I’ve never lived in any one place for long. As a result, my family developed an insular mentality, never reaching out to neighbors, never trying to join the community. Before New York I lived in Miami for a stretch of years, but Miami is a strange town, more transient even then my family, a place where crowds shift and change as the months roll by. It takes work to gather good people together down there, and as often as not they’re planning to head out just as you’re getting to know them.
Brooklyn has been a novel experience. It feels like a neighborhood, in a way that some of the suburbs I’ve lived in never have, in the way that brand new high rises can’t. It has its rhythms and idiosyncrasies, it’s characters and familiar places. I have friends that live but blocks from where I do, and sometimes see them in the grocery store, or just walking somewhere. You call and wave, they look about, see you, smile and wave back.
There’s Tom’s Restaurant around the corner, which serves the best brunch in the city. There’s Chavellas around the other side of the block, always packed, serving great Mexican food but a stone’s throw away from my door. The corner deli, where Ali laughs at my ice cream selections. Ripple, a hole-in-the-wall bar that’s down a few blocks towards the subway station, and Soda Bar over by Vanderbilt.
The area is beginning to feel like a blank grid that I’m filling in with shapes and colors. The morning rush of kids along the pavement towards the school. The old guy with an iron buzz cut, who always wears camo pants with socks pulled over them to his knees and a pure white hoody, standing on lookout, belligerent and watchful like a guard dog. The enigmatic homeless man who wears a top hat, has dreads down to his knees, stands just shy of five feet tall and always seems to be smiling about something I can’t fathom.
It’s a thin veneer I’ve painted over my neighborhood, the product of five month’s familiarity. It makes me wonder what it’d feel like to have lived there all my life. To know scores of people. To look at building fronts and know what lies behind their windows, who walks through those doors, what lives revolve around each other each day in their own particularities.