June 30, 2013 | Irish
Field Trip: Woodlawn Heights, the Bronx
In which I hear Irish accents but not Irish.
Today, a quiet Sunday and the final day of my Irish studies, I took a trip to the Bronx. I rode the 2 train to 233rd Street, then caught the Bx31 bus to Katonah Avenue in Woodlawn Heights, a heavily Irish neighborhood abutting the southern end of Yonkers.
I could see/hear signs of Irishness as soon as I got off the bus, even though it was kind of rainy and the streets were pretty deserted.
You Don’t See Celtic Kitchens Just Anywhere!
I’ve Heard This Library Has Numerous Irish Books
Judith K. Weiss Woodlawn School
Many Irish People Are in Local 147
My first stop was Prime Cuts Irish Butchers, where I talked to a friendly woman behind the counter named Angela Keogh, from Aughrim in County Wicklow, Ireland. She let me go around taking pictures of food imported from Ireland, as well as sausages that I believe she referred to as black pudding or blood sausage or both. I have heard of those on numerous occasions, but never eaten them, and my grasp of encased meats will have to remain in a primitive state for now.
Prime Cuts, Katonah Avenue
Inside Prime Cuts
Prime Cuts Menu
Oatlet Is a Cute Word
International food products are interesting. According to the bag of oatlets shown above right, Flahavan’s “sets you up for life.” Wow! In that case, I would like to know more about oatlets.
While I was there, people wandered in and out; Prime Cuts was clearly a local destination. Everyone who came into the store was Irish. None spoke the Irish language with ease, I don’t think, though Angela and I believe others had studied it in school.
The place reflected the closeness of the community; people knew each other’s names and business. That’s the thing about New York. It consists of real communities, in a way that you don’t see in commuter cities like Los Angeles. People walk a lot here, and there is a great deal of talking and encountering of friends and acquaintances on the street.
The concept of New York as a big impersonal city is largely a myth.
I left the friendly butcher shop and headed north on Katonah towards McLean Avenue, where I had been told there were many Irish establishments. En route I passed a pretty church.
The Distinctive Trinity Community Church
Katonah and McLean Avenues, I Believe
McLean Avenue, which runs (mostly) east-west, is apparently in the city of Yonkers, so technically outside the boundaries of New York City and instead a part of Westchester County.
I have hardly ever been in Yonkers. There was no noticeable dividing line between the end of New York City and the start of Yonkers, at least not that I saw.
Everything pictured below is along McLean Avenue.
J. P. Clarke’s Saloon, with a Bit of My Thumb
Fagan’s Ale House
Irish Food Market (Obviously)
Irish Newspapers Galore!
The Irish Food Market had a bazillion Irish newspapers. All the ones I saw were in English, but I was impressed by the range, especially in a store that looked like a typical New York deli and where I wouldn’t have expected so much specialization in periodicals.
I stopped at the pleasant Irish Coffee Shop pictured here and ordered a coffee. It was raining outside. According to Angela back at Prime Cuts, many people have already gone home to Ireland for the summer. (My timing is peccable.)
Irish Coffee Shop
The Shop’s Interior
The Butcher’s Fancy
Moriarty’s Bar & Restaurant
McKeon’s Bar & Restaurant
Although my timing for the visit was off (an earlier and non-rainy June day would have been better), I was glad to have gone to Woodlawn.
Flier, Kevin Bell Memorial Fundraiser
It didn’t add to my understanding of the language particularly, but I never even knew this community was here. Without searching for Irish, I wouldn’t have been to this corner of my chosen hometown. New York City is a truly astonishing collection of intimate and distinctive and diverse communities where people talk, eat, sleep, drive, work, struggle, live, love, die, and pass on parts of their past to the next generation.
One final thing: on this wet gray day, I paused in front of a window where I saw a flier for a Kevin Bell memorial fundraiser.
I recognized his name immediately, because of recent media attention surrounding his death on June 16th in a hit-and-run in Woodlawn. He came from Newry in Northern Ireland, according to what I have read, in order to do some summer work here in New York.
Instead, he died here, only 26 years old. That is very, very sad, and I send my sincere condolences to Kevin’s family.