Sunday, October 5, 2008

What it Means to be From Brooklyn

I wanted to start this post saying that I do consider myself an authentic Brooklynite. I've lived in Brooklyn all my life (if only part-time because of my parent's divorce), in Carroll Gardens and Greenpoint and all the places in between. I went to Coney Island during the summers of my youth and hung out down in DUMBO before it changed faces. I think I can, if only now that I'm living on my own in Brooklyn, say that I am a true resident of this wonderful borough.

That being said, here's a little story and a few questions one can ask about this subject...

Saturday night, I ventured out to Williamsburg and to Union Pool for a friend's birthday. (M's birthday, to be exact, who is doing much better after her mugging, and hanging with the hipsters once more). If you haven't been to this bar/venue/hang before, I'd highly suggest going. I always find that the group of people hanging in the back courtyard area are interesting, eclectic and all out East-Williamsburg youth, though sometimes, you'd be surprised who's lurking in the corners...

Standing in the vicinity of my friend's birthday party group, my roommate and I were conversing about something that now alludes me (music, art, or ridiculous things our friends do could be a good bet), when two very NON-hipster/Williamsburg boys approached us with great fever and excitement. With drunken smiles and giggles, to boot. One had a shirt on that said "Pour, Favor", with a picture of a beer mug spilling over, and the other, a track jacket with some design shirt on underneath. Both spoke in thick Brooklyn accents, said they were from somewhere far out in Brooklyn, and confessed to never having been to Williamsburg before. And were wondering why there were so many gay guys in this neighborhood (in tight jeans). And who loved all of the artsy girls (aka: no bombshell blonds in heels). And who both suddenly held up their PBRs and said "this beer are awesome! We've never had it before", to which the only response was to crack up and simply ask the dumb question of "Who are you guys?"

Meet Jack and Johnny, one who sells women's shoes (excuse me, is a SHOE DISTRIBUTOR) and the other one who is in real-estate under his daddy's company. Both in their 20s. Both not college grads. And both dancing fiends (they so wanted to ditch Union Pool, I could tell, and go back to the comfort of their meat packing district), who live off of their parents and will continually be looking for a good time. They were entertaining, to say the least, though my roommate and I hung out with them for a bit too long (they turned into embarrassing, drunken fools, and really DID dance in the bar area of Union Pool, which thoroughly destroyed the hipster-buzzed-groove which had previously been going on), but honestly, they were just such a fascinating pair of guys to have stumbled upon that night. It was like a car wreck that you couldn't look away from, with sudden moments of clarity that shocked me. They pointed out everything that has suddenly become normal to me (girls with short hair, guys with half-buzzed hair, suspenders and skinny jeans, country shirts and dark-rimmed glasses, pretentious-indifference that seems to waft down the street of Williamsburg sometimes), and questioned the very foundation of the youth in "L train" Brooklyn that I had quickly and subconsciously come to identify with. To sum it up, they said to us "You girls need to get into a groove!", and in a dumbfounding response (to them) I said "this IS our groove."
It all made me ask myself the question: what exactly does it mean to be a Brooklynite, and are we all just pretending off of the L train? I've come to realize through my short 23 years on this planet that the first part of that question is , above all, an infinitely unanswerable question. Brooklyn is perhaps the most diverse 96 square miles on earth, consisting of every possibly ethnical group, all having their own, closed off neighborhoods, with the (more) occasional gentrification seeping in to bridge some gaps, and widen others between communities. Williamsburg seems to now be the young-hip-trendy-bohemian-artsy area of Brooklyn when everyone comes to play. Where Jack and Johnny come from, to us "L trainers", seemed sheltered and unrealistic, yet who are we to say we aren't exactly the same way? Sheltered from their part of Brooklyn, or other neighborhoods we don't dare go. I guess in the end, I can only define a Brooklynite as someone who is a bit rough around the edges, not afraid to speak their mind, and open to atleast a 10 minute conversation about your ideas and values. Friendly, courteous, but not always gracious. And who have lived here for quite some time.

So, you know, just living in Williamsburg does not make one a Brooklynite. For me, you have to have been here way longer than a year, and have experience a few different neighborhoods/trains before even coming close to labeling yourself as a resident. You've got to want to give a little bit more to this borough than just money on a bar counter, or funding your local American Apparel store. You've got to LOVE it, hands down. So, that's why I can say I'm a Brooklynite.

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