An abandoned airfield in Brooklyn is the most surreal place Janet and I have camped.
After twelve days in a high rise in Jersey City, hitting the road felt like leaving Cowslip’s warren. That Watership Down reference isn’t quite fair, because I accomplished much there, and without any pecuniary (or other) tax. However, I arrived here four evenings ago very happy. After dark Floyd Bennett Field is surrounded by the glow of Brooklyn and Queens, out on the farthest horizon, and never gets totally dark, partly because Hangar B, immediately to the rear of us, puts out a peach, sodium vapor glow through its 1940s paned windows. The rest of the airport is left to return to nature. I use a runway access strip to walk to the spigots where fresh water is available in a nook of wild trees and underbrush.
Hangar B, full of old aircraft (and a few land vehicles) from random periods in our history, is open, and presided over by volunteers who are slowly restoring them. They buy donuts and coffee for themselves, and have the look of old-school New Yorkers as they carry their toolboxes with them when they wrap up for the night. Being the old hangar would be Janet’s and my neighbor for a while, I looked in the first morning, to forestall any creepy musings in the night.
By day, Jamaica Bay and the low trees and birds and marsh give a bit of the feel of how I imagine Long Island was when Brooklyn was mostly rural. The people who come to use the large, paved airfield for practicing their automotive skills add a self-centered New York City feel, which allows me to brush up my New York City skills by telling them to get lost.
I do love the birdsong in the morning, and watching the storms move across the wide, flat horizon. However, after the first happy night, during the next I had a dark night of the soul to rival any so far on this specific adventure. I think it was partly prompted by my fear of not being approved for the room by the landlord I was to visit the next day. Awful it was, but I took myself in hand the next morning, kindly, and forged ahead.
And I have a lease! I drove Janet in and got the keys to a place in Brooklyn which will be my home from the end of October until the end of March. The owner, who lives upstairs, is a young man from Martinique who came here for post-graduate work at Columbia University. He has a thick French accent, and kindly did not ask me for proof of income. It is the lowest priced room I could find that meets all my criteria. I could have sworn the neighborhood, Brownsville, was not gentrified, being 45 minutes by the 3 train from Penn Station, but when I went into the market to buy a few things, there were a few (a very few, but still) organic choices. Nevertheless, my stint in Harlem was but a preparation for making myself comfortable here. A good preparation, and I am looking forward to it.
My last morning in Jersey City, I looked out the window at Manhattan in the fog, and wondered if I could find my way there. This is a circuitous route, but I accept that all I need is to be able to see as far as the next step.
Meanwhile, until Janet and I can go back and stay in the reaches of the far Brooklyn streets, we will be amongst the denizens of the strangest National Park in the U.S.A. I only hope the weather holds decently–today having a particularly beautiful Atlantic Blue bay, with sailboats and tour boats and bicyclist and fishermen and jets and NYPD helicopters cris-crossing the water, land and sky.