Thinking of Walt Whitman, setting his sights on Brooklyn before any bridge did, spending twenty-eight years shifting neighborhoods – “what is it then, between us? What is the count of the scores or hundreds of years between us? (from Whitman’s ‘Crossing Brooklyn Ferry’)” Shuffling the pages of history that separate us –Arthur Miller, Woody Allen, Lou Reed, Neil Simon, Norman Mailer, Allen Ginsberg – the names endless, the stories rich, a history far greater than the distance from Whitman’s home on Ryerson Street to mine on Nassau Avenue.
Brooklyn: where the world speaks in many languages, interchangeably. Brooklyn: crowned by imagination and it is, it has been, always, even when there was barely enough money to get by. Dreams and promises were the ships that brought the first wave here, the ghosts that hang around our now-old apartments with the vestigial parlor doors, the ghosts that shake their heads at our temporary furniture and empty spare change jars. They know us like we know our own hearts, because Brooklyn is a land of the last hope, the place we come with our dreams because we cannot let them go and they no longer fit in suitcases. Brooklyn: a strange garden where wishes turn truthful.
On Prospect Park: open windows of a shabbat dinner: the glow of candlelight striking against dark hats and beards, quick laughter spilling into the street, mingling with the low conversation of young stragglers from a concert in the park, carrying their blankets and bicycles and lawn chairs. Or: Greenpoint nights emerging through the shifting trees to the broken roads, the Polish drunks who croak like frogs in the humid darkness, thirsty and desperate. The skinny tattooed girls who walk quickly past their outreached arms, busy on their phones or clutching big-eyed boys who walk them home to apartments with windows wide open, apartments that hope for air in a hot summer.
Take the hats and curls off the Hasidic boys sneaking around the foreign video store on Bedford Avenue and they could be hipsters. Take the helmets and ties off the businessmen freewheeling down the Brooklyn Bridge at six o’clock, dodging slow movers and lovers, and they might be madcap poets, longing for a last glimpse of the seven o’clock shadows on Dumbo’s cobbled streets.
Follow them there to the big buildings that used to hold the rough hands of factory and dock workers, now gutted and painted and hung with art, now cluttered with strollers and small children: this is how the world happens, this is where it goes. Brooklyn was a farmland once, its words, its music rough-hewn and earnest, a collision of cultures and the children of homesick cultures. It is still that, still shouting louder than its own thoughts, still full of people who give everything, who give everything and then turn themselves inside out to see if there is anything left – and there is, there always is, just one more song, just one more, one more, one more…
- Written by Lauren Ferebee for GreatDesign.com