Wandering Brighton Beach

I had made absolutely no plans for my weekend wanderings this time.  I woke up nice and early and contemplated the possibilities.  That is, I opened up the subway map, looked at Brooklyn, and said “Hey, why not go to “Brighton Beach”?

All I knew about Brighton Beach is that it is a heavily Russian area near Coney Island.  Oh, and that Neil Simon wrote “Brighton Beach Memoirs”, which I’ve never seen.

So, it was off to Brighton Beach.  How’s that for intensive planning?

Using the oh-so-valuable subway map, I decided to take the “B” subway there.  The “B” line is one of those subways that I never seem to use.  It goes through Manhattan in some areas that I don’t tend to ride.  For example, there are three or four main subway tracks that go north-south in Manhattan, each of them are host to one or more lines.  The furthest west are the 1/2/3/N/Q/W/R/A/C/E  lines:  I can catch these on 42nd street at Times Square/Port Authority.  The furthest east are the 4/5/6 lines which I can catch on 42nd Street at Grand Central.  And then there’s the B/D/F/V lines that stop at Bryant Park on 42nd Street.  It’s a pretty minor station that I’ve seldom gone in.  And today, I went in again.

And screwed up…of course.  I waited for the B train.  And waited.  And waited.  I saw a couple of D trains go past (they go to Coney Island, but not to Brighton Beach).  I finally got disgusted and caught the next D train to 34th Street figuring I could catch a Q train or a B train there.  Once I got there, I discovered that the B train only runs weekdays at rush hour.  I hadn’t bothered to read the big notices at the Bryant Park station.

So, I caught the Q train and went to Brighton.  Here’s a thumbnail of what it looks like just after getting off the subway.

Brighton Beach street scene

I think everyplace needs an elevated train track.  It seems everytime I get off a subway with an elevated track, the place has just a little more character.  And Brighton Beach has plenty of character.

It’s a very sort of “Brooklyn” place in a lot of ways.  Lots of traffic:  cars and pedestrians.  There are a lot of families walking around.  Except in this part of NYC, most of them seem to be headed to the beach.  It’s only a couple of blocks from the station.  Below is a photo I took as I walked up to the beach.  See the elevated area?  That’s the boardwalk.

Coming up to the beach

It’s the same boardwalk that goes all the way to Coney Island and then some.  I’ve always been amazed by it.

View from the Boardwalk #1

And now, looking westward (another thumbnail, sometimes the program lets me do thumbnails and other times it doesn’t).

Boardwalk view #2  In the distance, you can see Coney Island.

The beach itself is huge.  Here’s a couple of pictures.

Brighton Beach…beach 1

Brighton Beach…beach 2

I wandered a bit on the boardwalk.  It’s huge and just seems to go on forever.  The temperature was in the high 80s and I don’t know why there weren’t more people at the beach.

I did wander back to what I think of as the main drag “Brighton Beach Ave.”  As expected, the area is really, really, really Russian.  While walking along I seemed to hear little other than Russian being spoken.  Lots of Cyrillic lettering everywhere, which delights me for some reason.  I just don’t understand why.  Long, long ago, I memorized the Cyrillic alphabet just to test a computer program.  (Actually, I wrote a tutorial on my old VIC-20 using a font program just to figure out how to use the font program.)  I think I lost all knowledge of it after about a week, but I did have a good time with it.  And Russians themselves are always somewhat fascinating to me.  I’ve enjoyed a lot of Alexsander Solzhenitsyn’s writings, including the Gulag Archipelago, which took me years to read.  On the world stage, they’re sort of like Texans.  They are a bit grandiose and think they invented everything.

I went up and down the main drag for a while.  I spotted a big grocery store and had to go in.  As I entered, a 30-ish Black woman was coming out and she looked at me and quickly asked if I knew a nearby place to get some gefilte fish.  I just smiled and said it was my first time in Brighton Beach.  I was laughing to myself thinking about times like the Puerto Rican Day parade, the Columbus Day Parade, the Shiite Parade, Harlem, Williamsburg’s Hasidic community, and many others where I was never, ever mistaken for one of the locals/participants.  Maybe I can pass as a Russian.

But, I’m a lousy Russian.  At that grocery store, I looked around and could hardly recognize any of the food.  Most of the signs were strictly Cyrillic and the place was a very Russian food sort of place.  Some of it was a little intimidating and others I couldn’t figure out whether it vegetable or meat, or whether it was cooked or to be cooked.

As I was leaving, I noticed one guy at the front of the store buying some sort of pastry item.  I figured that I had to try something very Russian.  So, I looked at the display and thought maybe they were “blinis” or somesuch.  The woman at the counter asked me what I wanted and I asked what they were.  They were Russian pierogis (which I’ve had and sometimes enjoyed – see my Greenpoint posts).  They sure looked different.  They were huge and looked like large croissants more than anything else, although not crescent shaped.  Some were stuffed with meat, some were stuffed with fruit, and some were stuffed with vegetables.  I opted for the cabbage pierogi.  The crust was very soft and sort of sweet, which made for a strange contrast with the cabbage; which was sort of pureed and mixed with some sort of cream sause.  It was okay, but not worth going back for.

I did end up going to lunch at a Turkish restaurant, run by Russians, and it was pretty good.  The service was horrendous, though.

And, I later did my sort of favorite thing:  wander the backstreets.  I found that within two blocks further away from beach, the area turned very Hispanic.  And another block or two later, became a Pakistani enclave.

Here’s picture of the backstreet area.

Brighton Beach backstreet 1

And another, this one caught the subway as it was passing by.

Brighton Beach backstreet 2

I did notice one thing that was missing:  Churches.  Manhattan and Brooklyn are filled with houses of worship, but in Brighton Beach I saw one Synagogue and one Yeshiva (a religious school).  Nothing else.  That’s pretty odd.

Anyway, the trip was nice, but I have to admit that Brighton Beach is a long ways to go.  It took me something like 75 minutes each way.

-H

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