Existential Stuff

F Manhattan, I (Still) Love New York

October 24, 2013

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- 


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

Source: the world according to sherimaven

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Arts and Entertainment

On Spin Class and Lemmy

August 9, 2013

It was one of those fabulous summer in the city weekends- full of great friends and loads of rose and sunshine. Khan was in great spirits and feeling much better and all was lovely. I forget sometimes how important seeing one’s people is- I need to make it more of a habit. What is life without friends (and rose)? I swear I could wake up in the middle of the night and drink rose- there simply is no wrong time when it comes to the (very light so it’s the good) pink stuff.

So after a weekend of indulgence and fun, the gym was a reluctant but necessary evil today. I took a lunchtime spin class (a rarity) and found myself really struggling through it. Not only did the music kind of suck, but the teacher. THE TEACHER. He was wearing khakis. Yes, khakis. And didn’t get on his bike once, but bossed us around the whole time. I absolutely loathe that.

If you are going to teach a class, lend a hand, lead, follow or otherwise, you have to be in it. To win it and such, yes. But also to motivate. I found myself wanting to stick hot pokers in his eyes- how dare he tell us what to do but not do an ounce of hard work himself? It’s one thing if an instructor is injured- but no. This guy was just plain lazy. I mean- it’s Monday. We’re all lazy. But help us out a little, would you? And what’s with the khakis?

And yea, this is not that interesting of a story. We’ve all taken a gym class like this. But what I realized is that I really hate when people expect something of you, but don’t participate or practice themselves. You can’t teach or inspire or lead if you’re not willing to do the work. That’s kind of textbook isn’t it? And whether you’re just starting your career or have been written up in “Corner Office“, it matters not. You simply have to stay in the game to not only gain respect, but to make people want to work harder and sweat right along with you. I’m not suffering those who remove themselves from the trenches just because they feel like wearing a fake dress pant. 

And really this all ties in to a Friday night viewing of “Lemmy”, the amazing documentary about the legendary lead singer of Motorhead and one of the most rock and roll human beings to ever walk the Earth. Now whether or not you’ve ever growled “Ace of Spades” at the top your lungs (guilty), you should watch this- amazing. Here is a guy living in a nothing special apartment complex in LA, who sits at the Rainbow most nights downing Jack and Coke and Lord knows what else, and for all intents and purposes is the ultimate rock and roller. He never gave up. One of my favorite quotes of those interviewed about the Lemster came from Dave Grohl, who called out the Stones and icons of mine like Keith Richards for yammering on and on about how they survived the sixties as elegantly wasted icons, yet no longer live a rock and roll life- after all, he notes, you can’t be rock and roll and stay at the best hotel in Paris. He’s got a point.

I’m not going to disagree, and though nobody is saying you have to have a lifelong drug habit, you gotta be who you are and not sell out and most of all be of the thing that people love you or come to you for- Lemmy’s the real freaking deal, and though I head he has been having health issues, that guy has lived life in a truly authentic and badass way- and he is in it for the music, for the debauchery, for the fans. Screw the khaki clad spin instructor. I’d rather hang out with Lemmy. He gives life everything he’s got.

Cause that’s what’s up this gotta be in it and not quit it kind of Monday in the 212. Go forth and be part of something. XO

PS Lemmy would NEVER take a spin class and subject himself to such bullshit. But I’ll never be as cool as him so I’m good with that.


Source: the world according to sherimaven

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Bloggers, Life

There Goes The Neighborhood: A J. Crew Grows In Brooklyn

June 7, 2013

I have never been a pioneer. By that, I mean I’ve never been the type to move somewhere “up and coming”. I’d gladly forego a remodeled kitchen to live in a pristine neighborhood. I’m not the girl in the loft on the wrong side of the tracks. And though I see the promise and fiscal ease of living somewhere on the verge, the thought of said lifestyle makes me on edge.

