Having grown up in a small neighborhood of Brooklyn where no one tended to just wander in unless they belonged there, I developed a sense of protection. I felt as though everywhere I went, I could run into neighbors on the street who knew me or their parents or siblings who have known me since I was a baby, feeling as though we were all existing in the same place. I could walk to the corner and the same guy would be behind the counter, ready to sell me a newspaper, carton of milk to just wish me well on my travels before I boarded a subway to school or work. If I went to the post office, our neighborhood postman would sell me stamps or the toy store where that lady from down the street has worked my entire life or the florist, owned by my friend John-John’s mother. I might venture out to the avenue where I would always run into someone who I grew up with or who I went to school with…as me and my friends went shopping or met for lunch/coffee at the same diners we have frequented our whole lives.
I miss that…the place where no one ever seemed to leave…is now empty of my old familiarity. But now, I live in a different type of neighborhood…in another country. But I’ve been here for four years…that’s a long time! Long enough for the lady who works at the deli to know me, the man who parks cars at McDonald’s to know my dog by name and to have a manicurist who knows more about my social life than I do! I know blocks as having been places I’ve been to before to recognize when a new eatery has opened and which we should not only try out but also frequent often so that they never go out of business! We have to support our local breakfast/lunch places because I’d hate to think that they might close down because they miss our business.
One place where we used to eat at quite a bit, closed down in the past year and while we’re convinced that they must have moved to another location, they didn’t leave us their forwarding address so we are at a loss to locate them again. It is more common that we eat at places that allow dogs, since Bowie is always with us when we go out to eat our Saturday/Sunday meal to discover more Mexican flavors we haven’t tried before (today I had Tacos with garbanzo beans…I mean who would have thought that garbanzos could ever taste so good?!?!). And the whole time, Bowie sat under the table playing stare eyes with the dog two tables away…feeling included and so happy to be there with a like-minded compatriot also sitting under a table next to his bowl of water.
We stop to pick up the car from the neighborhood car wash where the woman who owns the place greets us each with a hug and kiss. I pass my bank where I feel like I have a personal banker who has done so much to help me set up my bank account and our neighborhood bagel place that has forgiven us for mixing up the word for straw with the word for cucumber…knowing every time I walk in to start preparing a liter of the agua del día for me because, if for no other reason, I make a point of always drinking it while I’m there. There is also the neighborhood coffee shop where I have been guilty of spending at least 3-4 hours sitting there, drinking coffee outdoors while watching people go by as I write in my blog, work some afternoon my apartment seemed too small or just pass the time catching up with a friend. Here…everyone knows Bowie…even the valet parker! LOL!
So yes, I live in a different country where I’ll never look like a local…but I believe that by having been here for so long, I have again developed my sense of security where I know I’ll always have my local spots where people greet me with a familiar smile, amazing food and incredible service. And I believe I’ll always be that small town girl (I know, small town…Brooklyn, NY!), who just appreciates it when people recognize who I am and know that I’m never planning to leave.