Rhineland Ave and Whitestone Rd
My goal today was to find a walkway from 174ST Station to 180ST Station around the BRONX Zoo and the Cross BRONX Expressway. I serviced trees along the way. It was a round about network of roads and bootleg dirt paths, but after a while I reconnected to Whitestone Rd.- to the point where I have been lost a few weeks before!
To celebrate, I decided to sit down in a place to eat a late lunch. This section of the BRONX had a lot of Arab stores and Halal Meat Stores. I stopped into this restaurant: Men were the only patrons during the time I spent eating there. Everyone who came in knew one another and were greeted in a very warm and friendly way with embraces and kisses. Arabic was the language spoken among the workers, the patrons and on the television.
The proprietor was friendly and explained what was available from the menu. I selected boiled lamb with rice. It was delicious! At the conclusion of my lunch as I was paying for the meal, I asked what the dish was called. He told me “It’s called boiled lamb.”
“I- I know, but what, what do you call it?”
“I call it boiled lamb.”
I knew at this moment that I wasn’t being clear with my question- that I wanted to learn the Arabic name for what I had just consumed. Rather than try to explain, I smiled and said, “It was great!” And I meant it- but I felt a little ashamed that I gave up on trying to communicate.
Outside, I pulled out my notebook to record the location and name of the restaurant. The street signs I could understand, but the restaurant name was written in Arabic (except for the words “Cafe and Hookah Bar”). I stood outside of the restaurant and recorded the shapes of the Arabic words. It took a little while… maybe three minutes.
In that time, all the patrons and the proprietor came to the window. They looked a me and then each other. They were talking and pointing to me. I focused on completing the drawing of the language, and was getting ready to leave because I was getting an uneasy feeling of being unwanted. Reflecting on how easily I gave up trying to learn the Arabic Name for boiled lamb, and how sad that made me feel, I gathered up my courage, and went back into the restaurant. As I approached, everyone went back to their tables and places.
I showed the proprietor my notebook with the name of his restaurant written on it. “What does this mean?”
“It is just the name.”
“But what is the name?”
Another man asked, “What do you want to know?”
“I want to know the name of this place. What it is called- how you say it in Arabic.”
“In Arabic?” he sat down at a table, I sat on my box next to him, and handed him my notebook and pen. He transliterated the name for me: Ared Al Gnateen.
“Thank you. What does it mean?”
“Oh… Um… it’s, ah… OK. Earth of Heaven exactly, but like um, like a really good, great place. I guess it’s hard to explain. In Arabic, it means many things. It means very good things.”
“Like the promised land?”
“Yeah, Yes. Like that. Very good things.”
“OK, OK. Bye”