Thursday, March 21, 2013


In the late-20th century, people from Brooklyn were arrogant about being people from Brooklyn. We had a strange pride in being from a place that stood in Manhattan's shadow. And that pride could be sliced down into the most minute scales: to neighborhood, to parish or school or synagogue, to block, to building and street. We took pride of place to absurd levels and defended our love of home with religious passions.

I find it odd to read about Brooklyn as a meta-concept, a brand, because its always been that. Brooklyn has always been cool and hip, precisely because it was a place that was not cool or hip - not the Village, not Manhattan, not LA, not anywhere but Brooklyn. Growing up, we oozed Brooklyn in the way we spoke and walked in our neighborhoods, even the way we said Brooklyn, which inevitably came out with an air of, "and what of it." Even the nerdiest, least athletic, non-intimidating kid breathed a hint - just a hint - of urban realism when he said the word. No matter how much people who leave Brooklyn try to they can't hide it - even when they adopt a generic Midwestern way to say "water" or "coffee;" even when an Ivy League degree has beaten out the street or the island or the mosque from their voice. Try as they might, the new Brooklyn, the Brooklyn as international brand of urban cool, does not capture this essence. In fact, nothing really can except for the sights and sounds and demeanor of the place and the people as they are, in real time, not celluloid.

When I watch Girls, and yes, I do, which may signal a loss of credibility with which I am fine, I don't see Brooklyn. It is certainly a New York that has always existed, the New York of newcomer and dreamer. The New York of the searcher and the entrepreneurial. The New York and the New Yorker as fad. But this Brooklyn as fad will fade, as all fads do. The transplants will leave, and so will their hip culture. A new middle class will stay behind - see contemporary Park Slope - and new outcrops of Brooklyn hubris will emerge from the homes and streets of recent transplants, immigrants, the new working classes, from people who do not have the luxury of time or money to obsess over fashioning their Brooklyn chic brand.

It will just come out of their mouth when they say the name of the place to the inevitable question, "Where you from?"      

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