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Archive for May 7th, 2009


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I like this collection of brooklyn photos (via woodslot) a whole lot. Lived a few doors down (and fifteen years later) from this one above. They seem to be mostly from the mid-to-late 1970s, and I’m actually a little suprised that things look as OK as they do in them, as the word (from the likes of Jonathan Lathem, but also neighbors etc) always was that things were pretty dicey past Atlantic Avenue before the waves of gentrification swept down over lower South Brooklyn.

A few doors down and across the street (and, again, fifteen years before I arrived) these guys look like they’re having a good time, no? I’m guessing it has something to do with the snazzy, what is that, a clockradio with futurspeakers? Do you think they’re listening to 1010 WINS? Do-do-do-do-do, do-do-do-do-do. That’s the Kane Street synagogue visible through the window, no? I’m surprised it extends that far down the street if so.

I’ve been (again, again) getting nostalgic for Brooklyn, for greater New York. Bunch of reasons for this. It’s baseball season – I can even take my iPhone into the back garden here and listen to the Yankee games, but it’s not the same and they’re on at the wrong time, way too late. The middle-aged men wear Arsenal jerseys instead of Yankee hats on Saturday afternoons. More than that though. One of my good friends who lives in the neighborhood, a few blocks away from what’s pictured above, is having a second kid as  I type.

Hard to explain what Brooklyn is, what it is to me. I will admit absolutely right off the bat that I am one of those New Jersey kids who drove a UHaul in and parked in on Monroe Place in Brooklyn Heights, unloaded my stuff, ordered a pizza, and fell asleep that night thinking motherfucker, I actually live here finally. To make matters worse, I am one of those who, a few years later, pushed a stroller into Cobble Hill park, having purchased lunch at the ridiculously slow pseudo-French place next door, and proceeded to eat the lunch with kid squirming in the stroller. I will further admit that, well before the UHaul, the stroller, I was one of those New Jersey kids who’d drive to South Mountain Reservation on Friday nights to smoke pot and fuck around with girls in the woods but mostly to stare at the stunning  glitter of what was down the hill, past the Oranges and Newark, in the distance.

You can read Philip Roth, starting right from Goodbye, Columbus to figure out what that hill, that overlook, means if you like.

What is one supposed to do? Lie about it? That’s where I came from, and that’s why I came. Absolutely, Brooklyn is a sort of paradise for people like me. Authenticity, blagh. I’m not sure I care all that much. It’s more stuff that can’t be taken away, even by the arrival of people like me in the Borough of Kings. Seasmell that drifts through the neighborhood at moments, and the glimpse of open ocean from the Verazanno. The typeface and color circles on the subway. The fucking food, god almighty. I have lost weight for lack of proper lunch options, and really there is only one proper lunch option…

But also the people. I miss the people, the warmth of the place, which you only understand when you’ve moved some place much, much colder. And there are no Catholics or Jews here, and when you say that even to right-thinking people in North London, they respond “Oh, there’s Jews galore in Swiss Cottage – you should try there. It’s swimming in Jews.” Which is, of course, not the right answer. Not at all.

But it’s also one’s native flora – what grows when you neglect the garden is the stuff that you’ve seen grow since you were small. And the papers are unreadable here – there’s a lot of them, yes, but I’d take the Times, despite it all, in a second. And there are too many pubs, and the pubs are too delightful and tolerant, but for all that they still close immensely too early.

At any rate, my first child was born in Long Island College Hospital while the second was born in Camden, the borough of Camden. The latter is already a citizen of the United Kingdom, and can freely live anywhere in the European Union for as long as she likes. The other, um, can still be president of the United States….. There’s probably a novel in that, a bad one, which I’ll leave them to write if they like. But my wife and I have birth certificates that list birthplaces we’d rather forget, so I guess that’s progress.

It’s nice here, and I don’t mean to complain. I’ve been very lucky, jesus. But expatriation is a hard road to hoe. And when there’s a place you feel like you belong in, at last, and you’re sensitive about place, well, there you are.

(After much consideration, too much, have decided just to post whatever the fuck I like on my blog. Have had complaints – in comments, in person, in person at second hand – about the “narcissistic posts.” Have decided I simply don’t care. I really don’t mean to sound hostile, really don’t. Blog, such as it is, is not a vehicle for “good work.” Blog is because I like to write things like the above. Or bitch about writing and work. Or sometimes play around with ideas. This blog is not to be taken seriously, except in so far as it is by me…. You can read it if you like, or not if you don’t. I am not checking hit counts or links from here on out. And that’s a promise…)

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May 7, 2009 at 11:17 pm

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