Monday, August 4, 2014


Brighton Beach is a community in Brooklyn just east of Coney Island.  It was made famous and romanticized in a Woody Allen movie [Brighton Beach Memoirs]. Because of the movie I visited Brighton Beach a long time ago.  I found it to be a rundown area with lots of junky close-out and second-hand stores. 

All that changed after the USSR collapsed and Russians made a mass immigration into New York, taking this area over.  All the signs in Brighton Beach are now in English and Russian, including the post office.  Far more upscale than it used to be, the avenue is lined with produce stalls and bakeries, a few clothing stores, a furrier, and stores selling international foods.  

It’s quite interesting to wander the food stores, but it can be tricky because sometimes the labels are written entirely in Russian.  The tea selections are phenomenal.  One store has a wall of teas in different types of containers and a large table covered with loose teas in jars.  But the aisles in all the stores are very narrow - not room for two people to pass without one giving way.

The subway train is elevated in Brighton Beach, running along Brighton Beach Avenue.  This creates a very loud noise whenever a trains runs overhead, but provides nice shade in the summer.  There’s no elevator to the train, so you have to drag your shopping bags up the stairs.  I bought a little cart for shopping, but still, getting up the subway stairs was a chore.   

There’s a restaurant in Brighton Beach that makes a beautiful, 3-layered cappucino (there were probably many places in Brighton who made cappucino this way, but once I found this one, I stuck to it).  I used to go there once a week to write.  Afterwards, I shopped at the various stores, but after a while, I had to stop shopping in Bright because I found some of the populace a bit too hard to bear.

Many citizens in Brighton Beach emigrated from Russia at an advanced age.  From what I understand, they live in New York subsidized housing and received other types of government assistance, which stands to reason since they lived under Communist Russia where the government controlled so many aspects of living. They were probably used to shortages, needing to get to the head of the line quickly, or at least that’s how I excused their physical aggressiveness when shopping.

The lines in the stores were always long, although, whenever men entered the stores, they never waited in line.   They simply stepped to the front of the line and got waited on.  No one ever objected.  I was afraid to, because the few times a guy stepped in front of me, I smelled liquor.  I wasn’t going to push my luck.

The women didn’t mind being aggressive with each other and had no qualms about putting their hands on me and pushing if I didn’t move forward as  soon as someone in front of me moved forward.    One day, a very large, old woman pushed me down in order to get past me, claiming she had been in line before me.  I got the manager and made a bit of a fuss – really wishing I had a cattle prod with me – but I knew I wasn’t going to change this type of mentality.  

After that, I decided not to return to Brighton Beach to shop.

Post by Alana Cash

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