Today’s “All Your Joy” submission is a moving piece by Isaac Daniel Perez. He paints a vivid picture of his childhood memories growing up in Brooklyn and what brought him JOY during those years. Please, have a read…
Under The Bridge: By Isaac Daniel Perez
I grew up in Brooklyn Heights, New York. At a time when the neighborhood was filled with faces of all colors, cultures and creeds. From doctors to teachers, Muslim’s to Jehovah’s Witnesses, you had to be quite daft to be prejudice, where I was raised. I went to Public School Eight, located on the corner of Middagh and Hicks St. which till this day makes me cringe, when it comes to mind. From the teachers to the smell of the lunchroom, just the thought brings back some of the worst memories a child could have. I can still remember the faces of each teacher who literally told, a ten year old version of myself, that I would never amount to anything, thank you Ms. Cooper and Ms. Reichbach. But this isn’t a written piece about what school did what to who, or even a complaint shy of twenty years. This is a keeping, if you will. A work in progress. This is about the escape from the bad times and the hiding place us kids would go. A place where the night was meant for laughs, and the days would only lead to reflections.
An Anchorage stands at the foot of Old Fulton, behind a rusty, chained gate. Hundreds of cold cobble stones laid before a picture perfect view of Pier 17. The Brooklyn Bridge hangs overhead and what appears to be an empty lot, is actually filled with clairvoyant moments and endless memories. As you gaze over the East River, you can see the Manhattan traffic heading back and away. At night the buildings which make up the city, would light up the sky and sounds of the wind and traffic would hide between the conversations and smiles. This was our Sanctuary. In one part of Brooklyn Heights, which would have seemed like a ghost town to some, children who went to school’s such as Saint Anne’s, Packer and Brooklyn Friend’s would meet, not to forget other’s such as myself, who went to school in the city, but still lived in Brooklyn Heights. Just as teens would sit upon stoops and drink beer out of forty ounce bottles, smoking cigarettes, blindly staring their future in the eye’s all while discussing solutions for all the world’s problems in a naive yet still ideal tone. This was our stoop. We called it the U.T.B.
We would gather on Friday nights, by the dozens. Skaters, graffiti artists, ravers and of course your stereo typical “Cool Hippy Chicks”. Such a truly diverse crowd. For most Brooklyn Heights natives, there are no words that could explain the impact the bridge would have. There is almost a spiritual element that exists. Maybe it was just a mutual feeling in the air, but every face within the great circle could understand and appreciate whatever it was. This would lead to the release of one’s guard, the relaxing feeling of being one within a crowd of people and having the same love for the scenery. I would hear friends talk about other sites of New York, such as the Cloisters in the Bronx or the abandoned docks of Van Brunt in Red Hook. You could walk through these places and feel the same type of energy. Maybe it was the desolation of each neighborhood. The kinds of places you would almost feel threatened to sit and stay, yet at the same time, appreciate it’s beauty which lured you to stay. The feeling of security without truly being secure, almost like the feeling you get when sitting atop someone’s roof . A stunning site just as precious as it is dangerous.
It’s been about a decade since the U.T.B. was shutdown, but I can still remember every inch, crevice and crack. Beautiful memories of walking along the cobble stones, the seven different shades of grey which made up the somber looking structure of a bridge. I remember sitting by the water on top a white cold rail, which lead you from one side of the abandoned lot , all the way down to the other. Sometimes I would sit there for hours, with no one around. Imagining and drawing up such great expectations for my future, as most of us did. No matter where I was emotionally the bridge always influenced the process of my self-development. Because of the Brooklyn Bridge, I have found shelter where there was no shelter. A great love for something that only a few will be able to feel, for that era is gone and last but certainly not least, appreciation for who I am, where I’ve been and where you and I are headed. That is joy my friend.
Till this day I make travels into the neighborhood, which is now referred to as D.U.M.B.O. I gaze at a new population. They push strollers down streets that still seem darkened and gloomy to me, They drink in bars and eat at restaurants, where I still see shadows of alley cats running down the street. It will forever be more than they can see. It will forever be changed. It is a time at it’s best. For every decade who had the privilege to roam under the bridge, I’m sure the memories are held close to their hearts. I can’t begin to imagine how many people have felt the same connection my friends and I shared and still feel. I hope it’s something that none of us ever lose, cause at least for me, the U.T.B. shall always be the reminder of who I am. The End
We want to know what brings you JOY. Find instructions here and you’ll be entered in our “All Your Joy” contest, in conjunction with Matt’s new album, The Build, available May 1st.