Call me a chicken, call me a princess, and call me a spoiled brat. I may indeed be all of those things, but what I’m not is a pioneer. And though I am a great admirer of the pioneer lifestyle (you pay how much in Crown Heights?), I know myself well enough to know that if there is not a decent nail salon, grocery store, or a decent place for toro tartare, I’m not interested. Posh? Perhaps. I’m
just not a nowheresville kind of girl and freely admit it.

But one thing I can’t abide by is a sort of mass marketing of life. This week’s announcement of J. Crew arriving on my corner, my sweet little block of happiness in Brooklyn, had me down. What’s currently at this location is a lovely little grocery store, which I frequent 3-4 times a week- to have my favorite brand of coconut water and that Love Crunch granola I so love steps from my apartment is very important to me. A preppy version of life is not.

As someone who has made a career in marketing, I have always admired J. Crew’s moxie- Mickey Drexler is a retail savant and Jena Lyon’s vision of quirky and well bred New Yorkish/Americana is undeniably charming. It’s true I have not bought something in J. Crew in years- it’s not my style at all and am much more at home in the Gap, Rag and Bone, Madewell, and more independent stores with less well known names. And if Jena and co have done a ton in terms of exporting their brand to the masses, well good for them. It’s just that my neighborhood does not need anything of the kind, at least in my mind. If you read the tweets of this week (some admitting some guilt for being excited about the ability to not leave the neighborhood for a polka dot bikini, while others are mourning
the loss of a favorite grocer), you know that Brooklyn is now becoming a borough divided, and the J. Crew addition is the official jump the shark moment we all knew would come.

And with all New York real estate, retail is all about location. J. Crew’s decision to be in Cobble Hill is not at all shocking- it’s an affluent neighborhood of white young families who love wearing stripes and boyfriend jeans. But what stings the most is that they should have looked for a spot on Atlantic Avenue, an artery running through the neighborhood where mass chains like Urban Outfitters and Barneys and PetSmart coexist with old school favorites like the excellent Middle Eastern food emporium Sahadi’s with newer yet less mass additions like Steven Alan and Jonathan Adler, who still enjoy multiple locations but are more or less well loved New York brands that are still small enough to feel “authentic”. (Jonathan Adler less so…) Instead, the Crew is coming to Court Street, and though we have a Trader Joe’s on the corner of Atlantic and Court, the intrusion of such a huge retailer moving one block deeper into Cobble Hill just feels wrong (there’s also a lot of big market retail in downtown Brooklyn, but for some reason that feels well placed and in service of the bustling neighborhood where many people come to work each day in the courthouses and municipal buildings).

If you are not familiar, Court Street and Smith Street are the two major drags of my neighborhood, and though there are Starbucks and chain drugstores on both of them, there are not national retailers of the fashion variety on those streets, and I wish it would stay that way. I’ve often thought it would be lovely to have an Organic Avenue or Juice Press in the neighborhood, and although that’s bourgeois as hell, they are still local New York businesses that would fit in perfectly with the health conscious and wealthy denizens of the neighborhood. Even a Rag and Bone would be cooler- sure their $300 denim jackets are beyond the reach of most of us, but they produce in America and are one of those brands that though getting bigger,still have some indie cred.

What’s funny to me is how much I wanted big retail when I lived in Miami. If you told me that a J. Crew was opening up in Coconut Grove or Coral Gables, I’d be pretty excited. Because that would mean I lived somewhere on the map, where a brand such as that would feel we were worthy of their Italian ballet flats. Instead, I watched as big stores like Ann Taylor and Bath and Body Works would shut the doors, as well as Banana Republic. This was shocking to me- in NYC you never see big stores like that shut their doors, unless they are consolidating.  And having worked in Coconut Grove for 7 years, I craved a decent shopping experience when I needed a break or felt like taking a lunchtime stroll.

