Snapshots of Brooklyn: Month Three



Woaaah so this is a week or two late if the goal is to check in every month, and really reflects how loco things have gotten. Everyone knows how big and busy NYC is but guys, it’s really big and busy! Traveling about an hour to get anywhere every time I left my house seemed sort of cute at the very beginning and it’s really, really, not so much right now.

I envisioned days off (ha!) would involve trips to Queens to eat interesting food, taking the ferry, seeing art exhibitions, getting to know Manhattan, going to the movies during the day, wandering around aimlessly for hours and finding new favourite corners of the city. No, that has not happened. I have mainly glimpsed the city through the corner of my eye, through sweaty disheveled hair as I rush through the city trying to find the right subway entrance, often while lugging a heavy bag of mezcal. Because of the nature of my jobs I rarely have a full day off, and when I do have windows of time I am generally buying the groceries, doing the laundry, cleaning the house, trying to keep in touch with friends and family overseas, and keeping up with errands. I said this to a friend lately and he said, “but isn’t that just being an adult?”, and he does have a good point. How do people do this AND have a child or dog?? Or even just lots of plants? I have like four and they are always living on the edge of death.

Anyhow, it’s been good. I am deeply committed to my new neighbourhood, Prospect Heights. A little too committed perhaps – I honestly do not want to live anywhere else in New York ever. My favourite time in New York has been spent in my neighbourhood – running in Prospect Park, in the wonderful library, drinking in my local spots, going for pancakes at Tom’s Diner. I had my first wave of love for New York the other week in my own apartment building. I went to check out the rooftop for the first time, and there was a sweeping view of Brooklyn, and there was a spectacular purply-pink sunset, and there was no one on the huge sprawling empty roof except two silent people sat next to each other on chairs listening to a radio. Something about a view from up high really goes for the emotional jugular. Thinking back on my first backpacking in Europe trip in Europe when I was 20, it may as well have been the ‘take me to the highest point in the city’ trip. Gets me every time. Got me this time. I felt the love.

Stuff has happened. There was the West Indian Day parade on Labor Day Weekend which I had no idea about, and it happened right outside my window. The Parade and event, much like Notting Hill Carnival in London, is a celebration of Caribbean culture – food, dance, music and outlandish outfits.

I asked my friend who is local to Crown Heights about the parade and he tells me this:

“You want the shit or the sugar?

It’s a celebration of West Indian cultures, with dancing and music and food.

It’s also the most dangerous weekend of the year in Brooklyn.”

All I know is for 3 days straight there was a party going on in the streets and I loved it.

On the day of the Parade I happened to have just finished a run in Prospect Park when the Parade passed through Grand Army Plaza. I stood there for 5 minutes, and observed. Again, my main frame of reference is Notting Hill Carnival – women in unbelievably colorful and tiny peacock-like outfits, music blaring, people dancing everywhere, people selling jerk chicken from their front yards, people swigging out of suspicious looking bottles. I did observe something else though which struck me as weird.

The only white people I saw were:

a) cops

b) going for a run (just like me)

c) solo dudes ‘documenting’ the event with big fuck-off cameras around their necks

I’m pretty sure that speaks for itself, and I don’t love what it says. I am too new to Brooklyn to comment on what has gone on, and is going on, here but I have picked up on it everywhere. There are white spaces, there are black spaces, that is palpable. Some spaces don’t feel color specific. But this is new to me. Obviously, England and Mexico and (especially) Australia are plenty racist – race is an issue in those countries, clearly. But this is different, and I’m learning. I’m trying to read as much as I can and speak to people as much as possible and keep an open mind, but I want to make sure I am educated. More on that soon.

I’ve also met a bunch of new people. Maybe too many new people in too short a time. You know when you move somewhere, and in the first months you think the people you are hanging out with and the stuff you are doing is how it’s going to be forever? And it never is? I know that this is just the ‘figuring out New York’ phase, that even though change is constant there won’t always be THIS much change constantly. Or this much drinking. It’s exhilarating, and exhausting. It’s been difficult to figure out how best to summarise my life, to hone my elevator pitch about myself, to decide how much to edit and censor when so much has gone on. When so much is still happening. I am getting better though, that much I know. Seeing old friends here in this environment has been grounding, and also a measuring of how far I’ve come for better or for worse. How much has changed.

Finally. The best thing about living alone (beside the walking around in underwear thing, obvs) is being able to keep kimchi in the fridge. Believe me when I say that I always do now.

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