i slept for only about an hour. the automated percolating coffee maker running off of the self-timer in the kitchen made sure of that, as it gurgled a fresh brew of coffee. john came down at 7am for his daily fix. my cellphone alarm clock went off, rickrolling everyone in the house with astley's finest ringtone. i thought about sleeping another hour but decided to wake up, loudly deflating the aerobed and rolling it up into the storage bag. john must've heard the commotion because he came back down again moments later, this time with will. i have a bad track record when it comes to interacting with young children but will seemed very nonchalant about some stranger sleeping in his house, and seemed more interested in getting to his toys. john made some breakfast for his son and i managed to work in an english muffin. the three of us left before 10am, giving deanna a break from mommy duty. john carried will in a backpack seat (think yoda & luke skywalker, or mad max's master blaster). i wanted to check out nearby prospect park, a place i often see on the maps but never actually visited before.
walking through park slope, we passed by numerous posh brownstones. many had carved pumpkins sitting out on their stoops. from time to time pieces of candy could be seen littering the sidewalks, evidence of last night's trick or treating. prospect park was a lot bigger that i'd imagined, the sort of place you'd need a map to find your way around (fortunately information stands dotted the park). at 585 acres, it was designed by frederick olmsted and features a lake, a mini-zoo, some forested regions, as well as a horseback riding trail.
we cut across the park from west to east. one of the first things we saw was a white squirrel. occasionally on the path we'd find these things that looked like durian fruits. turns out they were osage oranges, which i've heard of before but never actually seen. elsewhere, there were fruits of a different variety, something i have seen before: ginkgo nuts. for whatever reason the park had a lot of female ginkgos. the nuts, when rotting on the ground, smell like either vomit or dog droppings. this didn't seem to faze the numerous asian families huddled underneath these trees, collecting the nuts to eat (asian delicacy).
prospect park was also a great place for birdwatching. we ran into one (the binoculars were an obvious giveaway) who answered our question about a mystery hawk we saw earlier hiding in some shrubbery. the guy took out his bird guide and we deduced that maybe it was a sharp-shinned hawk. consulting with my own field guide (along with some photos), i say it was a juvenile cooper's hawk. i also saw a red-bellied woodpecker (my first), some warblers (yellow-rumped, pine), and a great blue heron flying overhead. in the lake there were coots mixed in with populations of canadian geese and mallard ducks.
john suggested we should visit the botanical garden since it was nearby. even better: free admissions on saturdays. i played it off like it was an afterthought, but truth be known, i could've stayed in the botanical garden the whole day, these are my favorite kind of places. in fact, the place is so awesome i'd come back to brooklyn just to visit it again.
on the first day of november there was still a surprising amount of plants in bloom, not to mention all the autumn foliage colors. one of my favorite places was the greenhouse (which could probably be visited year round), featuring different biomes (desert, temperate, aquatic, tropical). in fact, walking into the greenhouse, my glasses fogged up immediately from the humidity and i was worried about condensation collecting inside the lens. the temperate room was the most fragrant, with things like sweet olive and burmese plumbago in bloom. visiting the tropical room brought back smell memories from my personal walks through asian jungles.
did i mention the bonsai? not everyday you get to see an 113 year old tree that's big enough to sit on a coffee table. what's amazing about these bonsai is that not only are the leaves proportionally tiny, but they also change foliage colors during the fall, just like regular trees.
after seeing the lilypad-filled reflection pools, the japanese garden, the herbarium, the overlook, and the rose garden, we left the botanical park to go back to prospect park. we took a southernly swing to check out the audubon center boathouse (we snacked on coffee and corn muffins) and then a tour of the lake region. the smell of rotten ginkgo nuts seemed to permeate the air.
near wollman rink was concert grove, an area that hinted of former splendors (numerous statues and intricate stone carvings) but now mostly lies in ruins. there were at least 3 asian wedding photographers taking pictures of happy brides and grooms dressed up in their matrimonial finest.
we were only supposed to take an abbreviated walk by the lake but missed a turn and ended up circling the entire lake clockwise, coming back around on the western side of the park, walking north until we got back to park slope. not sure how many miles we walked, but the weather was definitely in our favor on this relatively warm autumn day. by the time we made it back to carroll gardens, we both had aching feet.
i used the bathroom one last time at john's place before heading off to catch the bus back to boston. it was a bit after 3:30pm and i was hoping i'd make it to chinatown in time for the 4pm bus. that was before everything that could go wrong did go wrong. getting onto the F train, there was a medical emergency in one of the cabins and we were stuck in the station for well over half an hour. i was distracted by the tall leggy girl with the frowning face wearing a short denim skirt rolling her eyes and huffing impatiently over her displeasure. by the time we finally got moving, i missed my connecting station (broadway) to catch the 6 train down to canal street so i had to backtrack on the F train until i got back to broadway. fortunately when i finally did surface above canal street, i didn't walk in the wrong direction like i did the last time, and managed to head east, even taking some time to buy some mini-cakes from a street vendor. by the time i arrived at the fungwah bus stop, there was already a line of people 20+ long waiting for the 5pm bus. i bought my ticket, purchased a drink from a nearby grocery store, and waited in line. a police officer shooed away the bus for trying to back up into a one way street so everyone had to follow the bus parked half a block away around the corner. naturally because it was so crowded, i could only get an aisle seat (i prefer the window, more scenic), but felt fortunate that i could even get a seat at all considering the number of people that were in line.
having slept for just an hour last night, i quickly doze off. i got the feeling the driver was taking a circuitous route in order to avoid the traffic because we were in the city for an awfully long time. a couple sat directly in front of me but in opposite aisle seats. they were sickeningly displaying their affection, facing each other to talk, or holding hands between the aisle when they weren't. i almost wanted to reach out with my foot and kick them. behind me sat two girls who were speaking some unidentifiable european language. they were quiet at first, but after the halfway mark when we got back from our 10 minute rest stop break (i bought a hamburger for dinner), the girl behind me wouldn't stop talking on her cellphone. i wouldn't have mind except she was leaning forward in her seat and was speaking within inches from my ear so it felt like she was shouting at me while i tried to sleep in my uncomfortable upright position.
we got back to boston around 9:30, which wasn't bad considering the traffic leaving manhattan. it felt good to be back at home, after spending 2 days traveling down to NYC and back. even better, it was only a saturday, which meant i had one more day this weekend to recover before next week rolls around.