I was walking down the street earlier today when a rogue soccer ball went flying past me. It belonged to a group of Caribbean guys in front of me on the sidewalk. Being a little spacey still from too much computer time, I pick it up and toss it over instead of kicking it like most anyone who’s ever been around a soccer ball would do. They good-naturedly invite me to play which I decline, explaining I’m more of a baseball guy.
They look a little puzzled for a moment and then one of them says, “Yeah, you’re American. You don’t know how to play, right?” And then it was kind of an odd moment when I thought for a second that I should know how to play soccer because I live in Crown Heights, and then I remembered that Crown Heights is actually in New York City. I forget this sometimes, which is kind of cool.
Yup, this is my neighborhood. Apparently “Mitzvah Tanks” are common (at least according to whomever wrote the Wikipedia entry), but this is the first one I’ve ever seen. Seeing this R.V. drive down an extremely Caribbean stretch of Nostrand Ave gave me my fill of culture shock for the day. Brooklyn rules!
In case it’s not clear, the poster toward the front of the RV is of the Lubavitch messiah, who’s headquarters is about half a mile from me. You have most likely seen his flyers on the subway at some point. This brings me to another point: This messiah guy has been DEAD for over fourteen years. What! I just found this out, and honestly, felt a little cheated. But maybe that’s HOW he became messiah? I don’t really know how this stuff works, I gotta do some research. I will fill you in!
During the last snow storm I looked out my kitchen window to see this:
Totally weird footprints. At first I thought it was just the stray cat that hangs out in that area, but as I looked closer:
Definitely NOT animal footprints. The ones closest to the access ladder look to have clear heel/toe indentations. But what’s up with the weird duckstep? Was this person leaping from spot to spot? All the way down the ladder? Or maybe doing the marriage walk, bringing one foot up to meet the other? I DON’T GET IT.
We have some neighbors right below us with a pair of boys. Could the older brother made the younger march to his death! Probably not since I saw him yesterday. Completely driving me crazy.
For years now, I have followed Jon’s food misadventures in Japan with utter disbelief. Cananyofthis really be appealing to anyone? Today’s is probably my favorite/most disturbing yet. Of course, the beauty of New York is that almost every neighborhood has its own culture and unusual delicacies, you just have to know where to look.
Here’s a taste of what Crown Heights has to offer:
For the past year Norris has been stationed outside of my apartment, in front of Imhotep’s restaurant, with a table full of coconuts, seasoned pineapple, hot sauce, and various other goodies. He’d be there in all weather – always in some type of camoflauge, always very friendly. I had often wondered what the relationship was between him and the store – there are several TOE (table outside of establishment) in the area – and I more or less got my answer when Norris disappeared from in front of Imhotep’s and reappeared shortly after across the street in front of a competing healthfood store.
Since “The Move” I’ve broached the subject with both Norris and Tonde (landlord/shop owner) and neither were very forthcoming. To quote Norris: “I was over there, now I’m over here.” Well played, sir. Well played.
I was biking down Nostrand today when I was passed by an extra wide pickup truck (are they called muslce trucks?) and an SUV racing down toward Eastern Parkway. A little frightening since the SUV passed by in a flash about 5-6 inches away. From my vantage point it looked like the pickup truck won, for what it’s worth.
Maybe just coincidence and not some kind of mind-meld, but two days before I decided to start chronicling my experience as a gentrifier-slightly-uneasy-about-gentrifying, another Crown Heights blog appears covering similar ground. Keep your eye on Hipster Safari.
Sometimes I wonder if we were not talking about hipsters, how well these comments would fly.
I feel it’s deceptively hard to come up with a good definition for “hipster,” but somewhere in that definition gentrification would have to be mentioned. And in an attempt to understand what myself and others are doing to ethnic neighborhoods by moving into them, I’m trying to keep a record at the moment I feel it’s about to blow up.
I guess this is part of the problem with having an unclear relationship to hipsterdom. While I aver to be separate from and even dislike “hipsters,” I’m pretty sure I’d be classified as one. So really my posturing amounts to trying to belong to an area where I’m an outsider more than other outsiders with whom I share similar backgrounds, tastes, and means simply by virtue of being there slightly longer.
But as a for-all-practical-purposes-hipster, I’m allowed to be snide about them, right? Right?
When Jason and I moved into Crown Heights a year ago, it was always surprising to see another white person in the neighborhood. There’s a strong Jewish (Hassidic? I’m kind of embarrassed not to know) presence in Crown Heights, but not in our neighborhood (we’re north of Eastern Parkway – they tend to be south of it), so it’s rare to see even them. Now we’re seeing tight-pantsed, scruffy white kids all the time: on Nostrand, on the subway, in the markets. Just today Jason saw not one, but two separate bearded hipsters in the Keyfood rocking out on their iPods.
Crown Heights really is a hidden treat in Brooklyn—old beautiful buildings, cheap rent, an abundance of subway lines, and a surprising amount of culture shock—so it’s not surprising that it’s happening, and really, it’d be kind of dumb to pretend that we’re not a part of it. (Our pants are of a normal fit, is the big difference.) I’ve been wondering a lot the past year when and if a sea change would happen, and I’m not really sure that this is anything more than a blip. We’re still a pretty marginal group, and both Nostrand and Utica are so lively and thoroughly Caribbean, I don’t really see how that could change. But maybe I’m just telling myself that?