There are certain expectations I had of Brooklyn. The lurking spectre of crime (possibly backed up by Tommy Guns and speakeasys); taxis; high-strung Type-A personalities who's abrasive interpersonal style might be best described as a 'high-impact verbal assault' and which is undoubtably augmented by prescription and not-quite-prescription stimulants.
Now, nobody said it was accurate or based in any sort of reality, unless you count "Wall Street" as reality (you know the movie, the one where Michael Douglas plays a powerful and rich white man who's overconfidence leads to his own downfall?). Anyhoo, that's what I expected. At least a shadow of that.
Brooklyn nearly dissappointed me entirely.
On Sunday we idle around, waiting for one of the nerd-herd to move in a direction so we can all truculently follow. It's brunch at DuMont's Burger. There are about, oh, well, enough off us to take over 2/3rds of the seating. A hang-out for the urban hipsters and high-powered 80-hour work heroes who are trying best to fit in with their precisely in-style for the moment 'casual' clothes which quite likely cost more than a new set of Dunlops, is over-run by the terribly bright, effusively anti-fashion brigade of, well, us.
The server casually asks how we know each other. There is a very, very long pause. Like our cell has just been uncovered. Many of us are, or at least I am, thinking that there is no possible way we can explain our acquaintance without embarrassing her and us and completely stripping down any cool-factor the eatery has gained up to this point and will ever gain for the next 35 years. I think she just walks away. I'm pretty sure she suspects the worst.
Bruce decides he needs a new pair of shoes. A bold stance to take. We can clearly see that his current shoes are not : mouldering, on fire, actually gone and replaced by punctured blisters and hole-ridden socks. What's more, he wants to get gold sneakers (tennis-shoes? kicks? uhm, cross-trainers? what do people call them these days?). A desire for clothing and fashion. Bruce is a pioneer in the nerd community.
So a bunch of us take one of the many, many subways to another part of Brooklyn. Ah, I think, this is where I'll see the rampant crime: the burning cars, the fully automatic assault rifles brandished by grandmas and impromptu militias alike, the vicious, vicious dance-offs. As you can see from the above photo, Hollywood has lied to me, again.
It's quaint and laid-back and has little beach-heads of corporate America between your mom-and-pops and your boutiques manned by over-educated Liberal Arts majors. It's not Victoria quaint, but it's charming. I stop at another shop that's even quainter to get some overpriced toys that no doubt have been 'very popular in Europe' and 'carbon-neutral'. They should really re-name parts of Brooklyn to be more in line with tourists expectations. Like this area would make a marvellous Tea Tree Heights.
And we do more walking. Friday night had already killed any notion of taxis to me. You know, taxis door-to-door. It's shameful that I'm exhausted with walking. Walking, for crying out loud. I live in an area where there are bear warnings and coyote alerts. There are non-toxic-waste infused streams nearby. And yet the walking culture of Brooklyn has defeated me. No snarky cabbies, no cigar chomping, no bits of incoherent advice hidden behind an impenetrable NY accent. Again, Hollywood, are you all lies?
Later in the day we all decide to walk again. This time, though, for a good cause. To Barcade. A bar, obviously, but that's filled with ridiculously difficult quarter eaters from yesteryear. Ghost N' Goblins, Arkanoid, 1943, Marble Madness, Joust, Robotron, Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!.
It's a powerful mixture of alcohol, nostalgia, and societally acceptably nerdery. They even have a laughably inaccurate money changer. One is submitted to the painful ritual of re-feeding the same dollar bill seven times to a piece of technology made when calculators were the size of dictionaries. Confidently at first, sure, but then, meekly, angrily, and finally with a series of rituals which prove that the phenomenon of Cargo Cults isn't the province of Micronesian cultures with a taste for K-rations.
We all try our hand at Mike Tyson's Punch-Out! It's imperative that we all beat Glass Joe. The first opponent you fight, with a name that's perfectly crafted to wreak despair and humiliation upon any who cannot beat him. It's a character that has special meaning, since Ralph, who had hosted the fantastic BBQ, has never beaten him. This is when nerds try and keep their position in the (albeit pathetic) pecking order of video game prowess. While we may be thoughtful lot, we are not, as it turns out, terribly high-minded.
We all beat him, eventually. The night is done, we hike it back home. More walking.
The spectre of crime has been completely abolished, so to with the taxis. I figure if I have to walk it, I might as well take some pictures. Even if it's quite late and I'm really just inviting trouble by taking pictures like, well, a tourist.
I lift my camera to take this shot. It's all neony and low-budget and kinda under-grungy lived in business.
At the last possible moment, out of the corner of my eye, I see a woman walking the other way, right into the shot. I wait, because, well, I'm not interesting in shooting people I don't know. She says, or, er. Shouts? Whatever is the intensity level between a shout and saying something very loud, "Don't you fucking take my picture!".
Well, one out of three ain't bad, Brooklyn.