Friday, March 6, 2009

Why Brooklyn Is Creepy and Harlem is Home

By Brooklyn, I mean Williamsburg. Where all the hipsters live. In fact, no one but hipsters lives there. As a result, all the shops are impossibly cute and quirky, because they are aimed at the hipsters who are rich. The rich hipsters patronize the shops and fuel the economy of this small pocket of New York, while the poor hipsters patronize the myriad, also impossibly picturesque, bars, cafes and corner stores. So maybe the streets aren't quite as picturesque as an imaginary Disneyworld village, but when you walk around Williamsburg you feel as if you are on the set of a movie or something. Everything is so retro-lovely and shabby-glam. You get the feeling that you should be skipping down the sidewalk, or playing jumprope. I don't know how else to describe it. But that's not the creepy part. The creepy part is that everyone is young. Everyone is in their 20s or early 30s. Take a walk down one of the popular streets and look around: young people eating in the cafe, young people in line at the store, working at the store, young people at the bar, in the cars, hanging out--everywhere! There are no old people, no middle aged people, no children. And I know it sounds crazy, but it gives me the creeps! And I say this in a loving way, because I do like Brooklyn. I admire the hipsters, and secretly wish I were cool enough to be one. I'm sure it would be so fun to live in a place that is constantly full of young people. Maybe it would be like Never Never Land, or being at a really cool college. The world would seem ever young and ever alive... but you have to admit a little creepy, too, right? Like a reality TV show or something.

In Williamsburg on Wednesday night, after going to the show and eating my free hipster pizza, I emerged from The Charleston and looked around. The bright streetlights illuminated the charming storefronts and bike racks and VW bugs parked alongside pastel scooters. Guys in too-tight pants were smoking outside the bar, some people skateboarded past a group of silly laughing girls that were pulling someone out of a Playskool toy house, and I swear I heard the Twilight Zone music start to play. Through windows I could see young people shopping, eating, sitting around. Acting like normal people, but they weren't. They weren't old and gray or parents or pre-schoolers. They were cookie-cutter cut cookies. Where were the families? The aged? The innocent? Like Pinnochio when his friend turns into a donkey, I suddenly just wanted to go home because Brooklyn was creeping me out. I wanted to be in Harlem, where out my window I can see a Mother putting her baby to sleep at night and old fat guys playing dominoes in the park while their grandchildren run around the playground. In Harlem there are young hippish people, but they are part of a community of all ages, and it isn't the young ones who run the show. I feel like I'm in a family when I'm in Harlem, and I like that a lot.

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