It's called Brooklyn, and I live here. I like the way my mouth feels when I say the word, when people ask me where I live. I like telling them, "Brooklyn." I live in this borough, the one across the river from the sybaritic City, that pulsing sparkling gem on the Eastern Seaboard.
In my neighborhood the air always smells saccharine, like burning sugar or baking cookies, because there is a cupcake factory around some corner.
My neighborhood is an industrial wasteland, full of warehouses and abandoned factories in flat gray and brick buildings. More cement exists here than I ever thought possible, and just down the street at D&G Mixers Inc., they are constantly making more.
My neighborhood is lorded over by Hasidic Jews, populated by Puerto Ricans, driven around by Mexicans in big sleek cars and provided essentials (cigarettes, toilet paper, Poland Spring) by dark men from the Middle East whose language recalls hot sun and dry desert. To get from place to place I walk, or ride my ruby red bicycle, or take a train that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't.
My neighborhood is covered in graffiti, monumental works of art everywhere, new ones popping up every day. It doesn't really get covered up here like it does in other places, some ruffled business owner hurriedly slapping a coat of paint over it so that no one sees the vandalism. The graffiti stays around for all to see, as a reminder that the people, not some faceless Authority Figure, still rule this neighborhood.
I wake up and walk upstairs to the cafe in my building every morning. I say hi to everyone I see, because a lot of us have been here for a couple years now and we all understand the trials and tribulations and fear, the joy and lazy afternoons on the block, the summers when everyone is outside all the time, the stigma that was always attached living here. We all understand this and no one else does, or could. We are all watching the transformation take place together. We don't want our bubble to be popped just yet, but we can feel that everything is poised to change. This feeling creates a kind of kinetic energy, a quiet buzz over everything that fascinates and terrifies us and never really goes away.
It's called Brooklyn. We used to live on the edge of the universe, but the center is getting closer every day.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
I saw a girl on the train today. She was sitting across from me and a little to the left, and she was chewing on her fingernail. She was beautiful, but not effortlessly so. Not in that typical New York starving thin glowing skin "I just grabbed this $300 t-shirt off my floor and threw it on" kind of way. She had curves hidden beneath her navy blue sundress, a soft and subtle voluptuous quality that spoke of health and happiness. Her hair was long and chestnut brown and pushed to one side. She looked as though she was preoccupied with something lovely, because her dark eyes danced and I could tell her mouth wanted to smile. She carried a straw bag with a bouquet of small red flowers sticking out, and I imagined she was taking them back to place just so in a green glass vase on her kitchen table. She was not a one night stand girl, a girl you take out on a date and never call again. She was the kind of girl you fall in love with, madly, deeply, scorchingly in love, the kind you think about from the second you wake up until the moment you fall asleep, the kind you dream about in between.