Friday, October 1, 2010

First Walk Home from Work, Wednesday

This is what I wrote to Leena after I walked home from work Wednesday afternoon...


Whew, am I tired now...

I closed up the office early, around 4:50pm, since the official closing time was 5:23pm, an hour before sunset and the start of a Jewish holiday.  I was the last one in for the final hour and a half, and only three of us were in at all during the day.

When I left the office I walked up to Eastern Parkway, about five blocks, where I usually turn right and walk a block to get on the subway at the Utica Avenue station.  But then partway to the subway I thought, "ah, it's a pleasant evening, not too hot, not cold, I'll walk up Eastern Parkway and get on the subway somewhere else."

I walked west on Eastern Parkway, quite some distance to where I thought it was intersecting with 9th Avenue, where I've walked around before.  I was mistaken, but didn't realize it at the time.  I thought I was near Grand Army Plaza, but I wasn't.

So, I made left turn on a street there, thinking I was somewhere else.  Granted, it was still the right direction, I was just farther from home that I thought.  I ended on the east side of Prospect Park, which is a gigantic park in Brooklyn.  The neighborhood on the eastern side of the park wasn't very nice but I figured it was still daylight so I should be safe enough.  At one intersection I crossed the street and into the park, figuring I'd simply cross through the park, and I know the neighborhood on the other side is a wealthy, nice one.

But inside the park the roads all curve, nothing goes straight, and since I was wearing sandals I was paying more attention to walking carefully on some of the dirt roads than the direction I was going (I'd swear, in the dirt it looked almost exactly like someone was wearing shoes made for a horse!), so I ended up exiting the park still on the east side, instead of crossing through it, though I didn't realize that till I got out of the park and found a nearby street sign.

It was then that I realized I didn't have a good idea of where I was.  It was mostly cloudy, so the it wasn't entirely clear where the sun was in the sky, but I found what seemed a bit brighter and figured that was pretty much west, and the street I was on outside the park was aiming a bit left of that, which is southwest and the direction I wanted to go.

I walked that way for quite some distance, till I came to the end of the park and a circle as an intersection, which I pretty much remembered from a map is the southernmost part of the park, and the right direction for me.  However, I wasn't sure which direction to go from the intersection, as there was a nearby freeway and big streets that I didn't recognize and I didn't recognize any of the street names there, so I was lost...

I picked a direction based on the sun and where I knew my destination, still a long distance off, was and walked that way until I saw some streets with names that really puzzled me.  I passed E. 8th Street, and then E. 7th Street, but in the opposite direction from which I expected the numbers to change, since I live on 54th Street, I wanted to see the numbers go up, not down!

From there I thought the E. on the signs might mean I was on the wrong side of a major street, so I walked over an overpass above the major street thinking the other side there'd be W. on the signs, but there wasn't, and then I saw E. 6th Street and got confused even further...

Ah, but the iPhone 4 has a compass!  I pulled it out and matched up the direction and new I was facing the right direction, even though the street numbers were going the opposite of what I wanted.  Definitely puzzling...

Ah, but the iPhone has a map program!  I pulled it out again and used the map, which uses GPS to know exactly where the phone is, accurate to a few meters.  It zoomed in on my exact location and I realized that the East numbered streets aren't part of the same numbering system as the directionless numbered streets, like 54th Street, and I was actually going the right way, I just wasn't yet into the area I knew...

As I walked, the iPhone figured out what direction I was walking and rotated the map so I could see where I was going on it and I planned out a route to take.  I was closer to home than I realized when I came out of the park, it's just that I didn't know the streets in that area.

Eventually I got pretty close to my neighborhood, a few streets up the hill from where I've been before, but I hit the numbered streets at 32nd Street, so at least I knew the direction was right and where to go.  By then I was sweating and rivers of it were running down my back under my shirt, which was nearly as drenched as if I wore it in the shower.

Around 45th Street I stopped in a small restaurant for a couple of slices of pizza.  Not as good as the one I keep going back to near my apartment, but I was really hungry and a little thirsty, plus my clothes were getting more and more uncomfortable from the sweating, and I knew I wouldn't want to stop and eat much further because of that.  And besides, I didn't know it wasn't going to be as good until after I got it...  Anyway, it wasn't bad pizza, just not the best.

After eating there I still had another 20 blocks or so to go in a zig zag pattern and it was well past sunset, so getting dark out.  I passed through other neighborhoods I hadn't seen before.  In one I saw lots of Jewish families heading out to holiday services, but dressed different than the Hasidic Jews in Crown Heights, with many of the men wearing big furry hats instead of black fedoras, which I've looked up and figure out where the Bobov branch of Hasidic Jews.

Then on 8th Avenue for a few blocks every single business had Chinese lettering on the windows and signs, and quite a few had not a single letter of English at all.  On 7th Avenue it was similar, but a bit more English in the mix, and on 6th Avenue, where I've walked before when going to Sunset Park, it was a mix of Chinese and Spanish, including some signs that had both and restaurants advertising Chinese and Mexican food (at the same restaurant...).

Finally 5th Avenue, which I know well enough and then down on 54th Street where I live...  And last, my apartment and a hot shower.

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