The Old Neighborhood


Photo Ric Camacho.

Williamsburg changes, that is the constant. One group moves on top of the next, expands. The L train is a sardine can. They built highrise condos near the waterside, a perfect view of Manhattan. Then they built another highrise to block that highrise, pressing right up on the water. Get yours. Get better. Be part of a happening. Entering its second decade.

I love this city & I despise it. New restaurants come with new traffic lights & ugly condos. New bars come with double-wide strollers & screaming children.  Up up & away. The bread shop sits green & lonely on N 8th, where you can still get a loaf of rye for under $3. The morning smells are delicious. A new Dunkin’ Donuts on N7th is threatening El Beit & Verb, which themselves stole business from the bodegas, back in the day. Upward the course of the empire takes its way.

I like grabbing a coffee & walking down to the water, now occupied by the Edge. When I lived above N6th, the music venue, back in 2006, that’s where the junkies went to shoot up. It was tagged, full of rubble, the night lights popping across the East River, cold & blue. Wonderful in this forgotten way. Immensely muggable, we were. Not a better time (although it was the best year of my life–I met my wife, quit writing for a year, & found daily happiness), not a better place, overall. Just less crowded. But in certain particulars, certainly a better time, & a better place. It depends what you are after. My wife thinks I just like to “chase the grit.” It’s true, what I enjoyed about Williamsburg then was its dirt, its lonesomeness, walking down a deserted street without lights at 2 AM, with nobody around, trash strewn everywhere, the cold wind & your eyes watering & your mind calm as a dead lotus, or racing with ideas, the possibility of life before you, the long dark block with the streetlight at the end. & of course the houseparties in lofts the size of a quarter city block. The promiscuity. The Monday night burlesque. The small clubs with live bands & hard dancing, with PBR for a buck. The lamb burgers after midnight, with tater tots. The art–everywhere. On the street corners, a new Os Gemeos! The zombie & santa parades in McCarren Park. & now we have the Brooklyn Bowl, which I love. Oh my god the San Gennaro pizza. & VICE headquarters, Hyperallergic–these I love. & of course, Brooklyn Arts Press, smack dab in the thick of it. Born from the tradition of DIY, which was VERY real here. People just did things. Shoot a movie. Outdoor gallery. Make your own flea market. Do-It-Yourself, of course, lived beside Do-It-Yet? Meaning, lots of talkers, not necessarily lots of doers. Lots of bad art. Just really really terribly bad art. Lots of cocks & vaginas being penetrated by dollar bills & animals. But the fervor of experimentation was clear–Jack the Pelican, Secret Robot, the crazy tall street preacher at the crossroads who didn’t necessarily want to save your soul, just wanted you to know it was in dire peril. Wanted you to know it.

& they were, our souls, in dire peril. & it was wonderful.