Recently, I’ve started working in a neighborhood by the name of Canarsie. If you’re familiar with it, awesome! If not, let me set the scene for you.
This neighborhood was once largely jewish and Italian immigrants. Now it’s people from all over the Caribbean. To get there, I get on the Brooklyn bound L train and ride it until it stops. You step out of the station into a chaotic welcome of car horns, the shouting fruit vendors, and the sound of Reggae and Kumpa blasting from open windows. It doesn’t feel like you just rode a subway, but a plane to an exciting place.
Brooklyn has many neighborhoods like this, little pockets of culture reflected from the people that reside there. In Canarsie there are signs in both English and French Creole. In my neighborhood and Elijahs, some things are in English and Spanish and some are ONLY in Spanish.
I work at a juice bar that just opened about a week and a half ago, and I love my job. The owners are all about health, wellness, and community. It feels like a family there, and the customers have become family too. We already have our regulars, same order every time. One of my favorites is Tony, who works at the funeral home down the street. Tony is an old Italian man who is partially deaf because of his years working in the automotive business, probably why he chose his current career path, much quieter. Tony sits on a milk crate outside his deli every morning at 7:00 am and drinks his coffee. He always asks me how I’m doing and reminds me that he’ll be in later. Every time I leave from my shift, he’s on that same milk crate eating his lunch, probably on break, and asks how the day went. He knows me by name, and I know him by order.
The deli I go to on my break is a few blocks down from the juice bar, but the old Arabic men are shamelessly flirtatious. I always laugh it off as the man with the few teeth tells me my breakfast sandwich will be “$2.50. just for you” and I laugh and smile, and he finishes with “Everyone else, $1.50” and lets out a roaring laugh that must be heard on the street. I always tell them they’re ridiculous and I’m never coming back, only to return the next day for the same sandwich, at the same “special” price. They’re like extended family. The girls who work at the gym across the street know me by name and let me use the bathroom or sit in their waiting area and charge my phone.
I’ve created this system of support from people who I really don’t even know, but for some reason trust. I never feel this in Manhattan, where I just try to get all my business done and get back to my borough before dark. No, Brooklyn is different. Its slower, we can talk, play music, open the fire hydrants and have block parties during a heat wave. It’s family.
I told you Tony comes in and orders the same thing. It’s a popular smoothie off the menu, strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, and banana. The base is usually apple juice but he always gets his with almond milk. This smoothie is actually ordered by a lot of people throughout the day, probably the pride they have for where they live.
It’s called the Brooklyn Love.