Thursday, April 01, 2010

Today's Trolley Ride...The Bensonhurst Local

Just speaking to the daily adventures of completing a typical day in the big city, one of the biggest assets one can have here in Gotham is no doubt a solid core of friends and a good network of contacts.  But if you truly want piece of mind in this big city, happiness comes with having good neighbors.  Neighbors are everything here.  If you have bad neighbors, your neighborhood existence can be a rather aggravating one.  At it's most annoying it creates a condition of no rest for the wiry.  If you have good, solid, considerate, community minded neighbors, this urban jungle can be paradise.

Me?  I have great neighbors.  I know not everyone can say that.  But my ties to the neighborhood make my little piece of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, like an extended family.  Through childhood and growing up, to those who presently live on my block; - the parents I came to know while our children were in school and all the kids around the neighborhood that I was Baseball Coach to over the years with some now in their early twenties still yelling "S'up COACH" when I walk the neighborhood; - It's Sweet!

It's not just about those personal relationships you develop over years.  Not to make light, but it's about the Butcher, the Baker and the Candlestick Maker also.  It's about where I buy my newspaper everyday; where I grab a coffee in the morning; my loyalties to my dry cleaners and grocery store.  It's about the encounters I've had with my new friends at Dee SteakHouse and Junior's Cafe and the warm neighborly treatment I received from them.

I made a request from another neighbor of mine located very close to home for permission to photograph their impressive baseball display.  One of the biggest anchor stores of the neighborhood came through for us in a really big way.  Before we head over there I thought we'd stop for some REAL pizza.  I don't know what you good folks around the country qualify as pizza, but I'm gonna take you to another good neighbor of mine where we're gonna get the real deal.  Bring some spending cash because after having the BEST pizza in Brooklyn we're going to gear-up with all our favorite team jersey(s), caps and t-shirts in preparation for Opening Day.  Then we're gonna walk off that lunch while we parade all our new shirts, caps, jerseys and fan gear on the Shore Parkway Promenade.  Today's ride is local; very local.  You know the routine folks.....Time to Jump-the-Trolley.  You're coming to my side of town today.  You're Trolley Ridin' through Bensonhurst.

First things first; I'm hungry! And Nuthin' screams Brooklyn like Pizza. 
First stop today on the Bensonhurst Local:

 LA CASA BELLA Ristorante and Gourmet Pizzeria
26th Avenue and Cropsey Avenue, Bensonhurst

Look!  I've eaten pizza from all over this Borough.  I've had Italian food from more places than I can count.  When the family and I are home?...and we want Italian?   pffff..,  Fugheddaboudit!
If I'm in the neighborhood or on the way home, and I want pizza? - I come here.

This is the TROLLEYBLOGGER's favorite pizza in Brooklyn.  Nuf Ced!
Rose and Michael, a wonderful couple, my neighbors 5 blocks away and owners of Casa Bella provide a really authentic, classic AND classy Brooklyn/Italian setting outdone only by their specialty pizzas and a menu that would make Caesar's mouth water. 

They've been letting me order off-menu combinations (and of course on-menu) for over 17 years now and I love them for it!  There's something that makes food taste better when you know who is doin the cookin!  My vocabulary is inadequate in trying to explain how good I think their food really is.  They strike the perfect balance between fine dining and still serving as a traditional pizzeria. Wine, espresso, soda or an iced tea..- It's all being served with amazing class here.  I plan on being a customer for another 20 least.
Thank you Rose...Thank you Mike.  See you soon.

Now it's time to introduce you to Jaime.  He is my neighbor 6 blocks in the other direction.  Jaime is the General Manager of a sporting goods store/chain here at the end of Bay Parkway.  The store is located in an outdoor mall right on the waters edge (entrance to New York Harbor) where we'll take a walk later.
The store?  I'm a regular customer; - have been all my life.  I have a wife and 19yr old son as crazed with baseball as I am.  So we spend a fair share of our fan dollars there.  They have as part of their main floor decor, what I am calling the "largest" (both literally and figuratively) Brooklyn Dodgers displays in all the Borough featuring jerseys and enlarged player pictures, with close-up views scanning the crowds of Ebbets Field as a backdrop throughout.  The store(chain) incorporated their name into a replica of the scoreboard from Ebbets.  Blasphemy!?  No!  When you see it.., it's a natural fit.  And after you here about what good neighbors they were to me, I think Ol' Brooklyn Dodger fans will give them their blessings.  The display/decor is not new.  It's been like this for years (Thank Goodness!!).  But this was the first time I went there as the BTB.

