Thursday, May 13, 2010

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (iv)

One advantage of limiting my afternoon outdoor activity to just what was within walking distance in all directions of my cheap Bronx apartment in the Belmont neighborhood was that I didn’t spend much money anymore on paying subway fares or bus fares between late March 1971 and early August 1971, when I rarely took a subway down into Manhattan anymore. Since the Bronx--unlike Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island, Nassau County and Suffolk County—is located on the mainland of the USA, not on an island, if you walked north towards Yonkers and Westchester County you never were forced to end your walk by bumping into a body of water. No matter how many miles north of the Bronx you walked, you never could come to a dead end. And if you wanted to keep walking in that direction, you could actually get up to Albany by foot, if you were willing to spend day-after-day just walking.

Most of my long walking and wandering in the afternoon during the week would be either towards the east, towards the west or towards the north. Going east, I would walk along Fordham Road, past a Howard Johnson’s motel-restaurant on my right--where young couples who didn’t yet live together in their own apartments would stay for the night, surrounded by out-of-town tourists who were staying at the motel because it was next to the Bronx Zoo—and straight forward towards where Fordham Road turned into Pelham Parkway, with the Bronx Zoo gates to your right and the Bronx Botanical Gardens to your left.

Once Pelham Parkway reached the east side of the Bronx Zoo/Bronx Park and the Botanical Gardens, you entered a neighborhood that—unlike the primarily white Italian-American working-class community of the Belmont neighborhood in which I lived—seemed to be, in the early 1970s, a neighborhood of mostly white working-class people of Jewish background. Mainly office workers and their families who lived in rent-controlled apartments built in the 1920s and who seemed less affluent than the white working-class people of Jewish background who had left the Bronx for Queens in the 1950s and 1960s.