Losing my way and my nerve…

…but not my appetite.

Cupcake of the Day: Hershey’s peanut butter and chocolate, from 71 Irving Place, near Union Square.

(Yes yes, I know this blog is meant to be about cycling. But cake is so much more photogenic.)

I spent a lot of time on the bike today though. Rather more than I planned, in fact. I was meant to be meeting more friends-of-friends for brunch in Brooklyn, at a place called Maggie Brown’s, on Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn, so I planned a route, left in plenty of time, crossed the Williamsburg Bridge (leaving Manhattan for the first time), and found Myrtle Avenue with no problems at all.

Navigation is super-easy here. The grid-pattern means you just have to get onto the right street, and then keep going until you get to the intersection nearest to the address you’re looking for. Maggie Brown’s is between Waverly Avenue and Washington Avenue, so I sped along, enjoying the sights and the sunshine, and kept an eye out for anything beginning with a W. Bits of Brooklyn remind me of Brixton – it’s loud and busy, with a railway running above the street, and is full of preachers shouting through loudspeakers, and potholes, and curious-smelling grocery shops. And Marcus Garvey Boulevard (I used to live near Marcus Garvey Way, just off Railton Road in south London).

But, as I think I mentioned, these endless straight avenues make every journey seem a lot longer than it really is, and I started to get bored. I also noticed that I was starting to leave the hustle and bustle of Brooklyn, and heading into what looked suspiciously like suburbia. I was already late for my 1 o’clock brunch appointment, and began to think it rather antisocial of my hosts to have picked somewhere so far out of town. But then I realized that they probably wouldn’t expect me to be turning up on a bike, and that it was probably no time at all by train. And it began to occur to me that – just maybe – it was my fault, and I’d missed the intersection and come too far.

I pressed on. The streets crossing Myrtle Avenue stopped having names and started having numbers, and when I got to 88th, I stopped and texted the people I was meeting – just to make sure I really was going in the right direction. And I wasn’t. Maggie Brown’s is at 453 Myrtle Avenue – where I was, the numbers were in the high 8000’s. I’d gone over six miles out of my way, all because I’d turned left instead of right onto Myrtle Avenue when I very first joined it.

So I take back what I said about it being easy to navigate in New York. It’s not as bewildering as all the tiny winding lanes and rambling one-way systems of London, but if you do manage to go in the wrong direction here, you might end up halfway across the Atlantic before you realize your mistake.

Luckily, I had 10 miles under my belt by now, and this seems to be the point at which I get my second wind – so I flew back down the road in about 20 minutes, and when I finally got to the restaurant there was a massive slice of lasagne waiting for me. I was so hungry I didn’t get a chance to take a photo of it – but I did manage to capture the biscuits (scones to you and me) with raspberry butter. They were very good. And everyone was very kind, and insisted that they didn’t mind my being almost an hour late.

Then I rode over to Williamsburg to watch the start of Monster Track. I instantly felt at home – there was a bike shop, with what looked like over 200 fixed-gear riders of all shapes and sizes, spilling out into the street, and converging from all sides. This promised to be an excellent afternoon.

Except I found I’d completely forgotten how to approach big groups of people (especially when they’re mostly men) and make friends with them. How do you do that? I wandered in and out of the crowd for a while (checking out the bikes), and then stood around for a bit, all the while trying to make eye contact with someone, so that I could smile and start a conversation. Nothing worked. I started to get bored, and to kick myself for screwing up this thing I’d been looking forward to ever since I first heard about it. And then I (regrettfully) decided to cut my losses, unrainchecked a coffee appointment I’d turned down earlier and headed back towards Manhattan.

And this, I think, is why I never end up doing alleycats.

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2 Responses to “Losing my way and my nerve…”

  1. Jumbly Says:

    We were in NYC in December and by spooky coincidence got lost in nearly the same place as you. We’d been to Coney Island and were then trying to find a gallery in Williamsburg. We knew it was all going horribly wrong when we ended up in the Navy yard!

  2. thatmessengerchick Says:

    I think it must be a common place to get lost. When I shared the anecdote with a cyclist I met later in the week, his response was “Myrtle Avenue? … Ah, yes.”

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