The Graham Avenue Dream Cruise

Although Google map offers me all kinds of bike friendly routes, I inevitably chose to transect East Brooklyn via Graham Avenue. To a spatial illiterate like myself, Graham Avenue is a no brainer, a straight shot, a grid among the chaos of one-ways and dead ends. However, as I biked back from Greenpoint last night, I realized my comfort in taking Graham is not because it requires little conscious navigation, my love of Graham Avenue has to do with memory, the unconscious, and Woodward Avenue.

Running north and south, Woodward Avenue is a straight shot in and out of Detroit. Although most drivers chose more efficient networks of navigation (I-75, 696, the Lodge, and Gratiot Avenue) over Woodward’s endless stream of traffic lights, there are advantages to the street that contains the world’s first mile of concrete.

Each mile road intersects Woodward so that what you see is a gradated color swatch of urban transition. In a span of 20 miles, you can drive past some of the country’s poorest neighborhoods, and some of the richest. From boarded up single-bedroom houses on 8 mile all the way to the McMansions of 15 mile, Woodward is the vein mapping out the socio-spatial history of metropolitan Detroit.

In the 19th century, street were widened; the pedestrian bowed down to the motorized vehicle. Although Haussman is the classic embodiment of this practice, it occurred all over, even in Detroit. While it is easy to lament the death of the early modern streetscape, the loss of sidewalks, colorful window displays, the joy of strolling, we must not assume that the street is void of memory.

For the sensitive streetgoer, driving down Woodward and cycling down Graham represents both linear and cyclical experience. We move numerically, from 7 to 8 mile, or culturally, from Polish to Puerto Rican.  No matter how we move, the reflection of time in space inevitable.

Both Woodward and Graham are inscribed in my unconscious in various ways. As I child, Woodward was digested from the back window of a red Ford Escort, the landscape  framed  due to the restrictions of  a seatbelt. I was most enamoured by the endless stream of wig stores.

Graham Avenue became incorporated a part of my daily life two years ago when I first dog sat for a  co worker. Embarrassed that people might assume I actually owned the chihuahua, I would walk it late at night or early in the morning. That was how I discovered the 24 hour green grocer on the corner of Graham and Metropolitan, just down from the block from White Castle.

At the time, I lived in uptown Manhattan. Whenever I’d visit friends off Montrose, I’d walk down Graham to the grocer. When I moved to Greenpoint a year later, I  established a bike route that relied on Graham to get me to three different staple destinations.

It wasn’t until the other night that I consciously realized that Graham Avenue was the vein that connected me to my various areas of my life, and how similar it was to the way in which my parents used Woodward Avenue to navigate their own lives back when I was a child. Was my use of Graham Avenue an unconsious nod to Woodward?

In fiction, voyage is often a metaphor for memory. Departures and arrivals signal transition, a movement through past, present, and future. If the mood suites me, I could describe my past two years in New York all in relation to Graham Avenue; my moods, my personality, where I was going and where I was from. Although my routine along Woodward occurred at a much earlier age, I could map out a similar narrative. But, I’m left wondering if it is the road that acts as a repository of memory, or if my memory acts as my own system of navigation.

One Response to “The Graham Avenue Dream Cruise”
  1. Nigel says:

    On one side of Woodward & 8 Mile (West Side) exists well kept mansions and a historiccemetery, while the other (East Side) has the abandoned State Fair Grounds and a decrepit neighborhood with boarded up shacks that were once homes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: