I Know The Way To Brooklyn



Neighborhood: Prospect Heights

I went to the Bob Dylan concert at the Barclay’s Center around Thanksgiving. We are contemporaries. I love his recent work and I thought it was about time I went to one of his live performances. I got a ticket, took the subway from the Upper West Side to the newly-christened Atlantic Ave.-Barclays Center stop. And, somehow, when I got home after the concert (wonderful as expected!) I was missing my cap. And I mean close-to-heartbreak missing. I still don’t know how it happened.

As I described it to the Lost and Found office…it was faded black. It had Brooklyn Public Library on it in white and a small Velcro pocket meant to hold a subway token. The Library sent it when I donated a book in memory of a friend who had fond childhood memories of the place. Memories like mine. I was around in the era of the Brooklyn “palaces,” i.e., the Loews Kameo, the Brooklyn Paramount and, for me, the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza.

I was comforted by the thought that maybe the hat had been “called home” to Brooklyn or I hoped someone found it and thought it valuable enough to keep. I called the Lost and Found expecting nothing. A good friend thought I was nuts, “You would really go all the way back there for that? Forget about it.”

I gave Tammy, the person in charge, a detailed description –  anecdotal, but not emotional – and she said, “It’s here!” Wow! She said they could hold it for thirty days which would actually be the day of the Leonard Cohen concert. I had a ticket for that too but didn’t want to risk missing Tammy, so the next morning I hopped on the D train, Lorraine Feather’s tuneful “I Know the Way to Brooklyn” running in my head.

I approached the main entrance of the Barclays colossus under the sweeping lip of what feels like a grounded flying saucer even without the blitz of night lights, and a security guard directed me to the executive entrance. A serious woman behind a thick glass partition called upstairs, asked me again for hat-identifying info, and told me Tammy would be right down. I waited in the small lobby next to a smaller version of an airport security check point. Many people came through; visitors, regular employees, all meticulously screened. Seems as if there’s a guard (friendly and helpful as well as “guarding”) every few feet.

Soon Tammy appeared with my cap. It was wrapped like something from the dry cleaners in plastic with a stapled ticket. I had to show a photo ID and sign a receipt twice before she handed it over with a comment, “I guess you’re into hats.”

I said, “Not really. Just this one.” I thanked her, headed over to the subway and boarded a Manhattan-bound D.

A little girl was sitting across from me next to her father. She was smiling. “Daddy, are you happy?” “Yes.” “Why?” “Because you’re happy.” I looked out the window as we crossed the Manhattan Bridge. I noticed one towering storage tank on top of an old tenement building, rust-colored bricks, the way I remembered them. I thought of Cagney …”Top of the world, Ma! Top of the world…”

Linda Umans enjoyed a long teaching career in the New York City public schools. She is an ardent traveler who was raised in Brooklyn and now inhabits Manhattan where she lives, studies, writes. Recent publications include poems in qarrtsiluni, YB, Terrain.org, The Broome Street Review, Status Hat, Switched-on Gutenberg and pieces in Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood and Literary Bohemian.

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§ 2 Responses to “I Know The Way To Brooklyn”

  • Carl says:

    I love this piece and the narrator’s close identification w/ this sense of place, Brooklyn. The vivid notion that as she wears the hat, she carries Brooklyn w/ her wherever she goes. And that old tough guy Cagney reference brings home to us of the joy she takes in the Brooklyn that flows through her veins. Delightful story.

  • NYC is full of miracles. I lost a camera once on the 1 train. Got a call from someone in the Bronx who’d found it. Went and picked it up.
    Lost a chapbook on Amtrack. Tiny but a treasure. They found it and kept it in lost and found.
    But those aren’t the miracles.

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