Monday, July 16, 2012

Brooklyn Kitsch

I'm not sure that's the right title for this post but I'll leave it for now.

So I have lived in this great town for the better part of a decade which just boggles my mind.  I truly feel that a huge chunk of me came alive the day I became a NYC resident but that's a post for another day.  The point is, i've been here for a decent amount of time and have come to absorb some of whatever makes this city what it is.  It's a complicated concoction of subtleties and feelings and cannot be explained, no matter how hard I try, i've come to learn.  Not everyone here feels it, and not everyone loves it.  But in the days and the experiences and moments where i've learned what it means to live here and love it here, it has soaked into my skin and my guts and become a part of who I am.  

To begin, simply, living here you will see many things.  Many strange things. Many bizarre things that make you go "Oh, Brooklyn" in either a fist-shaking-at-the-skies way or in a happy endearing, "I feel more alive because of that" way.  Or I guess in just a mildly amused in-between way.

A few days ago I was out and about and witnessed two similar events but that would be categorically different, based on my instinctive New Yorkyness that i have developed involuntarily through years of living here.  It was difficult to define but there was definitely a gut reaction. Here were the events:

Both were men on bicycles whizzing past.  The first one was playing a guitar while riding his bike. Like this:

Almost immediately I felt a strange unpleasant discomfort in my gut, like something false was happening.  And I saw him and I thought, nice try, buddy.  I don't buy it.  It's something that could have been viewed as "crazy New York!"  But I quickly defined it as kitschy.  A forced attempt to be all "Brooklyn" that just wasn't.  Like someone had taken something potentially real and perverted it, distorted it. Like someone woke up and thought, I'm going to be that "crazy guy" today. And he got his guitar and jumped on his bike because-whoa! What a wacky combo!  But it wasn't. What was it? Silly and dangerous. Yes you see crazy stuff all the time but that was just reckless foolishness. He was trying too hard, and failed in his attempt. I just shook my head. 

Approximately 8 seconds later, a second man on a bike whizzed past.  This one was carrying two huge canvas stretchers on one shoulder.  Like this:

drawings courtesy of me.

As I watched this guy holding up these monstrous awkward things by the force of sheer will, whilst pedaling down a busy street full of cars, taxis, buses and ambulances,  I nodded my head and said, "there.  Now that is Brooklyn. That is the real deal."   and my soul was calmed.   I don't know if it's because a huge part of living here is the physical aspect. How much physicality and the strength of your own arms play a daily role to one's survival. How "survival" is such an oft-used term around here. Or what. The Brooklyn thing about it, to me, wasn't just that it's hard to live here. More than, it's about figuring things out.  Constant problem-solving. Making it work.  I get a weird thrill when I solve weird problem, like how to get from A to B.  Things that lots of people in other areas with a different lifestyle never really have to think twice about. They can depend on so much, but here,  you have to break down all those little things and manually figure out each one.  Nothing is certain. Nothing is dependable. Where one problem has 3 factors elsewhere, here there are 85. 

For example, it's like we went to the store to buy an air conditioner. We walked and took our cart because that was what we had, but other than that, we couldn't map it all out.  We didn't know how exactly it would all go down.  We also had the Julian so one of us pushed the stroller and the other would push the cart.  After we bought it, and it turned out to be quite large, we somehow figured out how to heft it onto the thing, and we were nervous as to its stability and probability of making it home in one piece. Pausing to contemplate, i had a revelation and gave a cheer of triumph when i remembered i had a bungee cord in the stroller.  WHY?  Who knows. But now i would say because you just never know when you might need a bungee cord. 

So this guy on the bike had a problem he needed to solve.  He needed to get those stretchers from A to B.  He looked at his hands and his bike and said, this is what i have.  So this is all i can do.  And he did it.  And he's a champion, and his honesty juxtaposed with Guitar Man sang a little song of my Brooklyn heart. 


Valerie said...

I love this story. And I love that Brooklyn does this to you. Every day it hands you lemons, or lemonade, and it's like, "ok, make something". And you do. Because you're Brooklyn.

Rob said...


)en said...

... and sometimes i make lemonade mixed with sweat and tears, dirt, and a little bit of urine? (NOT mine) which, really, is true Brooklyn lemonade.

Rob said...

You just wrote a very well written post about the the something that is your town and then in one fell swoop of a comment Brooklyn has lost all it's mystic.

...and bottle water for me next time.

Rob said...


correct punctuation and word:

"...its mystique."

No more quick comments between patients. I'll proof read better in the future, I swear.