Let’s just get to it. I’m annoyed. Yes this retrogradient has me all askew but I’m kind of pissy about the news that no other than Intermix, purveyor of very spendy clothing, is coming to my neighborhood on Smith Street. What’s fitting about the whole thing is that the store (a chain) is taking over the space once occupied by Saul, one of the first trendy restaurants to set up shop on Smith Street, long before my neighborhood became the Manhattan lite (not lite anymore), it is today.
The other day I read with some amusement Kim Hastreiter’s (she of Paper Magazine fame) piece entitled: “F*CK BROOKLYN. I (STILL) LOVE NEW YORK”.
As you can imagine, the piece railed about my borough’s annoying pretension, the constant din of “made in Brooklyn”, and the overhyped and now almost perverse notion that Brooklyn the brand is omnipotent. OK. I don’t disagree. Here’s a little excerpt from her piece:
“I know I sound like an old curmudgeon punk when I say that I’m totally sick of this “brand” they call Brooklyn. But it’s true. I’m sick of Brooklyn the look, Brooklyn the cool and Brooklyn the aesthetic. And I’m especially tired of Brooklyn’s monolithic tourist trap, Williamsburg, which looks like it’s been branded by the Portland agency Wieden + Kennedy. If I see another Edison light bulb or indie, vintage-furnished Ace-style hotel open up, or one more white, bearded, tattooed, apron-clad, work-booted hipster standing behind the counter of a shop selling pork bellies, small-batch gin, organic barber shop products or old-school, authentic, artisanal, heritage, sustainable, distressed-looking anything, I swear I will throw up. Breaking news, kids: This is not the Pacific Northwest! It’s a trend and it’s getting old. Fast. I get it that Brooklyn the location still offers affordable space where young people can hole up to make art, music, film, or innovative food and it still has great texture and cultural mixes. But to me, Brooklyn the brand is becoming a monochromatic cartoon of itself”.
I guess she’s really not taking into account the saddest reality of the whole thing- that nobody who lives in Brooklyn or has lived there a long time really likes this either. My own experience with Brooklyn predates my recent move back- I lived on Bergen and Smith in the late 90s as I nursed a very broken heart, and the quiet, tree lined charm and endless view of sky healed me. I never forgot how that era was a time of great peace for me- leaving Manhattan and taking the train into the city each day (and back) was a way for me to let go, to gain some solace. I loved walking around my neighborhood on the weekends- when Trader Joe’s which now is full of infant twins at every corner and yoga panted moms, was once a bank. There were not great restaurants, but there were beautiful residential streets and the Promenade which proudly displayed the twin towers before 9/11 took them away. It was a wonderful place to be, and my rent was cheap, my apartment beautiful, and my bedroom overlooked a magnificent garden. And it was not like we were not part of New York City, we just lived in Brooklyn. And if you wanted to visit me, great. If you didn’t- whatever. But now we’re in 2013 and everything has changed. And aren’t these so called “young people” her audience? WTF.
She then goes on to say: “I, too, still love New York City, the brand. It is still for ambitious fighters who live to wake up every day, roll up their sleeves and attack their lives. We live and work hard and are survivors. It can be seen in our eyes, in the way we dress, in the way we walk, in the way we hustle. Our city these days is top heavy with rich people, shrewd people and financial movers, but for those of us who aren’t in this category and were lucky enough to have grabbed land before the gold rush, it’s still a challenging daily fight to live to tell the tale”. Um, how is this not true of people that live in Brooklyn or for people in the Rockaways or Staten Island post Sandy? Do they not count in this Horatio Alger fantasy of hers? I think they have a few more challenges than being inconvenienced by a few days without lights.
One of the biggest problems in this city (and I’m talking Manhattan, Brooklyn, and everywhere else) is the divisiveness. There’s always been lines drawn between uptown and downtown, but now it seems if you live in Brooklyn, you’re immediately typecast as someone who makes artisanal jam and wears suspenders while riding a unicycle. Or perhaps if you live in “grown up Brooklyn” like I do, if you haven’t had in vitro or adopted children from Laos you’re a complete anomaly. Regardless, I don’t get the Brooklyn vs. Manhattan thing anymore. I’m not sure why Ms. Hastreiter feels the need to pledge her love for “New York City” and exclude Brooklyn or anywhere else around here. But if we’re going there, let’s go.
Sure it’s great that for people like her can enjoy the ease of Manhattan living while dashing to and fro from magazine meetings to air kissing the fashion flock while never having to go over any of our bridges in rush hour traffic. Good for her. It’s just that I find it pretty hilarious that the very reason she rails about Brooklyn is an inability to see the real issue- that the reason Brooklyn is so bloody annoying is the fact that there are too many former Manhattan people there. Without them, why would you need stores like J. Crew and Intermix? Who would give a shit about an artisanal ginger root cocktail? Would you have so many disenfranchised power moms who secretly yearn for their old life in the West Village while blocking out the sounds of their screaming children with names like Ezra or Theodora? Ya wouldn’t.
Believe me, there’s nobody more annoyed with a hyper branded Brooklyn than me, because I live there. I’m beginning to wonder if a Texas type secession is in order (now that we have all of these imposing shopping opportunities, restaurants, and soon, Whole Foods, why on Earth do we need Manhattan, again besides our 9-5s?). I for one would be very happy to live in a world where Manhattanites don’t endlessly talk about how annoying Brooklyn is. And the reason denizens of Brooklyn complain about the very same thing is because there was a time when life in the 718 was not so bloody irritating- it was just life, and a damn nice one. Hey Manhattan- you can keep your cashmere sweaters and infused beverages. I just want to walk my dog and take a deep breath in Brooklyn.
So Ms. Hastreiter, I say right back to you-
“F*CK MANHATTAN. I (STILL) LOVE NEW YORK”.
Kim is a classic example of hating the player, and not the game. Just because one lives in Brooklyn doesn’t mean one is a hipster who bathes in dirty pickle brine. I just want to see some sky and get some oxygen.
Because living in New York is truly more about living in Manhattan or any of the boroughs. It’s about finding some sanity amidst the chaos wherever you can get it and unfortunately too many people have made the lovely Brooklyn more about being cool and less about being chill. And really, it’s about the huddled masses all living here together as one despite income, race, or orientation anyway so let’s all enjoy the whole big city and its buzzy boroughs, shall we? But if you’re thinking of moving to my neighborhood from Manhattan, please don’t. There’s plenty for you to do on your side of the bridge.
And here’s something to think about if we’re talking about Brooklyn as theme park- if Brooklyn and Manhattan were action figures, I do believe Brooklyn could kick Manhattan’s ass. It’s kinda like Jay Z vs. Woody Allen. Yea, no contest. Sure I know Jay Z may not live in Brooklyn anymore, but he’s sure not afraid to come across the bridge- he knows what’s good and where he’s from. Though I myself was not born or raised in Brooklyn, I’m hoping those scrappy types like Jay who have hopes and dreams and soul will slowly take Brooklyn back. I guess there’s always Queens, cause I’m certainly not moving back to Manhattan. It’s off brand.
Cause that’s what’s up this hello, Brooklyn kind of Thursday in the big city.
Yours, in Brooklyn. XO