I went to Brooklyn for dinner this evening. I visited my old friend Oswaldo in my old neighborhood, Fort Greene. This will come as a shock everyone who thinks I’m just a lily white pretender from an Ohio suburb, but I actually have some street cred. I moved to Fort Greene in 1989. At that time I was the only white person in my building and, in fact, one of a small handful of Caucasians in the neighborhood. The neighborhood was pretty raw—I was mugged twice—but I chose to live there because I could afford an apartment on my own.
The neighborhood has been gentrified since then. There are glass and steel high rise apartment buildings that look idiotic and out of place amongst the beautiful, well kept, brownstones that were built in the 1800s. There is now a balance of moneyed whites and the original black residents with a smattering of Latinos. We had dinner at The Smoke Joint. I had a half rack of spare ribs and some collard greens. They were really nice.
All throughout dinner Oswaldo lamented the change in the neighborhood. He has been in his apartment —a small studio in a brownstone—for 30 years. He’s seen it all. He said that the new white professionals who have been buying up brownstone for $1M+ and pushing expensive strollers up and down South Portland Avenue are an unfriendly bunch. He said they don’t talk to you and will look at you in a way that makes you feel like you don’t belong in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, I don’t think he’s exaggerating. He said, “And what is it with white people and dogs? Can you explain to me why they all have to have dogs in the city?” I said, “I don’t understand it, either. I’ve never been much of a dog person.” He said, “That’s because you’re not white.” which I took to be a compliment.
There are a few different subway lines that will take you to downtown Brooklyn but I waited for a B train specifically because instead of passing under the East River, it goes over the Manhattan Bridge and affords you some pretty nice views of the harbor. I saw the Statue of Liberty floating around out there. As soon as we came out of the subway tunnel into the open air, a few passengers fired up their cell phones to make quick calls before ducking back underground. It spoiled the atmosphere. Fortunately, cell phone service on the train suddenly and inexplicably went out. I took the same line back but had to change cars because the one I initially boarded smelled like urine.