When I saw that Brooklyn had been newly added to the list of international travel destinations covered by the German publisher Emons in its 111 Places series (joining the Twin Cities; Verona, Italy; Malta; Liverpool and other less-expected spots), I have to admit I allowed myself a small scoff.
As a Brooklyn resident for 42 years, my jaded self doubted there were many sites in the book I hadn’t at least heard of, if not been to.
When I read the bio of the author, John Major, and found out he’s a newcomer to the borough (only 12 measly years), my certainty grew.
How wrong I was. The book soon reminded me of Brooklyn’s unknowable vastness and the multitudes it contains. Most shamefully, that I’m barely acquainted with all that’s happened in Bushwick, Williamsburg and Greenpoint over the past couple decades, which are outside my traditional Brownstone Belt stomping ground.
There were some listings I expected to see, including such old favorites as Sahadi, Bargemusic, the Kings Theatre, the site of Ebbets Field, the harbor view from Fairway Market in Red Hook. Like all 111 entries, each has a full page devoted to it, opposite tantalizing photos by Ed Lefkowicz.
But so much in the book was new to me that I was forced to shed my arrogant (albeit very Brooklyn) attitude. I was impressed by the author’s hip, offbeat selections and stunned at my ignorance of the answers to such questions as:
- Where were Woody Guthrie’s ashes tossed after he died in 1967? (The rocks near West 37th Street and the boardwalk in Sea Gate)
- Where can you do laundry, drink beer and play pinball all at the same time? (Sunshine Laundromat in Greenpoint)
- …take a pole dancing lesson, starting at “Level Zero”? (IncrediPOLE Studio, also in Greenpoint)
- …buy smoked fish at wholesale prices from a company founded in 1905? (Acme Smoked Fish in Brownsville, Fridays only for retail customers)
- …find Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s childhood home? (1584 E. 9th St., Midwood)
- …discover what became of Lundy’s in Sheepshead Bay? (It’s now the Cherry Hill Market, with Russian and Azerbaijani specialties)
111 Places in Brooklyn is a smartly written, nicely designed package that pays homage to places even longtime locals don’t know about. Nor does it shy from dark chapters in Brooklyn’s history, like the 1903 execution of Topsy the elephant in Coney Island and the site of the infamous 1960 Park Slope plane crash.
Last year, the same publisher put out 111 Places in Queens That You Must Not Miss. I was born there, so surely there can’t be much I don’t know.