When I say I grew up in Brooklyn, those who are aware that Brooklyn is nothing grander than just one of the five boroughs of the megalopolis called New York are likely to have a mental picture of a six-year-old dodging trolleys for his life and never seeing a tree leaf out in the springtime.
It wasn’t like that. Oh, sure the traffic and the trolleys were only steps away on Flatbush Avenue. I rarely tried to cross Flatbush Avenue, though. Didn’t care for all that traffic, and in the side streets where people lived it wasn’t so bad. And gigantic, wonderful Prospect Park was only a ten-minute walk away, and if I wanted real National Park-type open space there were huge chunks of that a lot closer than you might imagine.
My grandparents came from the same little town in Germany but didn’t meet until they had independently immigrated to the States. There they lived in Broad Channel, in a house my grandfather, a carpenter by trade in Germany, had built himself for his bride and their expected flock of German-American kids, of whom my father was the seventh and last. That little house at 1404 Cross Bay Boulevard had an unusual distinction Its front door was in Queens, another of NYC’s flock of boroughs.
The back door, though, opened onto Jamaica Bay, an integral part of the one and only one of the America’s National Parks (20,000 acres broad and offering populations of more than 300 species of birds and similar populations of marine animals and vegetation) that you can get to on the subway.
If you want more technology than that, the Bay is bracketed at one end by Floyd Bennett Field, New York’s first city-owned airport, and at the other by no less than JFK itself, with the big jets screaming every few minutes as they depart for destinations in America, Europe, Africa, Australia — for the world.