But in Brooklyn, it’s a little different. I lived in Cobble Hill many years ago, after a rather terrible breakup that left me devastated and looking for change. I moved into an apartment on Bergen Street between Smith and Hoyt, right down the street from my (still) beloved Brooklyn Inn, a lovely old local haunt with deliciously substantive bloody marys and a great jukebox. I had a roommate, a working fireplace, and a view of a gorgeous courtyard from a beautiful bedroom I painted blue. My share of the rent? $550. In the late 1990s, Cobble Hill was about to become what it is today, but back then there were only two decent restaurants, not a ton of boutiques, and the simple yet ominous refrain of “whatever you do, don’t mistake the G train for the F” and “never eat sushi in Brooklyn”. But as I recuperated from my failed relationship, I grew to love the neighborhood- it’s outdoor book vendors, its leafy beauty, and low buildings that allowed me to breath and see the sky. But when my roommate decided she wanted her boyfriend to move in, I moved out. And took his apartment in Manhattan, a little studio on the Upper East Side which cost me more than double the rent of what I was paying in Brooklyn. Cut to now.

It’s 2013 and I’m back in New York after (too) many years away, and now Brooklyn is a brand and not a neighborhood. It’s true I live in what Hannah on “Girls” calls “grown up Brooklyn”- my husband and I don’t have children but apparently everybody else in our neighborhood does. I left what many deem paradise (sandy beaches, palm trees, warm weather) in Miami to come to my own version of Bali Hai in Brooklyn (charming old brownstones, fruit and flower vendors, a great bookstore, and lots and lots of trees). 

When we were moving back, we flirted with living in Manhattan but quickly realized at this stage in the game, we were nothing if not Brooklyn bound, and with our ten pound terrier in tow we got our piece of the brand, complete with a yard (a yard!), a spiral staircase leading to our bedroom, and hardwood floors. We are beyond happy in the neighborhood- sure we are paying an insane amount of rent but walking Khan down Clinton or Henry Street on a sunny afternoon and enjoying the solitude is worth it.

I’m glad I don’t live in Williamsburg or somewhere cooler than cool- I have always enjoyed going out in a neighborhood like that, and then coming home to my not so cool but pristine piece of paradise, thus my former obsession with the Upper East Side and its proximity to Central Park, and our little rent controlled apartment on Sixth Avenue and Spring, on the right side of West Broadway where Italian coffee shops could coexist with trendy shops and restaurants. Most of those are gone in Soho now- crushing.

What I love most about New York is the small stores that thrive because they offer a great product, service, or latte. Sure the Barnes and Noble up the street has a huge selection of books, but browsing through the racks and tables at Book Court is just so much more enjoyable. And yes the multiplex on Court may have every new release, but the Cobble Hill Theater has better popcorn and is way more charming on date night than a big box movieopolis. And though struggling neighborhoods love the influx of a big retailer to service the neighborhood and create jobs and opportunities to buy better goods, we don’t need that in our spot. To me, it’s way more important to support small business and the Main Street vibe I have come to love. Because sometimes more means a whole lot less.

I guess my point is you don’t really move to Brooklyn to shop at J. Crew. Although you just knew stores like that would inevitably come- I think we knew it as early as when “Sex and the City” was still on the air and Miranda hitched up her white collar pants and moved the whole brood to a townhouse in Brooklyn. The writing was on the wall then, and it’s definitely on the wall now. It’s no secret my neighborhood is more West Village than around the way, and if any brand of mass can come into the neighborhood and somehow manage to fit in, it’s J. Crew. I love what they did with their men’s store in Tribeca, it’s small and bespoke and clubby and fits in with the neighborhood. But what I never want to happen is what happened in Soho- once a favorite enclave of artists, it’s now a gigantic mall. If that happened to my neighborhood, I’d have to leave, and perhaps consider a career as a pioneer. Or just move to Crown Heights; it’ll probably be ready for me by then. XO.

Source: the world according to sherimaven

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