City Explorations: Bracing the cold to tour Greenwood Cemetery

By Pierre Vallet. 

Pierre Vallet, a NYLESA member since 2016 is the association's off-the-beaten-track explorer and tour leader. Late January, he led a group of 22 members on a walk through Greenwood Cemetery, once the second most visited landmark in the city.

 

What can you do when it was your idea to suggest a weird tour on a freezing January day? I could not cancel with the message: “Too cold today, cats lying on the sofa, the Italian coffee maker sounds like Verdi, I will stay home”. I had no choice but to go.

The day started slowly – extremely slowly – as I rode the local R train, slower than an arthritic turtle, to the meeting point. WhatsApp let me know that friends were either shivering outside the Greenwood subway station or lost in other areas of Brooklyn. Great!

Inside Greenwood Cemetery after an hour of 'exploring', we stood on top of a small hill covered with patches of snow and some tombs. The sun was out, and Lady Liberty peeked out from behind the naked trees as the wind and cold fought with my history lesson about the Battle of Long Island.

 

My phone, map and notes took us on to other points of interest. Members wandered between the graves and Roberto helped keep everyone moving – team work at its best! Even when the wind froze my uncovered fingers, my heart stayed warm.

On top of another hill, alongside trees blowing in the wind, graves sunken deep into the ground were a reminder of Hurricane Sandy that swept across the city almost six years ago.

 

I took a few seconds for myself and let my mind wander to a small and neglected cemetery I had visited in Connecticut … A moment later I was back to reality and realised I had a choice to make. Could I push the group to the next hill, or was it time to leave?