brooklyn, brooklyn über alles

1/27/04

Okay, a little message to the fine folks at “Sex and the City” – we’re friends with the writers, and they are cool, funny, intelligent women. But could ya LAY OFF BROOKLYN ALREADY?

This week’s episode has Cynthia Nixon considering a move to Brooklyn with her husband, and the show treats the premise as nothing short of spiritual and emotional death. Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie has to bleat out several times how fuckin’ great Manhattan is, with the kind of self-satisfied glee that makes me understand why my brother Kent thinks New York is occasionally full of shit.

Let me tell you something about Manhattan. It is for three kinds of people: actors, alcoholics and age-appropriates. Actors really do need to live in Manhattan because their apartment acts as something of a dressing room between auditions; someone like Laurie Williams (who will be playing Tony’s mother in flashback this year on “The Sopranos”!) wouldn’t be able to get to Brooklyn and back for a 25-minute costume change.

Alcoholics need to live in Manhattan because it’s a lot easier to stumble home to your shithole in the East Village than to stumble across the Brooklyn Bridge. When Lars and I used to drink in Alphabet City, I felt blessed to live 300 yards away from aspirin and my bunk bed.

Age-appropriate means just that: if you’re 22 and single, it is way easier to hook up, drink, attend apartment parties and see bands with kids your age in Manhattan. Sure, that kind of life can be had in Williamsburg and Astoria too, but there is nothing better than the I Just Graduated From UVA and I Live With Six Of My Best Friends On Bleecker Street Guide to Life.

But these “Sex and the City” chicks are pushing 40 (Kim Cattrall is 47) and their characters are at least in their mid-30s. This Manhattan snobbery is puerile, mostly because I used to feel the same. In fact, I think I once told Michelle I wouldn’t even go above 14th Street in Manhattan. But actually living in Brooklyn has cured me of this insane disdain – it has Manhattan beat on so many levels that it’s useless to even begin a list.

I will say this: going outside in Brooklyn doesn’t cost you $40. The apartments are all one foot wider and two feet taller. When I walk down the block, I actually see the same people, and some of them know my name. Each entrée, while being just as stunningly yummy as a Manhattan meal, costs $5 less. On the Q train, I can get to Union Square in 15 minutes (from the Upper West Side, it can take 30). When I was a kid watching Sesame Street, I thought they were describing Manhattan; when I moved to Park Slope, I realized they were talking about here.

Tourists venturing to Manhattan hoping to have the “Sex and the City” experience will be sorely disappointed – in order to achieve it, you need:

a) to have lived there for ten years already

b) a rent-controlled apartment

c) seventeen million dollars.

I’m tired of being told Brooklyn is the place you go to surrender yourself to the boredom of middle age and family. That is utter hooey manufactured by the dream corporations that want you to believe in an ever-conquering Gotham. That Manhattan doesn’t exist anymore; they priced all the interesting people out of the market. Maybe the “Sex” writers think that Brooklyn is a spiritual death, but it was the place where I finally came alive.

And now we’re going to have our own basketball team. With a stadium mere blocks from my apartment. When the Nets play the Knicks, the guy making Manhattan catcalls from Row Y will be ME.

8thAveSnow2(bl).jpg

my block tonight, covered by the storm

0 thoughts on “brooklyn, brooklyn über alles

  1. cathie

    manhattan is the only place to live – and i am 37!
    even though i returned to durham, my six years in new york were the best time of my life, and i would never live anywhere but manhattan. the energy, the being in the center of everything, the shared experience with millions of others, the things only manhattanites understand, like where to stand on the subway platform or how to walk on the sidewalk without getting trampled, the way each neighborhood is a small town unto itself, the need to pile on top of each other because we live on this tiny island.
    chris and i may move back to new york, and he really wants to live in brooklyn, but it will never happen – ‘darling i love you, but give me park avenue!’
    of course, i have never had to pay rent there, and that may be part of the charm….

    Reply
  2. Chris

    I have five points to make in response to Ian’s blog, with which I agree, and the above comment.
    1) Ian, you forgot, and I got this from your lovely and brilliant wife, that Olmstead designed Prospect Park to correct the mistakes and omissions he felt he made in Central Park.
    2) The commenter above prefers Durham to Chapel Hill/Carrboro.
    3) Larry David and Richard Feynmann are from Brooklyn. Not to mention Seth Shelden.
    4) According to the above commenter, the best pizza place in New York is at the end of the Brooklyn Bridge, on the Brooklyn side.
    5) There is no more hallowed uniform in all of sports, not Ruth, not Gretzky, not Jordan, not Jim Brown than Jackie Robinson’s Brooklyn Dodger 42, which has been retired for all of major league baseball.
    Your honor, I rest my case.

    Reply
  3. kent

    I don’t, in general, think New York is full of shit. To coin a phrase, I love New York, though I’d have to say my most interesting New York experiences all happened in Brooklyn.
    Brooklyn is a place where they have cool clubs, from which you can walk outside, pass out face down in the street for five minutes, and not get run over. How cool is that?
    Brooklyn — and to an even greater extent, Astoria, are also places which haven’t been homogenized into looking like the rest of the country. The same crappy places that have been there since before WWII are still there, looking worse for the wear, but authentically themselves. Gentrification is a sort of poison to the authentic experience of an American city.
    Philadelphia, though, now THERE’s a place that has maintained an authentic patina of vintage crapulence. Downtown Philadelphia looks like it was drawn by Ben Katchor

    Reply
  4. Sean

    New York is just neighborhoods, and some of them fit certain personalities better than others. I am happier living where I do now than I have been anywhere since maybe North Carolina, but the neighborhood that covers all the bases, for me, is the upper west side. It’s a little dirty, a little Jewish, a little arty, really old and set in its ways but those ways allow for insanity on just about any level.
    I’ve also discovered that the far upper west side, north of the GWB, is an amazing enclave of weird young college-educated nuts that don’t mind the hour long commute to Soho.
    Astoria is the place for me right now, but I also love the Forest Hills/Kew Gardens area, but that really isn’t even New York anymore but hard-core Queens.
    For some reason, I’ve always hated Brooklyn. That first apartment, Michelle’s one-seater, passing out on my face in the street for five minutes and not getting run over… I’m sure I just haven’t lived there, but I can get to the Upper West Side so much easier from here, and I’ve never been much of a downtown boy.

