million dollars. This spread, by the water downtown, is practically modest for this area. And I guess most people do not even live here, these are just vacation homes! We need higher taxes.
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