– Sam Jamison
At 8:30 AM EST, under a dozen teenagers collected in the lobby of the Days Inn to enjoy breakfast as a group. Led by staff member Eli, they trooped across a cross walk to a breakfast. Eli spotted a breakfast place that looked delectable to him almost immediately and he redirected the group, who was headed to Tal’s Bagels, to this new place. Some enjoyed their meal, some did not. The author was one of those who did.
Once we were out of the subway in Harlem, Etgar met Billy’s friends, Hope and Derek. Billy introduced Derek as the street-tour guide and with a flourish of Derek’s electronic device and microphone, the group was off.
To begin the tour, Billy read Langston Hughes’s poem, A Dream Deferred and Derek helped the group continue their discussion of the American Dream. In front of the Apollo theater, Derek spoke about how gentrification can even happen within the black community as it did in Harlem. We also gazed at Magic Johnson’s theater as Derek told them how corporate America had slowly been edging its way into the African-ware-vendor-lined streets of Harlem. The group then transversed a few more streets while they discussed race relations in America and the unique culture of Harlem. Eventually, they passed a collection of brownstone buildings that used to be crack houses in the eighties and some of the projects, and finally ended up in Marcus Garvey Park to take a bathroom break. Afterwards the group discussed the importance of basketball in the lives of those from Harlem and saw a little sign proclaiming its building the home of bebop.
With the walking tour soon drawing to a close, the group walked through the beginnings of a block party and purchased sugary treats from one of the local churches. When they were back in the subway Billy, prompted by Derek, told the group the story of how when he was a young student studying in NYC he accidentally ended up in Harlem. After he got out the train someone came up and told him to turn around, as Harlem was not quite a safe place to be. If Billy made that same mistake in modern times, people would think he meant to be in Harlem.
For lunch, the group partook in quintessential New York Pizza, Afterwards, we discussed the assassination of John Lennon as we walked to central park and passed his former residence at the Dakota. At the park, we were set loose for two hours to enjoy the sun and singing of David Ippolito who has been singing in Central Park for 24 years.
After we visited Strawberry Fields and took a picture with the Imagine plaque.
In the Lower East side Billy discussed how our ancestors, Jewish immigrants, lived and worked in that neighborhood. We also discussed tenements and the changes that came about due to legal battle over zoning laws.All that was left of this era for Etgar to see was a pickle shop, a few stars of David and some stone Yiddish. Next, we made our way through Chinatown to Little Italy, where we purchased sweets and used the restroom. When this was done we were set loose to bargain with the vendors of Canal Street.
Our last stop of the day was in the Village.The amount of rainbows in the Village was disappointing after seeing the Castro. In front of Starbucks, a bevy of Etgar families stood waiting. During their free time, everyone ate dinner and explored. many Etgarians spent their time standing in the extremely long line outside of Big Gay Ice Cream. According to Ethan, “The ice cream was worth the wait.” After free time we moved next to the gates outside the park from the Stonewall Inn and had a small discussion about how the gay liberation movement started there in 1969.