“I live in Brooklyn. By choice.”
– Truman Capote
When my wife and I moved to Brooklyn, that wasn’t the case. It’s not that we didn’t want to live here, we just knew there weren’t any affordable, desirable options in Manhattan. Brooklyn seemed cool, hip, quirky … and a smidge cheaper. So that’s where we ended up.
I’m so glad we did.
I’ve lived in plenty of locales where residents had pride in their city, yet I’ve never shared in that pride. There was nothing prideful for me about growing up in Dutchess County; sure, it was a perfectly nice place, but too sleepy for a teen to truly appreciate. While I loved my college, James Madison, I hated the town that engulfed it. (Mostly because the residents, a.k.a “townies,” hated the students. And the lone mall’s anchor store was Wal-Mart. Nuff said.) I had so much fun living in Atlanta and met so many great people … but deep down I knew I wouldn’t live there forever, so I never let it feel like home. And Memphis? I’m going to refrain from the all-too-easy Memphis bashing (high crime, corrupt government, strained race relations, yadda yadda yadda …) and just say it wasn’t for me and the missus. (Though I really do miss the ridiculously cheap cost of living. And the barbeque. And, of course, the good friends I made there.)
I knew I had Brooklyn pride when, about a week ago, I found myself flying off the hook defending it to an uninformed friend on Facebook. After a rough, rough night involving … well, I’ll just show you what I posted on Facebook about the evening and let it stand for itself:
“Rob has had the longest, strangest night. The cast: eight cops, one neighbor, the neighbor’s abusive boyfriend, two dogs, two cats and a pregnant houseguest.”
I’d rather not go into details about the evening, but you get the idea.
This prompted one of my “friends” to post the following response:
“That is brooklyn my man …”
Now look, I’m all for free speech and I’ve never, ever been offended by someone telling me they don’t like the city I live in. But this set me off because, quite frankly, it wasn’t true.
For starters, I live in an extremely safe neighborhood. So safe that the book Relocating to New York City and Surrounding Areas (yes, I own this … go ahead, laugh) describes my neighborhood like this:
“Truly an oasis, Cobble Hill has one of the lowest crime rates in the city, and boasts many trees and the attractive Cobble Hill Park.”
This “friend” lives in Manhattan. Unfortunately, many who live in “the city” don’t come to Brooklyn. Ever. It’s as if they think crossing the river will give them chlamydia. One of my Manhattan friends came to visit recently and admitted it was the first time he’d been here in five or six years. Another Manhattan friend of mine acts as though Brooklyn is located next to Pluto, and that coming here requires taking three days off from work. (For the record, when traveling from Manhattan, my nabe is the first Brooklyn subway stop on the green line, the second on the red line, and third on the “F” train. I can get from my door to any desirable place in Manhattan in 30 minutes or less.)
My point is, if you don’t know Brooklyn, then shut your pie hole. I can say whatever I want about Memphis because I’ve lived there and I know the city well. But I have no right talking trash about, say, Oklahoma because I’ve never been. Yes, Brooklyn has its undesirable spots. But it’s such a diverse borough that lumping it all together as one is impossible. And stupid.
So, anyway, I’m sure by now you want to know how I responded to my Facebook friend’s remarks. This is what I had to say to his “that is brooklyn” comment:
“No, not really. Just a crazy situation across the hall. Could happen anywhere. Even (gasp!) Manhattan.”
Short, sweet and true.
(By the way, I never did receive a rebuttal.)
Yes, I have a neighbor across the hall with more drama in her life than a Lifetime Original Movie. But who’s to say the same couldn’t happen to me if I lived on the Upper East Side? (I’m sure Bernie Madoff’s neighbors dealt with some b.s., too.) But one neighbor does not make a nabe.
Cobble Hill is stunningly beautiful. Sidewalks lined with brownstones, trees and awesome bars and restaurants. The people here are a treat, more often than not stopping to pet my dogs and chat. I’ve never felt more like I was part of a community in my life. I’m a short walk from the promenade, with its amazing views of lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge. And the diversity here is something to behold, with Muslims living side-by-side with Jews, blacks hanging out at sports bars with whites and gays receiving support from the straight community.
Yeah, I live in Brooklyn. Most definitely by choice.