O Brooklyn! My Brooklyn! (with apologies to Walt Witman)

When I moved back to New York after 18 months of Phoenix, Arizona, I lived in downtown Brooklyn for a few years. I shared a brownstone in Boerum Hill and then had my own apartment in a brownstone in Fort Greene. I’m glad for the opportunity and feel privileged for having lived a portion of my formative years in Brooklyn. The man I am today was drawn from my experiences on those pretty, sometimes dangerous, streets.

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The Brooklyn Bridge. The most beautiful stone bridge you’ll ever lay your eyes on. It has distinctive cathedral window cutouts in the stanchions.

I got mugged three times while living in Brooklyn. Again, this was many years ago when things weren’t as safe as they are now. Have you ever been mugged? It stays with your for a long, long time and the revenge fantasies to keep you up at night.

Once, I was having my haircut in Brooklyn Heights and two guys came into the salon and robbed everybody. Another time, I was walking down South Portland in Fort Greene and two kids from the projects on the other side of the park came up from behind me and mugged me. I never saw a gun but they said they had one. I took their word for it. I was wearing my grandfather’s wedding ring and they took it. It was just a cheap gold band from Italy but, of course, it had great sentimental value. The third time, two guys came up and punched me in the face. It was racially motivated. This was pre-pre-gentrification. I was the only white guy in my building and one of the few Caucasians on the block. They made a comment about the pigment of my skin, hit me, and walked away. They didn’t take anything.

The vast majority of my experiences were good ones and despite these incidents, I have a warm spot in my heart for Brooklyn. Sometimes, I miss it.

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I paid a rare visit to Brooklyn Heights and had dinner with Señor C., someone whom I’ve known for a few decades.

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The brick sidewalk leading to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade; an elevated walkway over the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway with expansive, gorgeous views of Manhattan.

We walked from Brooklyn City Hall, down Henry Street and had dinner at Henry’s End. I had a big bowl of Andouille. Chicken, Andouille sausage in a Creole mustard sauce with bell peppers. Scrumptious. Jesus Christ, I wish I had a bowl right now.

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On the promenade looking at the southernmost tip of Manhattan near sunset.

Once, while riding my 10-speed bike through the streets I took a corner fast and almost rammed right into Norman Mailer. Later that same summer, I almost hit Quentin Crisp in the East Village! I am a menace to the literary community.

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The Statue of Liberty with the Staten Island Ferry passing right in front of her. The spit of land on the left is Governor’s Island, where I lived for three years while in the Coast Guard.

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This is one of the many carriage houses that dot the neighborhood. It is exactly what the name implies. Where once carriages were stored, people now live. As you can imagine, they are meticulously refurbished inside.

The photo below is Señor C. taking pics of Manhattan. Here’s why this city is such a wonder: Señor C. has lived in Brooklyn pretty much his entire life. I don’t want to betray his age, but let’s just say he a hell of a lot closer to retirement than he is the start of his career. And even though all those decades have peeled away, he still finds New York a fit subject to photograph. That’s how we all feel out here. This place never gets old.

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18 thoughts on “O Brooklyn! My Brooklyn! (with apologies to Walt Witman)

  1. Marie: Since you’re so close by it would be a shame for you to not give it a try. The menu is posted online. I like it.Daisy: Those guys are all dead and gone. Gentrification is the complaint du jour.MIT: Keep looking. They’re around here somewhere.Jo: How do you sniff out stuff like that? I wouldn’t know where to look and I live here!Map: It happens. You deal with it and move on or get out of town.

  2. Crisp and Mailer! Some folk have all the fun! It’s big-hearted of you to forgive your home town for those horrid experiences. I’m not sure I could.I think your carriage houses are the same as our ‘mews’.

  3. One of the best days of my life was spent in Brooklyn…. those wonderful gardens with the bonsai collection…. oh to be young and in love and in Brooklyn again

  4. Zen: I was in my early 20s. When you’re that age, you forgive and forget. You think you’re going to live forever. Pat: Actually, New York is my adopted home. I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. Left it behind at 19 years old and never really looked back. It’s been New York ever since.Nurse: Do you know what’s the best? The Brooklyn Botanical Gardens during the spring cherry blossom festival. The Brooklyn Museum is right next door.ES: This city WAS very Serpico when I got here! Very scary. And, yes, I spent six years in the Coast Guard. A great experience. kykn: I knew what I was getting myself into when I moved there. I’m surprised it was only three times.

  5. That description of food has made me want to come to New York and try it, damn that sounded good, i can honestly say that NYC is a nice place to visit but i wouldn’t want to live there, not my cup of tea but i understand the draw and have had many friends up and move, i was born in the rust belt and barring any last minute moves to the Gulf Coast or Carribean, i’ll most likely die in the rust belt, i’ll read your stuff instead to enjoy NYC, check out The Drums, great band from Brooklyn, reminds me of 1986, in a good way.

  6. and i did once have a polite young man wave his 9mm in my face cuz i was a white guy with dreadlocks circa 96 or 97, gotta love livin in the city.

  7. I’ve never been robbed. Thankfully. Our house has been broken into and my mom’s car window smashed WHILE she was driving. Right now I’m afraid that one day I’ll get hijacked.

  8. Aw, I missed your Brooklyn Heights post!!! Brooklyn was very different then, but it’s getting there again in some ways and places. Fort Greene was a shithole not ten years ago…it’s still got a lot of complex racial tension that isn’t widely publicized or known about…It’s so much fun to hear someone else talk about my nabe–neat, really–I sit on the promenade for a few minutes after dropping Hedgehog off at school (she goes to school only a couple of blocks down from one of the entrances), and think my thoughts…it’s so lovely.

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