Some have wondered in the comments section and through personal e-mails: What happened to Ned Berke, the founder of SheepsheadBites.com? Well, I’m here – sort of. For the past four months (gosh, it has been that long already!) I’ve been living in Lima, Peru. And I’ll be here quite a bit longer.
This is where I am.
The change of locale has been a strange and exciting one for me. There are terrific days where I meet new people, try new foods and learn new things. I’m drawn from my shell of regularity and comfort to learn to do basic things all over again – communicate with friends, catch a cab, make a phone call. All the things easily taken for granted when living all your life in familiarity and routine – for me they’ve all broke down, and I’m rebuilding in order to get by.
Sometimes it’s infuriating. If you thought dealing with Verizon was a pain, they seem saintly compared to Peruvian utility companies. When walking down a major avenue, thick clouds of exhaust choke me out of my day dreams (which, as a writer, are often billable work hours). And brief encounters with gringo-hatred – or sometimes even worship – can put you in a sour mood for days.
Overall, though, it has been a great time – but one that has given me a great appreciation for home. Which is why, now that the year is ending, I thought I’d tell you all what I miss in the Sheepshead Bay area. My hope is that you will enter the New Year with an appreciation – newfound or long-established – of the neighborhood you live in.
This is where my mind is.
With world events painting an outlook both bleak (financial crises, continued war) and hopeful (President Obama), some of the things on this list are permanent or well-ingrained characteristics of Sheepshead Bay and will withstand the inevitable tides of history. I write these in the hopes that as you watch the national drama unfold, the distress and confusion you might feel will be tampered by a recognition that many of the things you love will not change as dramatically as the news makes you think, and you can sleep at night reassured that some of the things that bring flavor and warmth to your life will still be there in the morning.
Other things on this list are not as fortunate. They are, indeed, at threat of becoming demarcations of time; a footnote or, if lucky, an entire chapter in the ever-unfurling history of Sheepshead Bay and Brooklyn. In these cases, I include them to remind you that 2009 does stand to be a tipping moment – not just for the world or the country, but also for Sheepshead Bay and its surrounding communities. With your help and involvement, these institutions can be saved. And if not saved, then perhaps they can meet their ends – to borrow a phrase from Paul Krassner – “neither with a bang nor with a whimper. Just a deep sigh of satisfaction” as those who loved them have done their best, and have been brought together by a common experience and love of neighbors and neighborhood.
With no further ado, I present my list:
- The fishing fleet, their captains and their crews who give this bay so much of its character.
- The waterfront and the Ocean Ave. bridge during the early morning (sunrise is best).
- Randazzo’s Clam Bar. Mmmm… Randazzo’s.
- Close access to Manhattan, Brighton and Coney Island beaches; particularly awesome for those lazy summer days. And with some of the weirdest characters in New York, it’s great for people watching.
- Lundy’s. Sure, it has seen better days. But who among us doesn’t relish the chance to tell visitors about Sheepshead Bay’s glory days as we pass by the building?
- Wheelers. The best place for a late evening meet-up with friends when you’re short on cash.
- We’re walking distance to the Cyclone and Coney Island.
- The walk to the Cyclone and Coney Island. Whether you take Brighton Beach Ave. or the boardwalk, there’s always a flurry of activity.
- Siam Orchid Thai restaurant. The only worthwhile Thai food in southern Brooklyn.
- Crazy gypsy-cab drivers. Because we all need a little (life-threatening) excitement in our day.
- The Carvel Ice Cream shop on Coney Island Ave. and its pistachio soft-serve ice cream, which has been the flavor of the day for at least 24 years.
- Galuptzy from the Russian markets (try it!). Also Russian street vendors in Brighton.
- The end of Emmons Ave., towards Plum Beach. There’s something nice about reaching this empty little section of the Bay. As my friend says, “It’s like ‘Mission Accomplished. You beat the level.’”
- Cajun turkey, pepperjack cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and mustard on a toasted sesame seed bagel – ordered from Bagel Boy. Have I put too much food on this list?
- The Petland Discounts on Nostrand Ave. (between Y & Z). Because they just know more than the jerks at Petco.
- Block parties. Sure, they’re not limited to the Bay – but I still miss them.
- Gene Berardelli and the great people at Sheepshead Bay-Plumb Beach Civic Association; Steve Barrison and the great people at Bay Improvement Group; Theresa Scavo and the other board members of Community Board 15 – and all the other local activists out there. Sure, we might not always agree with them, but we identify with and appreciate their passion for their neighborhood.
- Ray Johnson, who has done so much to tell the story of Sheepshead Bay online, and deserves all the credit for the continued existence of Sheepshead Bites. Thank you, Ray.
- Last but not least: all of you. The readers of Sheepshead Bites, to whom we owe so much. Not only have you made the job of writing about Sheepshead Bay fun, but it’s your interest and passion for the going-ons of our neighborhood that ensure its continued growth under a watchful eye. Thank you.
We at Sheepshead Bites wish you a happy and healthy 2009. And, because I’m sure I missed some, feel free to add your own ideas to the list with the comments section below.