I’d grab the subway at Dekalb and take the long ride to Brighton Beach — one of my favorite trips in the city, with all its slow turns and views of scarred rooftops and weather-worn store-top signage. After I'd exit the train, I'd troop over to my grandparents' street for the barrage of you-got-so-big's and cheek-pinches via all the lovable yentas from the building parked out front. (I can still picture my grandma's tough smile when she'd see me, and perfectly recall the unique smell of the lobby of her building and the creaky ancient elevator up to the 6th floor.) The beach chairs were usually lined-up all the way down the block, each building with its own unique crew. One of my favorite characters was a very zaftig Russian woman whose name is lost with time. Her sons were supposedly gangsters and she sold blackmarket caviar from a cooler under her chair. She never smiled, and when she died she was buried in a piano box.
Words and photograph by Lee Greenfeld © 2018