Monthly Archives: February 2010

Brooklyn’s Dill Pickle Farmer

Before I tell you what happened, you have to know how the subway in my section of Brooklyn works. When my line made its way well into Brooklyn, it crept out from the dark tunnels into the daylight and slowly climbed to be an elevated line. After riding home from high school in upper Manhattan in the dank bowels of the subterranean city for the better part of an hour, seeing the daylight was a catharsis. Relieved from the tedium of flashing bare light bulbs in black tunnels, it was a relief to study the landscape while the train was at surface level.
In the 50s, there was a pickle “farm” in close vicinity to where the train emerged. This was the landmark that I waited for. The farm consisted of enormous vats of floating cucumbers on their journey to becoming dill pickles. Although the vats appeared to be no more than two feet deep, they each seemed to be about forty yards in diameter. They didn’t need to be deep; pickles float. With the exception of a deep freeze in winter, there was always a man in hip boots skimming a rake over the surface. I later learned that he was nudging the saddest cucs to the edge of the pond to be dropouts and turn to pickle relish. The sight of pickles and the hunger of late afternoon gave me a prescient desire for a savory dill. I often stopped at the local grocery store, Cornick’s, to buy a couple to have with dinner.
But, I digress. It eventually became a challenge to spot the pickle farmer trudging through one of the vats in the 20 seconds when the train was close. Like Pavlov’s dogs, I eventually got the urge to splurge for some half-sour pickles even before daylight struck my window. One day, the whole affair ended. As my train entered the fading daylight, I spotted the pickle farmer in his hip boots at the center of the closest vat. While I was taming my urge to splurge, the farmer was giving in to the urge to purge. The setting sun sparkled through the graceful stream like the Fountains of Rome. He was peeing in a graceful arc out into the air and down into the pickles. Admittedly, trudging through 20 yards of knee-high liquid to answer a call from Mother Nature was a bummer. But on the other hand, the joy of salivating at the thought of a delicious half-sour kosher dill plucked straight from the vat was blunted forever.
Visit my web-site for the book, TROUBLE IN FLATBUSH., to learn more about Brooklyn in the early 50s. You’ll love it. At

A Wonderful Start to the Teen Years

In the eighth grade in Public School I was already hooked on the concept of friendship to confirm my sense of worth. So, when I learned that there was going to be a spring celebration luncheon, I joined the buzz knowing that this was the acknowledgment of having many good friends. It was a buffet where you artfully piled your plate with donated ethnic foods and strategically chose your seat to be identified as a member of the A-crowd. I patiently stood in line, decorated my plate carefully with food and looked for the right place to be seated.

The cafeteria was empty except for one table. It was already filled with buzzing drones and furthermore, additional chairs had been pulled tighter around to press into the crowded core. There was no way that I could survive pressed into that swarming mass of insects clinging to a queen bee. I decided that my social prowess was sufficient enough to be the nucleus of another table and sat down at an empty table nearby. The napkins, knives and forks were all set up with a glass at each seat and I put my plate down and pretended that I was happy and confident.

My pulse shot up when an attractive girl came over to my table and asked if anyone was sitting across from me. I said no and with that, she scooped up the setting and pulled the chair away to the populated table. Without asking, her friend scooped another setting and chair. Now, no one could occupy the void across from me if they want to. I felt like a butterfly retreating back into his cocoon as winter unexpectedly returned. I sobbed on the inside while I presented an unconcerned face.

Then, as I felt I was bobbing alone in a vast sea, Sharon, a casual friend, came with her plate of food and without asking, pulled over a chair and a place setting and sat facing me. Her friend Lee soon followed her. They seemed to want to be at my table in spite of the illusion that the in-crowd was just a few feet away. I looked into their faces and exploded with contentment and a sense of self. At that moment I understood for the first time the meaning of a loyal friend. What a way to start the teen years!