When I first began to travel in earnest, I was the portrait of a Type A personality- detailed plans, agendas, and mapped out routes, followed by lengthy journal entries documenting the excursions. I exuded the general enthusiasm and promptness of a cruise director paired with the quiet observation patterns of an anthropologist. Time and experience (and mostly the nation of Argentina) mellowed me in a significant way. If I were to distill my life to a cheesy bumper sticker or tourist t-shirt, it might say something like “embrace the journey.”
One of my best friends has borne witness to my evolution. Never one to rush the day or over plan an excursion, she frequently reminds me of my more neurotic tendencies (#balance). When we convened in Brooklyn for a close friend’s wedding, my goals were simple: coffee/brunch, wander and attend our friends’ (roller skating!!) wedding, which was fortunate because the day had more in store for us than I ever could have planned.
We inadvertently stumbled upon Panama’s Independence Day Parade (commemorating their separation from Colombia). Dazzled by the bright attire and festivities, we followed the straggling performers, as they joined the larger procession. Our curiosity was piqued, but as Instagram would say, “But first coffee.”
BKW by Brooklyn Winery
747 Franklin Avenue
(Crown Heights) Brooklyn, NY 11238
Unfortunately, we were too early to partake in the Brooklyn-made wine, but lured by the wallpaper and menu, we did take advantage of the pastrami on a potato pancake, sweet & savory french toast options and plenty of coffee.
When we emerged, full and happy, Panama’s celebration was in full swing, reaffirming the lessons I learned so many times when visiting cities- it’s best just to follow my curiosity instead of a plan carved in stone. It so often leads to something so unexpected and unforgettable.
While watching the bold displays of color, fashion, culture and history joyously marching and dancing down the street, I couldn’t help but think how fortunate children are who grow up exposed to these occasions. At a time when our nation wants to close borders, wall off differences and pretend to be safe in our sameness, young children in New York can’t help but bump into other cultures, races and fantastic displays of what truly makes America great: diversity.
It’s difficult to take in the full history during such a celebration, but in the grand scheme of things, the significant dates and rulers and borders seemed irrelevant. What was so inspiring was the cultural pride, the intricately beaded headpieces, the grannies and grand-babies dancing together, the pure style of the older men on the floats, and the wafting scents of food made in home kitchens and sold illegally (ie: the best sort of food!). I lamented my fullness as the ladies towed makeshift food carts between the dancing onlookers.
Mesmerized by our luck of catching such a spectacle, we embraced the procession and slipped into a bar that offered a perfect view.
The bartender was new, so the drinks didn’t quite live up to their descriptions, but all that mattered was that window, the piano, and the view. We watched a man who danced as if he was holding back an entire jazz dance troupe inside him. He wanted to break free but maintained restraint. We left him, hopeful he would finally let loose.
Cities will forever steal my heart. Their sheer enormity makes me want to plan and schedule and to see as much as possible, while simultaneously, their many pulses inspire me simply to go with the bright, colorful, syncopated flow. Stay tuned for more of our Brooklyn adventures.