This piece is by the Travelin’ Cousins, a little blog about the travel adventures of a couple of cousins.”
by Elisa Valentino
November 30, 2018
Each year, at that time, I am viscerally transported back to my college years at Fordham University with those same anticipatory butterflies in my belly, remembering the carefree joy of returning home for the long weekend, along with my other peers, and heading off for an evening of spontaneous fun on Thanksgiving Eve.
More than thirty years later, these memories are as clear as day, and prompt so many others recollections to come rushing back from my Bronx days. At the time I went off to college, most of the kids, with which I was friends, opted (for the most part) to approach university education in one of two ways. Either to “go away,” meaning, heading off to a different city or state, usually many hours away; or to attend a college located nearby, live at home and invest in a new car.
Well, I didn’t choose either option. I wanted the experience of campus life and living away from home, but I chose to do it within the confines of New York City. So, I left Queens and headed to the Bronx for four years!
One of my absolute favorite memories during my days as a Bronx resident, was the summer I lived on Arthur Avenue. It was the summer of my sophomore year, when a few of us decided to take classes to get ahead. Public Speaking was the course, and boy, was it fun. I had not as yet gained my “voice” and lost my shy demeanor for speaking in front of groups, which is not the case today, as I’ve given lectures, led seminars and presentations to audiences as large as five thousand, and this class was where it all began and led me on my path to becoming a communications major.
My roommate, at the time, also a communications major, was the one who convinced me to take the course and stay in the Bronx for Summer break. As luck would have it, a mutual friend, who shared an apartment on Arthur Avenue with two others, was going away, thereby leaving one of the bedrooms vacant, for which we too gals were offered the temporarily available room. Did I mention that our summer roommates were guys? Holy cow, it was a bit different than living with girls when it came to housekeeping and cleaning. But, thrilled to have a place to live, we brought along our respective feminine energy and made the apartment home for the time of our stay.
Here’s what I LOVED about living in Little Italy – I felt so incredibly safe! Yes, at the time, which was the mid-eighties, Bronx Little Italy – was rated one of the safest neighborhoods in America. I remember never having a care walking around in the evening, long after it had become dark. There was such a sense of closeness within the confines of the Belmont area. Not to mention, a warmth and familiarity that we developed with the local merchants!
I can remember coming home very late – which was actually early morning (oh, to have that kind of energy and stamina for all-nighters now!), and being overtaken by the smell of baking bread. Occasionally we would buy some in these wee hours and retreat to our veranda, as we affectionately called our fire escape, and savor the taste as we would bite into our warm, baked loaves, in the soft summer breeze,waiting for the sun to rise.
Another thing that stands our quite prominently to me, was the parking situation in the neighborhood. There was no need to feed the meter. I’m not sure how that came to be, but suffice it to say, I didn’t ask, and just enjoyed the benefit of not having to worry about expired meters or the prospect of tickets!
Lastly, the taste of the cold cuts and sandwiches from probably, the best deli in the entire world, Butchie’s is embedded on my taste buds. Sadly, I do not know what happened to this very small, corner delicatessen, since after I graduated, I moved back to Queens and a number of years had passed till I made it back to Little Italy, at which point, Butchie’s was gone. To this day, I still talk about the incredible chicken cutlet hero I bought there. A thinly sliced, breaded cutlet on semolina Italian bread with salt, pepper and a bit of mayo. Nothing has ever compared to this sandwich!
Three decades later, I regularly frequent Arthur Avenue with my teenage girls, both of which LOVE this Bronx neighborhood as much as me and we are now making new memories together!
Elisa is co-founder of Travelin’ Cousinstravel blog, A native New Yorker, Fordham graduate, and world traveler, she is passionate about The Bronx as a travel destination for locals and tourists.
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