I Know You’re Changing

Can I continue to make every other post reference a Mountain Goats’ song? Well, I’ll try. This one came about while I was walking down the Bowery today, glass condos (and a metal museum) wedged next to old brick buildings. It seems like everyone talks about how New York is changing, has already changed. As a newcomer, what kind of perspective can I have on that? Yes, I see the new buildings come up, but I don’t remember when there were “the people with the knives in the shadows” on the Bowery, as one older New Yorker described to me in great detail. I don’t remember when the above pictured Limelight was one of the most raging clubs in the city (now it is a shopping center that I cannot afford). And finally, does it matter? Do I care? I feel like my personal identity is still in flux, and living in a city that changes so quickly feels like where I should be. Perhaps if I settle into myself in the future I will grow weary of all the change, move somewhere that looks almost like it did 50, 100 years ago.

A weekend not too long ago, we took the ferry to Red Hook. Yes, it would probably be quicker to walk there from my apartment than to go all the way to Manhattan to take the ferry. The original destination was Governors Island, but the line was insane, maybe even more insane than when I tried to go to the free Yeasayer concert there. So we opted for the free IKEA ferry instead, from which I saw this delightful schooner. Although it looked kind of crowded.

Red Hook is definitely a neighborhood that’s experienced a lot of change. It gets its name from the way it points out into the East River, and apparently has red soil, although I saw none of that. In the 90s, Life magazine listed it as one of the worst neighborhoods in the United States. It has the largest public housing development in the borough and is known as where Al Capone got his start and H.P. Lovecraft got really paranoid and angry. Now you can get cheap furniture, fancy groceries, shop for indie design goods, and buy some of the most delicious baked goods in the city. Although without a direct subway line, I’m not sure what its future will be. I guess if I were working as a full-time freelance person it would matter a little less. Alas.

And then there is my neighborhood (site of this fantastic mural): Greenwood Heights, the small stretch of apartments between Park Slope and Sunset Park, bordered on one side by the Gowanus and the other by Green-Wood Cemetery. Even here, the glass buildings are showing up (what is with modern architecture and glass, as if privacy wasn’t scarce enough in New York?). Its identity is hard to pin down. There are Polish street names and businesses, Mexican grocery stores, Chinese restaurants, Italian pizzerias, Brooklyn nomads priced out of the rest of the borough. I somehow live over the most redneck backyards east of the Mississippi (barking scruffy dog, above ground swimming pool, abandoned swing set, empty beer cans, Lynyrd Skynyrd blasted from a boombox, etc.). As I’ve decided to stay in this neighborhood, in this apartment, for another year, I’ll be curious to see how things progress and keep changing. Yes, that’s right, two years in the same apartment. That’s a record for me. See, I’m still changing.

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