A Burnt Out Case

I walked through "Boerum Hill" yesterday with a friend of mine who just moved to Park Slope from Manhattan. We joked about people who ask if The City is easily accessible from our Brooklyn digs. "Yeah, I guess." Or, "I sure hope not." Snarky and sarcastic. Fuck Manhattan, me Brooklyn. Bridge And Tunnel People And Proud Of It.

We stopped off at a few of the myriad antique stores that clutter Atlantic Avenue looking for furniture for my dude's still-bare apartment. All the stores seemed to have the same coporate distributor - all littered with the same weird crap store-to-store carrying the same $495 price tags. "Antique Crap Inc. - Supplying Brooklyn yuppies with a lot of whack shit."

The whole scene was only a step or two removed, repolished, and de-crackheadified from what the same block in Gowanus must have been twenty years ago when all those posh antique stores were pawn shops, probably stocking the same stuff as today with the decimal moved over a couple places: $4.95 - A lamp from a one-night stand picked off early the next morning and flipped for a fiver to score a rock. Brooklynites "on a mission."

We're the Axis force in the midst of its scissor grip on Paris in the spring of '40. We swing down the elite SS forces from Williamsburg - all answers and no questions, they may look, and be, malnourished, but they're ruthless; we pivot on the axis of disturbing DUMBO, and Tai-Chi-in-the-park-friendly Downtown Brooklyn; extend a reluctant arm south through Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, tip-toe into Red Hook. We've taken Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, Gowanus, Park Slope... To the east is the Soviet front, a still insurmountable urban frontier armed for a war of attrition with apt and ominous titles like "East New York" (some sort of Bizarro Manhattan no doubt?) and "Brownsville." "What age is a black boy when he learns he's scary?" Asked Jonathan Lethem brilliantly, ruthlessly.

The girls in Manhattan are stuck up and cynical. With good cause? The targets of a hundred billion dollars of advertising focused on getting off their pants spearheaded by the fine chauvinists at Axe. Perhaps. Nevertheless; to greener pastures. In Brooklyn there is still room for freedom, a new patch to cultivate into something cool until the resources come to a boil, the money changes hands too freely, somewhere there's a reason to cash in: Scorched earth policy.

In Manhattan, there's no more space. 125th Street will be Disney-fied, too. The Dominican neighborhoods on 155th Street sure seem far, but haven't you heard? The South Bronx is the new Williamsburg. We've already forgotten the ghosts of 24-hour pornos, Kung-Fu movies, vibrant drug trade, and murder charges that littered Times Square just fifteen years ago, haven't we? I mean, Ghostface Killa, The GZA, Method Man, ODB... those guys weren't hanging out on 42nd street in the 80's to go to TGI Friday's.

I wear Brooklyn with pride. I love to say the word. Ask me where I live. Brooklyn. All pop on the front end and a garbled, Germanic crush of the middle consonants "kl" comes out something lethargic and phlegmy. Brukhcln. No time for prissy, syllabic annunciation like, "Man-hat-tan."

The Bronx is a vague idea. An itch that doesn't need scratching. Queens, you mean, like, where Frank and Estelle Costanza live? Staten Island may as well be Atlantis.

This is between us and Manhattan. "Strike me down with all of your hatred, and your journey towards the dark side will be complete."

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