Ahmed, My Old Bodega Guy

I was inspired by last night’s demonstration by Brooklyn’s Yemeni bodega owners and thought I’d share a little about my local guy, Ahmed from New Dubai Mart.

Ahmed and his brother left Yemen more than a decade ago, first working as laborers in Dubai to save up enough money to make the trip to the U.S. Sometime after getting here, they opened New Dubai Mart on my block (and eventually another store, in Crown Heights). They worked twelve hour shifts, Ahmed during the day, his brother at night. They sold what all bodegas sell. Sandwiches and toilet paper, beer and coffee.

They never closed.


One year, during a blizzard, when the governor had declared a state of emergency, I asked Ahmed what they were going to do. He looked at my confused. “We’ll be open,” he said, “My brother lives upstairs. If you need anything, just call. We’ll bring it over.”

That’s how it was.

Later, when my daughter was in the hospital, I told Ahmed what was going on, and he assured me it would all be alright. “We’re praying for her and your wife at the mosque”, he said, and I almost cried.

My parents were down a lot in those days and my dad struck up a friendship of sorts with Ahmed. Shooting the shit about basketball, kids, and life in Dubai.

That’s how he was, he’d talk to anyone.

To my son, he was “Mr. Ahmed”, always ready with a banana and a high five. Ahmed kept an eye out for him, reporting back to me when he’d seen him with our nanny. It calmed me to know that there was always someone on the block making sure things were ok.

But things are changing fast in Brooklyn, and gentrification caught up with Ahmed. His landlord (ironically also Yemeni) doubled his rent and they just couldn’t make a go of it. They still have the crown heights store, but they had to let go of the one on my block.

I was devastated.

When he was closing up his store, in the days before the inauguration, I gave Ahmed my business card, and told him if he needed anything, he could call. He hasn’t and I hope he won’t have to. But he was there for my family, and I’ll be there for his.

Now we go to another Bodega, a little farther away, run by another Yemini family. They don’t know my kids yet, and they haven’t met my parents, but they will.

I’ve given them my card already.

A Post Hurricane Run

I am lucky enough to live in a neighborhood in Brooklyn called Prospect Heights.  Heights is in the name for a reason- we’re on relatively high ground and far outside the evacuations zones.  All we saw from Hurricane Sandy were a couple of downed trees and some blown over signs.  We were very, very lucky.  Many of my fellow New Yorkers and people up and down the east coast weren’t so fortunate.  My sister in Connecticut  my in-laws in the West Village, and many, many others are without power.  Whole neighborhoods will need to be rebuilt and billions of dollars will have to be spent.  Its going to take awhile, but we’ll get it done.

My office is without power, and our remote server were down so there was no work for me today.  Instead, I did a six miler around the neighborhood to see what I could see.

The scenic Gowanus Canal.

The Gowanus Canal is a superfund sight and one of the most polluted water ways in the New York area.  There were worries that it would overflow its bank sending god knows what into the streets of the neighborhoods near by.  Thankfully, this does not appear to have happened to any large degree.  Any overflow was long gone when I ran by there this afternoon.  It looked like  the same old canal,  though the smell was even worse than normal.

Your humble editor at the canal, the smell was pretty bad… even for industrial Brooklyn.

After the check in at the canal, I ran up to Prospect Park to check out the damage in around my favorite loop.  The City had already cleared the debris from the roadway which circles the park, but dozen of trees were down around the perimeter including many which had been pulled from the ground.

Hundred of people were out survey the scene, taking pictures of themselves in front of downed trees.  I was out there two, taking photos, and thinking about how lucky I am that I get to go home, shower, turn on my computer and post this little piece to my stupid blog.

Downed trees in Prospect Park

New York and the whole east coast are going to need a lot of help in the coming months.  I know that New York Cares is already out in many parts of Brooklyn giving a hand, you can donate to them here.

The Long Run – Battle Hill

I haven’t run more than ten miles in over six months, so I knew today’s twelve miler was going to be a bit of a suffer fest.  It was – twelve miles in 2:15:40 is pathetic, but it’s a start.

My goal was pretty simple – run twelve easy miles and find the highest point in Brooklyn.  Done and done. Starting from home I ran through Prospect Park up Fort Hamilton Parkway to Greenwood cemetery then along the edge of the cemetery to 25th street, I entered the park to climb the highest point in Brooklyn – Battle Hill.

The 25th street entrance to the cemetery.

Greenwood is the massive cemetery in the center of Brooklyn seen by everyone who has ever driven down the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.  It covers 478 acres and is the final resting place of hundred of famous New Yorkers, including the founder of the New York Times, the inventor of Morse Code, and Leonard Bernstein.  Within it is Battle Hill.

It is a gorgeous place, recalling the gilded age past of the City.  Ornate memorials, and beautifully tended gardens – for a cemetery, it’s a very nice place to spend part of gorgeous fall day.  Being a cemetery, running is not allowed, so I had to walk to the top of Battle Hill, (this partially excuses my pathetic time). It is quite the view from up there – you can see the city, the Statue of Liberty and a whole lot of New Jersey.  There’s also a well-done memorial to the battle of Brooklyn, the largest battle of the Revolutionary War, which was fought on the slopes of this hill long before it became a cemetery.

Ok, maybe it isn’t the view from the top of Mont Blanc, but still!

I took some photos, and retraced my route back to the park and grinded out the final five miles at a snails pace.  I wish I had been faster today, but you cannot have it all.  It was a gorgeous day, I climbed the highest the point in Brooklyn, and I got in the miles.  I’m happy with that, the speed will come back with time.

Being a New Yorker, my first thought on getting to Battle Hill was “I wonder how much those condos behind me go for.”