    Reply
  5. Sean

    In the above comment I wrote a sentence using the word “but” three times.
    I just wanted everyone to know that I’m aware of it, and I’m doing what I can to remedy the problem.

    Reply
  6. The Wife

    Cathie, we will make a convert of you yet (no life-pun intended). You’ll see… we know where to stand on which platform too!

    Reply
  7. Ian

    I’m not trying to convert everyone to Brooklynism or anything – I totally get the “gotta live in Manhattan” thing (although I think the oft-quoted idea of Manhattan’s ineffable “energy” is waaaay overrated). I just think that it was weak and utterly inaccurate to say that your life ends when you move to Brooklyn. “Sex and the City” sold us upriver for a plot point, and it pisses me off.

    Reply
  8. steph

    Thankfully I have missed the last two seasons of Sex and the City but before that it was clear to me that the writers had the characters fall in love with their city so much because they were incapable of finding human love. Unless of course you count the “love” produced by human orgasm, which is safe to say they have that deal sealed. Ha, ha. Then again, I haven’t been watching so maybe the characters have found the real deal. So, Sesame Street is a Brooklyn show??.. can’t help but picture a grumpy, green muppet in your trash can.
    Oh yeah, Ian thought of you today as I informed my fiance what I thought to be the difference between a “Dork” and a “Geek”. He and I are Geeks– there’s a difference if you ask me.

    Reply
  9. Piglet

    Shucks, I moved to Oregon to get away from ALL of New York City, even after growing up in the Silver Age of Broadway. It’s still worth a once-a-year visit when I’m back to see my folks each Christmas, though.
    They should have set Sex & the City in a nice funky smaller city like Portland, anyhow. YMMV.
    Oh, and, Ian? the asg-x listserv died years ago, and there’s maybe five of us who still post on the newsgroup with any regularity. I miss ’em, and you’re about the only one I’ve actually located. My invitation was really a thinly disguised attempt to breathe some life into the morgue. Know any songs about dodgeball?
    I’m glad for your blog. It brightens my day like asg-x used to.
    –Says Piglet!

    Reply
  10. Where have I heard this before?

    The problem I had before moving to Brooklyn is the same problem I had with surfing, listening to Phish or any number of things that people I respected did but I was leery of.
    It seemed folks who started because they enjoyed the primary activity seemed to quickly take on this complex system of opinions and behavior unrelated to the thing itself.
    I swore I’d never become one of those Brooklyn people who constantly rattled off all the reasons why it was better than Manhattan, how the subway ride was only 11.7 minutes to West 4th St, how the neighborhood pizza was better, and how all of the cool people moved to Brooklyn years ago. All lies, of course (unless you live in the High Street A&C stop, above Da Fara’s pizza in Midwood, or love the new Williamsburg, respectively).
    Incidentally, there are so many more reasons to live in Manhattan than the ones you mentioned. For one, I’d like to be able to go home between work and drinks, theater, dinner, basketball on Mulberry St, or lots of things that happen to be taking place in Manhattan on a given night. I’d also love to be able to eat in a restaurant within walking distance of my apartment after 10 pm.
    I love living in Brooklyn and have no plans to move. I like having a car (a big Brooklyn plus that you missed). I really like paying three-digit rent. But I’m not out for any converts or to make sure we get our propers in the media. When all is said and done, who cares in what neighborhood other people choose to live and why? Except for Durham. Damn those people all to hell.
    Anyway, you gotta check out the Hiatus bootlegs from Mapletree College ’97. They’re out in my Woodie, bra.
    Go Nets! (That part I mean)
    -lindsay

    Reply
  11. michelle

    I loved living in Brooklyn. I adored Park Slope. It’s the first place I’ll look when I return, although I imagine I’ll be open to whatever comes along.
    So clearly, I’m glad that Sex and the City is equating Brooklyn to emotional death. I love Brooklyn because the people I lived near were nothing like the characters on that show. Keep ’em out, and far, far away. They can keep Manhattan. I lived in Manhattan for two years without ever stepping foot in Brooklyn or Queens. I wasn’t yet ready for the greatness of Park Slope but I’ve now seen the light. Three cheers for Ozzie’s, for the Co-op, for Al-di-la, for lesbian couples pushing baby strollers, for brownstones and trees. And a fifteen-minute subway ride to Union Square.

    Reply
  12. P. Stanley

    David Sedaris had a lot to say on the subject in Me Talk Pretty One Day, particularly the chapter where he was employed as a mover.

    Reply
  13. zeus54

    Ah-yes a bike ride in prospect is good for your soul.
    If anyone has tried that in central park in the summer you know what kind of zoo it is!!!
    there’s nothing like crossing my bridge {Brooklyn}
    stopping at Juniors for some cheese cake and coffee……I could go on and on and on….

    Reply

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