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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…)

Written by adswithoutproducts

May 7, 2009 at 11:17 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

10 Responses

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  1. good to see the footnote. it’s a classic case of response bias, the whole anti-personal post thing: only the people that don’t like it complain, and the rest of us that do keep quiet since we’re happy about things.

    i’m starting to feel the same way about chicago as you about brooklyn. scary thought that i’ll likely have to leave once i graduate. is it really that bad?


    May 8, 2009 at 1:32 am

  2. Another anti-response-bias-comment: I for one like this format. Either it’s because you’re not self-censoring or because you’re writing about something that rubs you every day… not sure which, but there are some nuggets in here. Maybe unpolished, but solid.

    Just last night was trying to convince a friend that he should blog — that “blog” did not necessarily mean “stress about readership” and “write for an audience”. For him “Blog” will forever have overtones of andrew sullivan, I’m afraid.

    David R

    May 8, 2009 at 3:05 am

  3. w and David R,

    Yeah, I don’t know why I’m so sensitive to that. I think the point is that I write proper, publishable work (or try to all day) and I’ve somehow lost track of the fact that the blog is for something else. I’d rather do this. Thank you, both of you…

    special to w,

    I know or especially knew just how you feel. Living in a place that you love when you know that it’s about 96 percent probable that you’ll leave upon graduation does darken things a bit.


    May 8, 2009 at 7:10 am

  4. Everything you do here is good. I’ve tried to balance the personal with the other stuff, but then the other stuff is personal… I don’t have other things I’m writing, so I suppose that’s a big difference, but it’s not clear to me why your anti-personal-post whiners care so much.


    May 8, 2009 at 1:32 pm

  5. There you go. Think I’ll get a slice at Fiscati’s right now for lunch.


    May 8, 2009 at 5:17 pm

  6. Richard,

    Thanks! When the argument comes politely, it comes in the form “but your other stuff is so much better!” Which may well be true, but then again, I’m not sure that that’s what this blog is for… I’m not going to worry about “better” anymore.


    Oh seriously? You have no idea how much that hurts. If you want to have an interesting exchange with the staff there, sit at a table where someone’s just eaten pasta, and thus where there’s some parmasian on the table. Sprinkle the parmasian on your pizza. Then, um, duck….


    May 8, 2009 at 10:01 pm

  7. “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.”

    No, it isn’t the right answer on many levels. Swiss Cottage?! For quality cholla/beigels etc try Golders Green, Hampstead, Clapton, Tottenham, Stanmore… Camden and Mile End too. Check out the cemetery on Queen Mary campus if you’re ever there for professional reasons. I could go on. There is a *sizeable* Jewish population in London…

    You can charge London with a lot of things – being insufficiently cosmopolitan is not one of them. How about the overlapping Turkish-Greek-Cypriot communities that take in Finsbury Park, Stroud Green, Green Lanes, Dalston?

    There are numerous smaller communities too. Let me know if you ever want to go out for Ethiopian, Portuguese, Korean BBQ or Lebanese and I’ll name you the stations to head for. (Tufnell Park, Oval, New Malden, Edgeware Rd, respectively)


    May 9, 2009 at 8:32 am

  8. I quite like the new format.

    I imagine that’s easy for me to say since I’m currently planning a (temporary?) move from Brownstone Brooklyn to London.

    If you haven’t seen the film Two Lovers, one of the ways in which it’s awesome is the way it captures a certain Brooklyn just about perfectly.

    I also feel like offer my own ‘come-to-Brooklyn’ story, but perhaps another day.

    ZST – good Portuguese food in London? Please do pass along suggestions. I’m sure it won’t beat my grandmother’s home-cooked, but if it gets halfway there I’d go out of my way for it. Not that I have any idea yet whether Oval is out of my way.


    May 9, 2009 at 5:36 pm

  9. “feel like I should offer”
    though I imagine you caught that


    May 9, 2009 at 5:37 pm

  10. ZST –

    Despite the fact I’ve not been here long, I’ve lived in or one stop away from about half of the 15 places you’ve mentioned. I like your northlondoncentricity! It is cosmopolitan, god is it ever. I’ll even admit it gives NYC a run for it’s money. (Though what I wouldn’t give, in terms of food, for a healthy latin american distribution, christ….) The jewish thing is getting at something else entirely. It is a bit odd, the Swiss Cottage thing. I hope they didn’t mean the Americans (Swiss Cottage, especially the lovely recreation centre, is something of an expat mecca, as it were).

    But I ate at a Turkish-Greek-Cypriot place today, somewhere quite near Green Lanes, FP, and especially Stroud Green. It’s 2 blocks away from me!


    I’ll have to see Two Lovers…. Obviously I’m sorta in the mood for something like that.


    May 9, 2009 at 10:33 pm

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