There was the usual crowd gathering around their territorial bodegas. Normally nothing in hand actually purchased from said bodega. Just grown men who knew this place like the back of their hands hanging out. Same spot, same time, just loitering. But no one would consider it loitering, it was just what people did. And everyone that would pass was a known friend since birth. People born in Brooklyn, at least around our streets, didn't seem to leave Brooklyn.
We didn't live in the trendy section of Park Slope, we were in South Slope. It was mostly occupied by Puerto Ricans. If you don't believe me, visit those streets instead of the Puerto Rican Day Parade next year. And then all the transplants like us started creeping in and filling in the gaps. We were taking over, so they said. Us young, overpaid white kids were taking over the neighborhood and making rent go up. The Jewish landlords were buying up all and every building they could - blocks at a time in certain areas. They were fixing them up cheaply and doubling the rent. I guess this type of thing has a word- they call it gentrification. I just wanted a two bedroom with a short commute to the city. I didn't know so much more was going on when we moved in.
Anyway- so getting used to Brooklyn was an adventure. I don't remember hating it, although we did have some choice words to mumble when the truckers rumbled over potholes at 2am outside of our window. That pretty much sounds like a truck is driving through your brick wall. And when the trumpet music blared from the neighbors as if 15 mariachi bands on brass were marching in a living room parade. It literally caused the walls to vibrate. And when the ice cream truck parked on our corner weeknights at 11pm. Funny the lingering crowd at 11pm buying 'ice cream'. Bars on the windows of every first floor became common, even for the fancy brownstones by the park. After the first week, I never thought about crime rates or break ins or any sort of theft. Even after our snowboard rack was stolen, we never felt in danger the way you would think bars on windows would make you feel.
When people would visit from out of town, we would see our home with new eyes all over again. We would reassure them it was a safe place. Walking home from the subway at night there was never a moment I felt threatened or concerned. Although there were a lot of people coming and going all over the place every time of every day, I felt it was a rather harmonious community. Probably not the prettiest or cleanest buildings or streets you ever did see, but it was a true bit of history and culture and life we got to live in the middle of. And it was like nothing we will ever experience anywhere else we live.
And then our first Brooklyn summer was most spectacular. It was like the movies, we would be walking home from the subway after work and fire hydrants would be cracked open for kids to run through! Streets would be blocked off for block parties and that always meant urban sprinklers. People came out of the woodwork- every stoop was filled with people sitting and chatting, laughing, relaxing, enjoying each other's company. We had no idea how many people lived around us until the summer! The transition into summer on the streets of Brooklyn would be a fabulous photography project. We didn't have a stoop in the first place, we had trash cans outside of our building door instead- no steps. But we would visit friends who had stoops so we got to participate in this age-old tradition of people watching. We didn't know if we would live in Brooklyn forever or just how long we would stay, but if we bought a place there one day we knew it would have to have a stoop. Or find another way to linger out front comfortably.
photo from flickr
Then we learned about all these free concerts in Prospect Park. Blue Man Group. New York Philharmonic. They Might Be Giants. In addition to movies under the stars. Drum circles. Soccer. Picnics. All of a sudden we felt our quality of life triple just with the activity and adventure associated with this awesome park in the summer. I can't even begin to discuss our favorite places to eat, it would take too many words. It was a wonderful pit stop for our little family of two for a bit. We miss a lot about that place. Especially in the summers.
When I started that job in Jersey City, NJ and my new boss heard that I was commuting from Brooklyn she got a sour look on her face. She asked me what it was like, as if it was the slums. And then she proceeded to tell me how she lived in this pretty little quaint and quiet town in New Jersey where the homes look like doll houses. Then she told me about her strange neighbors from Brooklyn and how they bring folding chairs out into the front of the garage and just sit there for hours. All the other neighbors think it's so odd. She laughed to herself as she explained their ritual and wondered out loud what could they be looking at and why they don't just go into their back yard?
I smirked inside and knew the secret ways of Brooklyn that she would never understand. I thought about her neighbors when she invited us to dinner in her doll house. I longed to find them and imagined my conversations with them to be entirely more interesting than the one I was forced into about drapes and the paint colors on her boring walls. On the drive home Mike remembered what I told him about her Brooklyn neighbors and we were both sad to not see them outside. And we both chuckled at how one day we will be back in the suburbs we will be just as odd with our chairs in the front. We were silent for a bit after that while we drove thinking of our distant future, smiling.
I smirked inside this afternoon when Mike got out the folding chairs and placed them outside of our garage. We are finally living in that distant future and I love it.
I am so happy we have taken a little piece of Brooklyn with us into our suburban, Arizona life.