LEAVING BROOKLYN

 

In 1967 the novelist Joan Didion wrote an essay entitled “Goodbye To All That” which became the totem of the personal essay, the genre’s “gold standard,” as Molly Fischer described it in a long, nuanced piece in New York Magazine last year, tracing the essay’s wild popularity among millennials. “Goodbye To All That” has hit a collective, mostly female nerve for almost fifty years, so it’s no wonder its title has been so profitably recycled, notably as that of a 2013 collection of essays, edited by Sari Botton, by youngish writers chronicling their own departures: Goodbye to All That: Writers on  Loving and Leaving New York.

Nowadays it seems to be a foregone conclusion that many young people will leave Manhattan once their obligatory post-college apprenticeship here is done. Historically, people leave to raise families in easier circumstances, namely, the suburbs. What’s curious is that this same population now talks and writes of leaving their post-Manhattan mecca, Brooklyn. But before I explore trending departures from Brooklyn, I can’t resist a few more personal thoughts about Didion’s essay.

 I’ve left Manhattan four times in my adult life, twice--in 1986 and 2000-- for my native Los Angeles, hallowed childhood ground for Didion as well, but in my experience, including childhood, a roiling Seat of the Beast. From 1987 to 1994, I lived for seven halcyon years in Europe. In 2004, I began a six-year odyssey into the Bronx, a netherworld New Yorkers of other boroughs now find ripe for gentrification.  All four sojourns in these places were other-worldly, dreamlike to me, charged more with my personal fantasies and projections than with the concrete plans and ambitions I had carried out in Manhattan, sometimes to my own amazement. Didion recounts, with bittersweet irony, her impressive random harvest in Manhattan of jobs, loves, and ambition.

When Manhattan rents spun out of reach for twenty-somethings, Brooklyn, from the ‘90s onward, became an unlikely new Gotham for graduates, especially those with artsy aspirations. Brooklyn abounds in restaurants, bars, and shops long on both charm and products and services expressing alternative lifestyles, as well as its own world-class cultural outposts, such as the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, both of them markedly indie and cutting edge.

But now, with rents in Brooklyn often surpassing those of Manhattan, there is an epidemic of articles and blogs devoted to Leaving Brooklyn.  I even saw a post called “The Brooklyn Bucket List: 41 Things to Do Before Leaving This Place Forever”.“Forever” oozes a finality only young people assert;  age brings cautious vagueness, the knowledge that our plans make God giggle.

Leaving Brooklyn--and yes, there is a novel by that name, by PEN/Faulkner nominee Lynne Schwartz--seems to have become as mythic a departure as Leaving Las Vegas. The novel/memoir, Leaving Brooklyn  is the peculiar tale of Audrey, an adolescent Brooklyn girl seduced by, of all characters, the Manhattan ophthalmologist her parents take her to because of a defect in her right eye. It recounts a relatively sheltered childhood in Brooklyn, not the hipster milieu. To be honest, I found the story-line rather unsavory and depressing, a sort of unpoetic, less exalted version of the great Nabokov novel, Lolita. But the title, like “Goodbye to All That”, has drawn in and riveted a large youthful readership, capturing as it does something of the Brooklyn Zeitgeist.

What exactly do young women and men leaving Brooklyn leave behind? One answer comes from Henry Miller, writing last year in Matador Network:

 “The folks who say, “I love New York, but I would never raise my family there” have probably never spent an afternoon on a sidewalk in Bed-Stuy, or had a picnic in Prospect Park, or a barbecue on a rooftop in the middle of summer with their neighbors... When you leave Brooklyn, it’s your community that tells you that they will be there when you get back.”

When it comes to more intimate questions, the borough receives rather mixed reviews. Just before Valentine’s Day 2016, Margaret Bortner posted this in Brokelyn.com:  “The state of dating in Brooklyn is akin to cleaning up the Gowanus: depressing, pointless and disgusting...Should we just skip town and cast our nets in a different pond?” Bortner goes on to quote a gentleman who remained anonymous: “Two people who never quite met. That’s love in New York to me. So many almosts, so many things that might have gone a different way, so many times the time wasn’t right. It’s always bittersweet in Brooklyn, wistful in Williamsburg.”

When, however, I actually interviewed one 25-year-old Brooklyn transplant, an architectural student from Peru who has been here two years, the dating experiences she described were much more optimistic. While she duly noted the difficulty of forming long-term attachments, and even friendships, in New York because “it is a place for transition, with many people moving on after a year,” she had formed a serious relationship with a fellow Brooklynite, a man she met at a PS1 music event. She complains, however, that not only are Brooklyn men often temporary residents, they tend towards irresponsibility, too, not respecting a date or partner’s “unchangeable work and school schedule”, staying out all night and assuming she can do the same. “The amount of time people work here is very intense. You don’t sleep much, you party a lot, and then there are museums, lectures, etc., plus you’re trying to meet someone. You have to squeeze that into an agenda.”

All in all, the Brooklyn of 2016 is, like Manhattan--the latter, eternally, as far as I’m concerned--a place of adventure, pleasure, hope and hard work. Those who stay the course still have four other New York City boroughs to choose from, should the enchantment of Brooklyn wear off. For all its tribulations--high rents, tight schedules and a daunting dating scene, New York, Brooklyn included, is a place that loves reinvention and comebacks. If one apartment, career, or relationship doesn’t work out, another door will open. And, if you’re lucky, it just might be in Brooklyn Heights.

When I asked the same woman what she would miss if she left Brooklyn she gave me a long list of places-- not people!--she could not live without. Indigo2ash is reprinting her Bucket List here for your enjoyment and information. We’ve checked out a number of her picks, and found her taste both reliable and provocative. We hope you stick around to sample these watering holes, as well as our brand new textile and furniture store, XYZ Atlantic Avenue. Enjoy! As a popular song exhorted the Woodstock generation, “Love The One You’re With.”

Love Brooklyn. She’ll eventually return the favor.

 

RESTAURANTS

Rucola, Boerum Hill.

Marietta, Clinton Hill.

Pates et Traditions, Williamsburg.

Cafe Mogador, Williamsburg.

Momo Sushi Shack, East Williamsburg.

 

CAFES

Stone Fruit Espresso & Kitchen, Bed-Stuy.

Outpost Cafe, Clinton Hill.

Urban Vintage, Clinton Hill.

Ninth Street Espresso, Gowanus.

Iris, Brooklyn Heights

 

BARS

Wolf & Deer, Park Slope.

Threes Brewing, Gowanus.

Bell House, Gowanus (club)

Maison Premiere, Williamsburg

 

FLEA MARKETS

Brooklyn Flea, Williamsburg & Fort Greene

Aquaduct Flea Market

 

FOOD MARKETS

Smorgasburg

Urban Market of Williamsburg

 

Artfully mixed and matched, Indigo2ash’s wide selection of rugs, drapes and pillows--available in thirty subtle shades and myriad textures and patterns--brings incomparable verve to stylish ensembles of classic Mid-century Modern furnishings. At Indigo2ash, home is not only a place, but an experience, the setting most central to our families, friendships and visual adventures. It is our pleasure to take you on this continuous journey of design discovery.