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 Amazon.com.
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