Bison and Brooklyn

It’s early evening, 50 degrees F outside, and we’re peering out the window of this pretty third-floor Airbnb walk-up (no elevators, just creaky wooden stairs) in the heart of Brooklyn. We’re fascinated by the bustle outside: pedestrians bundled up and walking briskly, cars and buses whizzing by, the lights of Starbucks, American Apparel and Duane Reade shining brightly across the street. Below us, a bar throbs with music and laughter.

This morning we watched paramedics, firemen and police converge to assist a man with a full head of white hair seated on the street. He had just been side-swiped by a white car, whose driver was being interrogated by the police. Minutes later, the ambulances from two hospitals drive off without a patient. The old man is unharmed and he eventually stands up and walks away. The police and the firetruck likewise go their own way, sirens blaring as another incident summons.  

 A drama unfolds outside our Airbnb apartment in Brooklyn. (Photo by Gemma Nemenzo)

A drama unfolds outside our Airbnb apartment in Brooklyn. (Photo by Gemma Nemenzo)

Welcome to New York, I tell myself for the umpteenth time.

We drove into Brooklyn to our daughter’s place (also on the third floor, also without an elevator) a week ago and it felt like entering a different planet altogether. New York City, wherever one may be in its geography, is way different from anywhere else we’ve been to in this grand road trip of ours that started two months ago and has registered over 7,500 miles on our odometer.

I love this city. I love its noise, its eccentricities and the way people function as if there’s no tomorrow. Whenever I visited, I would be out and about, staying in only to sleep. But this time around, I prefer to stay in and listen to the sounds of the city happening around me. Maybe it’s age, along with contentment, but the fascination of the Big Apple seems to have diminished in me. The more plausible reason is the wider panorama that this road trip has given me.

Just days before, we were driving through the beautiful small towns and the rural roads of the New England states, mesmerized by the outward tranquility and the spectacular fall foliage all around us. But for the clicks of our smart phones and camera, we were silent. No music, no talk, just allowing the scenery to cloak us with its serene beauty. After a while, we had to give up taking pictures because there was no way we could capture the full splendor before us; to try felt almost blasphemous.

My Facebook posting for those days said it all:

 (Source: Gemma Nemenzo's facebook page)

(Source: Gemma Nemenzo's facebook page)

We set out to see the grandeur and the complications of America, and we haven’t been disappointed. Here are some scenes that put the awe in awesome:

 The bison of Yellowstone (Photo by Gemma Nemenzo)

The bison of Yellowstone (Photo by Gemma Nemenzo)

 Waiting for the bison to cross (Photo by Gemma Nemenzo)

Waiting for the bison to cross (Photo by Gemma Nemenzo)

On our second day at the gigantic Yellowstone National Park, we were stopped by an obstinacy (the term for a herd) of bison that were taking their time walking in the middle of the road, nonchalant about the mile-long line of vehicles waiting for them to cross over to the surrounding field. Some of them got so close to our car that, for a second, we were worried they would attack us.  

 The 45th Parallel (Photo by Gemma Nemenzo)

The 45th Parallel (Photo by Gemma Nemenzo)

On the Montana side of Yellowstone, it was cool to actually be in the exact midpoint of the Northern Hemisphere.

 The Milwaukee Museum of Art (Photo by Gemma Nemenzo)

The Milwaukee Museum of Art (Photo by Gemma Nemenzo)

I couldn’t help but gasp when I saw the Milwaukee Museum of Art designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. There was something otherworldly about its innovativeness and its whiteness, juxtaposed with the green landscape around it and the blue waters of Lake Michigan behind.

 The author sitting next to the Max Ehrmann statue (Photo by Irwin Ver)

The author sitting next to the Max Ehrmann statue (Photo by Irwin Ver)

 The Crossroads marker (Photo by Gemma Nemenzo)

The Crossroads marker (Photo by Gemma Nemenzo)

When the poem “Desiderata” took the world by storm in the 1960s, its authorship was attributed to an anonymous poet. Later, it was confirmed that it was written by Max Ehrmann, of Terre Haute, Indiana. His statue is in this tiny space where he would sit on a bench and presumably was inspired to write his masterpiece. A few feet away is the marker that designates the original crossroads of America. Terre Haute is an otherwise un-pretty city that has a growing population of Filipino health workers.

 Amish woman and buggy (Photo by Gemma Nemenzo)

Amish woman and buggy (Photo by Gemma Nemenzo)

The Amish are a unique segment of the American tapestry. Aside from Arthur, Illinois, which we visited, we passed their horse-drawn buggies in some rural towns in Ohio and upstate New York.

 Cemeteries (Photo by Gemma Nemenzo)

Cemeteries (Photo by Gemma Nemenzo)

Cemeteries are pretty common in the highways and even in the middle of university campuses in the Midwest. Being right in the middle of human daily activities takes away the morbidness of living among the dead’s headstones.  

 Four Corner Park, Madawaska, Maine (Photo by Gemma Nemenzo)

Four Corner Park, Madawaska, Maine (Photo by Gemma Nemenzo)

An item on our bucket list is to go to the four outer corners of the continental U.S. We already went to the southernmost tip in Key West. This time we went to the northeasternmost tip in Madawaska, Maine, a tiny town that shares a border with New Brunswick, Canada.

 The Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee (Photo by Gemma Nemenzo)

The Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee (Photo by Gemma Nemenzo)

Nashville, Tennessee is known for its music, musical stars and throbbing nightlife. We were surprised that it also boasts the only life-size replica of the Parthenon in the world. Unfortunately, it was sunset when we went so the building was closed.

NEXT WEEK: More scenes from our road trip.

Gemma Nemenzo

Editor, Positively Filipino