Brooklyn and Netherland

On Friday, I took the train up to New York from DC to spend the weekend in Brooklyn with my brother and to also see my grandmother in the Bronx. On the train, I started Netherland by Joseph O’Neill about post 9/11 New York as seen from the viewpoint of a Dutchman who discovers the West Indian and South Asian cricket playing world. I thought the novel would serve as a good backdrop to visiting my brother’s very West Indian Brooklyn neighborhood on the south side of Prospect Park near Flatbush. As a matter of fact, it was — most of which though I finished on the train ride back to DC.

On Saturday, my bro and and I took the Q train to Coney Island to check out where both my grandmother and father had enjoyed spending summer days when they were children. I suppose I don’t have to mention that Coney Island is not what it used to be. Nevertheless, it (as well as the ride there) is definitely fascinating with its mix of cultures that outside of New York would never logically inhabit the same space. And that is pretty much what Netherland is about. O’Neill writes,

We traveled the length of Coney Island Avenue, that low-slung, scruffily commercial thoroughfare that stands in almost surreal contrast to the tranquil residential blocks its traverses, a shoddily bustling strip of vehicles double-parked in front of gas stations, synagogues, mosques, beauty salons, bank branches, restaurants, funeral homes, auto-body shopts, supermarkets, assorted small businesses proclaiming provenances from Pakistan, Tajikistan, Ethiopia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Armenia, Ghana, the Jewry, Christendom, Islam: it was on Coney Island Avenue, on a subsequent occassion, that Chuck and I came upon a bunch of South African Jews, in full sectarian regalia, watching a televised cricket match with a couple of Rastafarians in the front office of a Pakistani-run lumberyard . . .

O’Neill could have been writing precisely about our Saturday’s ride to Coney Island or our stroll down Flatbush.The novel also mentions plenty of the shady business schemes that arise around these communities — something that my brother often recounts as well.

In homage to our day to and from Coney Island, I put together this video footage with Joe Higgs’ song “Young and Wild” from Triump!. I used this song because I believe the album is out of print (so you can’t find it anywhere — I burned a CD from the audio cassette) and because it was one of my favorites back when I was a huge fan of West Indian music.

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Filed under Digressions, Friends / Family, Literature

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