Crown Heights via.
Last week, I wrote about my painful transition to living in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
I admit it: I overreacted. Crown Heights is not that bad a place. Now that the entire neighborhood has united against me, I realize, too late, the tightness of its makeshift society, and am sad to have forfeited it forever. But what can I do? If Brooklyn means anything, it means keeping it real. Was I supposed to just roll over and reverse myself, just because I moved here? That doesn't seem right either. Anyway, I began this essay in a feeble attempt to conciliate my new neighbors and reverse my Brooklyn fatwa.
But I can't do it. Not because I am insufficiently craven; it's just that it won't help anyway. Every hand is against me. I am despised, and not without cause. Still, the torrent of loathing that has come my way has left me shaken. The rancor, obloquy, and invective that has come my way on this site alone (634 comments and counting, all wrathful) would make any man want to take back the words that gave so much offense. But I can't do it. I'm sorry. There is no milquetoast at this address. Crown Heights is not an awesome neighborhood. It's just not. But then neither is Park Slope, or Williamsburg, or Tribeca, or Chelsea. It's the East Village that I longed for, the East Village that cast me out, and the East Village that, for all its trustafarian decadence, high rents, and vanished hardcore cred, is still the most desirable of all neighborhoods. At least to me.
That should have made that clearer in my Crown Heights essay, but I thought its over-the-top irony would have alerted readers to take what I was saying less than seriously. I am not actually "an old bum with matted hair and dead, sad eyes." You can tell that from the picture. Brooklynites love to close ranks, though, and it suited many to pretend that I was the personification of Manhattan condescension. Get this! Some sneering snob says Brooklyn isn't good enough for him! He thinks we owe him more fancy restaurants! That greasy queen has got to go! He's just asking for a beat-down! And so on. I suspect that the voice they hear belittling Brooklyn is in fact coming from inside, and is all the more powerful for that. Whatever! I just want everyone to like me. The other day some brutal-looking fellow confronted me on Franklin Avenue. Taking a cue from the movie mobsters of the 1940s, he let pregnant phrases linger menacingly in the air. "That didn't read like it was a joke," he said. "This is a close-knit community…you ought to watch what you write." When I failed to register the vaguely veiled threat, he really let me have it. "You know what? I don't want to sit next to you," he said, getting up.
I didn't understand. Was I meant to think he would beat me up? What was I supposed to say? One of my heroes is Bob, the cowardly dockworker who Rocky menaces while still employed as muscle for a loan shark. "Not the face!" is Bob's first reaction; his second, even more abjectly, is "Take my jacket! It's worth 60, 70 dollars!" I would have said that but, as with the piece, the irony would have been lost in the translation.
He was right, though; Crown Heights is a close-knit community, one that I have now forever exiled myself from. I am afraid to go buy a bagel or some fried clams. I am a sensitive man. The sense that even a single person despises me is enough to put me off my feed. I put my foot in it this time, I can see that, but I wish my neighbors would at least give me credit for continuing to hate Brooklyn even after I was forced to move back here. Wouldn't it be even worse to hector them from Avenue C and then change my tune once I was here among them? I think so, but at the same time, I don't blame them for hating me. If I didn't know me, I'd hate me too. The idea of me is deeply repulsive. But less so is the reality.
So I will say this to my neighbors. Give me a chance. I see now how you have coalesced against my fatuous essay. I wish I had someone like me to hate, and friends to jeer with. Sadly, I have forfeited them. Ironically, it just may be that I don't deserve to live in Crown Heights. No doubt I will be shipped out for Canarsie next.