Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Welcome to My Neighborhood: The Morning Walk (Part 4 – Myrtle Avenue)

Myrtle Avenue and Fresh Pond Road, at right angles to one another, are the main commercial avenues of Ridgewood. Fresh Pond runs north to south and Myrtle runs east to west. Their intersection at the southern terminus of Fresh Pond marks the boundary between the neighborhoods of Ridgewood and Glendale. If you were standing on this corner, however, you would not know it, as there are no signs or other makers identifying the boundary.

The sidewalk along the north side of Myrtle is a little cleaner this morning than usual (photo top right). Sometimes it can be quiet a mess and the sidewalk cleaner employed by the Myrtle Avenue Business Inmprovement District can barely keep up with the accumulating trash. Pushing along a large garbage can on wheels he picks up and sweeps refuse off the sidewalk. I imagine he must fill up the trash barrel once a block, if not more often. He is the other person, along with the two school crossing guards, I usually encounter while walking Myrrhlyn in the mornings. This being a Saturday, however, he must not be cleaning today because I do not see him.

As Myrrhlyn and I walk west along Myrtle, store owners are beginning to open for business, unlocking and raising the metal cage pull down barriers that protects them during the night. When I first moved to the neighborhood a little over two years ago I found these security measures a little intimidating, even fear producing, especially at night. During the day Myrtle Avenue is a hot bed of vehicular and pedestrian commercial and social activity and the metal cages are out of sight, rolled up above the store fronts. At night, however, when I walk along the street coming home from the subway late at night, I can feel like I live in an abandoned ghetto, like Newark after the riots, business locked up against looters. I am glad I am usually not walking along Myrtle late at night.

The closer we get to home the more familiar I am with the business we pass. We walk by my local Chase Bank on our right, with its ten language ATM’s in the lobby, Across the street on our left is our Post Office, where I sometimes wait in line for thirty minutes or more just to pick up a package. The smell of frying bacon greets us from a nearby Coffee Shop & Restaurant. Dunkin’ Donuts (photo second from top right), a popular stop for commuters, is across the street.

When we first moved to Ridgewood, before we unpacked the coffee pot and set up the kitchen, Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and donuts was our sustenance. While there are other coffee shops in the neighborhood in addition to Dunkin’ Donuts, there is no Starbucks close enough to walk to, so this morning, like most mornings, I will go home, grind Starbucks House Blend beans in the Braun grinder and make our own coffee. I am, after all, a Starbuck stockholder, so every time I drink a cup I feel like I am getting a return on my purchase.

As Myrrhlyn and I stroll along Myrtle Avenue we pass in and out of sun and shade. We walk in bright warming sunshine when the buildings across the street are low enough to allow the rising southern sun to reach the sidewalk. But when the buildings reach over two stories they block the morning rays and we walk in cooler shade. I prefer walking in the sunlight and I think Myrrhlyn does too.

As we approach Key Foods (thrird photo from top right), one of the grocery stores we frequent because it is one of the closest, I appreciate seeing the fresh cut flowers out front. The flower market was not offered when we moved here.

A boarded up store front juts out onto the side walk (fourth photo from top right) in front of us. The building is actually being renovated and the barrier provides a margin of safety as well as security. In spite of the recession the Ridgewood Myrtle Avenue business district near our home seems to be hanging on. Not many storefronts are empty and when a business closes it seems not to take long for a new one to open in the same space.

One of the new businesses that have opened in the past two years is Green Line Market (bottom photo right), where I usually shop no less than every other day and sometimes twice a day. When the sun shines on the fruit and vegetable bins lining the sidewalk outside, Green Line is the most colorful storefront in the neighborhood. Sometimes when I walk by I marvel at the various shapes, sizes and especially colors of the produce. There are a few other markets like this in the neighborhood and numerous ones throughout New York City, but Green Line is the nearest, and a new experience for me since I moved here. Until two years ago I was unfamiliar with such sidewalk fruit and vegetable venders but now they are one of my favorite parts of living in the city.

Not far from home we walk through and past the only public park along our walk, Myrtle Triangle Park. This morning the bench is empty but later in the day various locals will start sitting on it, occasionally throwing bread crumbs and other food for the pigeons. Unfortunately Myrrhlyn also likes those bread crumbs. Sometimes, on warmer nights, a homeless person will sleep on that bench.

Not far off to our right is Ridgewood Stamps and Coins with a storefront and signage that is a thow back to the 50's, not the most welcoming or inviting coin shop I have ever been in, and Eddie’s Hairstyling & Barbering, where Leo cuts my hair. We cross the street near Queens Wines and Liquors, which offers one of the best selection of wines in Queens and on Friday and Saturday evenings offers free tastings, and soon pass by our favorite Chinese restaurant. Next, we pass our favorite Chinese restaurant and take out, Mr. Chen’s, where owners, Ken and Emily, are the proud parents of newborn Grace, whom we have yet to meet. This early in the morning, however, most of these business are still closed. Only Queens Wines and Liquors has taken up its security gate. It is usually the first local business to open. Sometimes they will be unlocking when Myrrhlyn and I walk by in the mornings.

At the intersection of Myrtle Avenue and Forest Avenue we turn right and head north on Forest. Our morning circuit is almost complete and soon Myrrhlyn and I will be back home, thirty minutes after leaving. Myrrhlyn has done all that he has needed to do. Both he and I feel better.

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