This is when I met Jaime.  I introduced myself.  We shook as he reciprocated kindly.  I told him who I was, what I was up to and that I respectfully requested permission to photograph the collection.  As patient as he was hearing me out, ultimately he had to deny my request as a matter of policy (my words). 
I understood 100%.  He also confirmed what I suspected the whole time, that I wasn't the first one to make such a request.  Sure..., I could tell you how deflated I was feeling. 
I'm just not sure how much of my deflation was showing on the outside.  So?  So What? 
After a slight pause I deduced it was time to go home.  I thanked Jaime very much for his time and patience and started making my way to the exit.  It could have all ended then.  But it didn't.

Like I said, Jaime could have ended my pursuit right then.  Instead, he offered me help.  This is what I'm thinking, - Jaime said I was just one of a number to make such a request so he's been through this before.  If what I'm thinking is true or even if it's just self-imagined, Jaime is the true unsung hero of this post.  Jaime, your discretion and role in this will not go under appreciated.
He offered a number to call in the company's main office to see if I could get anywhere with them.  I asked if people have requested the number to ask in the past.  He said yes.  I asked if anyone ever received permission before.  He said he didn't believe anyone really ever followed through, so the short answer was No.

Trolley Power restored. 
You'd have to ask Jaime, but I'm sure I lit up like a Christmas Tree.
Having said all that, it's time to go to MODELL'S.

founded 1889
by Morris Modell

Mr. Modell opened his first store in NYC on Cortlandt Street.  One hundred twenty one years later, the Company is still private and family owned through four generations with over 130 locations in the Northeastern U.S.

This stop on the Bensonhurst Local: Modell's Bay Parkway location in Brooklyn.

Jaime put me in touch with my next point of contact; Rich.  Rich is a decision maker in the Marketing Dept.  I made my unprepared, unrehearsed pitch and folks, never once did I sense any resistance on Rich's part.  I was amazed and quite elated I was being received so well.  We had a few conversations covering details and some other topics.  Rich gave the stamp of approval and set things up with Jaime for me to come in the store and take the photo-shoot.

If you've been following my blog, you know I've always referenced neighbors and how important they are.  You know I always glow about my fellow Brooklynites who get it, and who keep the links in this chain strong.  In my conversations with Rich, he was telling me how the company, in a pro-active measure was re-dedicating itself to being more of a Hometown store with a respectful and responsive local connection.

Rich, actions speak louder than words.  This Blog-Page has always believed in, and maintained faith in good neighbors.  I say that to help explain that this post is not an exercise in embellishment or hyperbole.  If Modell's mission statement is to be a good neighbor, re-establish, sustain and create new local connections, let this post serve as evidence Modell's Sporting Goods practices what they preach.  Rich and Jaime, you not only have met the standards your Company set forth, in my humble opinion, you've raised the bar.
Thank you both.  Thank you Modell's Sporting Goods.  Thank you Neighbor.

OK everybody...Opening Day is right around the corner.  It's time to gear-up!  You can find me in the Met's section.  No doubt some of you will make your way into the Yankee's section. 

But Modell's has something for every fan.

While you shop yourselves silly I want to thank Rich again for letting me photograph this Brooklyn Dodgers collection and by doing so, showing everyone again how the Brooklyn Dodgers are still alive and well.  If we keep them on our minds and in our hearts, they'll live forever.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Brooklyn Dodgers "of Bensonhurst", courtesy-MODELL's

I can not thank Jaime, Rich and everyone at Modell's enough for allowing the Brooklyn Trolley Blogger the opportunity to photograph this marvelous collection of Brooklyn's glorious Baseball past. 
I'm very grateful to you all.

Now, let's don our new baseball stuff and walk off the rest of that fine Italian food.  We are right at the water's edge here and this park hugs the water and around the bend for four miles.  It's a great place for a stroll or whatever your fancy.  You can catch me here most Saturday mornings. 
This view of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is in my opinion one of the best views in all the city.

I hope you enjoyed today's ride through my neighborhood for a change. 
And thank you to my neighbors for making today's post possible.

Happy Opening Day Everyone!!


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