Hitching the Wagon

New York tribes are nomadic. You can fit the contents of a rented one-bedroom apartment in a $19.95 U-Haul truck, and so we push on in search of lower rents, bigger spaces, and decent public schools. Chinese immigrants live on streets named after long-dead Irish immigrants. White yuppies pace the borders of Clinton Hill and Bed-Stuy, wondering how much the peeling, beautiful, boarded-up crackhouses are going for these days. In a Court Street pizzeria, the owner tells me he advertises for new brick-oven staff in the Egyptian newspapers. The Mexicans aren’t interested any more.

In the few years I’ve been away, Carroll Gardens was busy cloning me. The Brooklyn Italians are now outnumbered by thirty-year-old women of airbrushed origins. French, Irish, Upper East Side, Quad Cities–who cares? Smith Street is a different kind of Stepford, where the totems are yoga mats, flip-flops, and, lately, baby slings. On the door of D’Amico’s, a 1950s palace of by-the-pound coffee beans, a new sign hawking the blends adds “Local Color: FREE!” It’s true–I still see mostly cops and Italians in there–but that last line stings. _We know you’re watching_, it says, _and we’re watching you back, sweetheart. You’re welcome, as long as you shell out nine dollars for a pound of cwawh-fee._

The new arrivals convert quickly. They advertise their neighborhood pride with ‘F Train’ and ‘BKLYN’ t-shirts stretched over weight-trained pecs or pert breasts. I have a few of them left in the wardrobe myself, which I wear biking home from work. Last week I wore my sweaty red BKLYN t-shirt to a bar on Dean Street, and imagined a few sniffy looks from the old-time hipsters. _You’re the reason we can’t afford to live here any more._

I felt that paranoid twinge again on Saturday morning. The Ranger has gone back to Canada, so it was time to learn the weekend patterns of a single Brooklyn girl. I woke late, stuffed a yoga mat into a bag and grabbed the Razor scooter that hasn’t had an outing in four years. Swiping up Court Street one-legged–it’s still fun, I’m still fast–I caught a glimpse of myself in the window of an expensive patisserie. Oh sweet Jesus. I looked like the kind of woman who would use “brunch” as a verb.

Some of us move up and out when we can’t stand being reminded of ourselves.

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