On Wednesday I took my first major step on the road to Taiwan: I moved back in with my parents to save money for tuition + life in Taipei. For the last three years, I’ve lived in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn + loved, loved, LOVED living there.
I met my roommate, Jeanne, on a trip to Ecuador with Dramatic Adventure Theatre.
Jeanne was looking for a new roommate back in NYC + I was ready to get my own place after college. We figured that if we got along for three weeks in Ecuador (one week spent sleeping in a frozen room in the Andes without heat or plumbing), we would be able to make it work in a Brooklyn 2-bedroom.
She also had a cat, Penelope (aka “P” or “Penelope” [like cantaloupe]). I love cats.
Our first little apartment was on Nostrand + Flushing, across from the Hasidim of South Williamsburg + the Marcy that raised Jay-Z. After two years, we were in for an upgrade + moved to a spacious spot on Throop (pronounced: Troop) Avenue.
Having come of age during NYC’s Hip-Hop heyday, listening to Notorious B.I.G., Jay, Smif-n-Wessun, + Mos, I will admit that before I moved to Brooklyn, I had a very “romantic” idea of Bed-Stuy. I will also say that it surpassed all of my expectations + there was never a moment that I did not feel at home.
I have always respected the fact that, while I’m from New York, I am not from Brooklyn. (Trust me, there is a difference.) Bed-Stuy is a neighborhood with a bad rap. A neighborhood that most people think of as “The Hood” + associate with gangsta rap, drugs, and violence. While those things exist in Bed-Stuy (as they do everywhere else in the world), to me Bed-Stuy is a neighborhood where people still speak to each other on the street. Most residents have lived there for decades, if not their whole lives. It feels like the Village felt when I was growing up… It is a little gritty, graffiti filled + pulsing with an energy that I can only describe as “New York.” It’s a hard energy, but there is something enticing about it.
Gentrification has started to rear its tricky head in that neck of “the hoods” in the form of the word “Organic” advertized on awnings of corner stores still armed with bullet-proof after-hours service windows, new condo developments + Michelin rated restaurants. (Yes, I know that I am part of it all. And, yes, I DO love Do or Dine.) There is a farmer’s market on Saturdays, complete with a community garden + chicken coop!
There is nothing wrong with these things. I think they’re great! I just hope that the sense of privilege + entitlement that seems to follow gets left behind.
I sincerely hope that Bed-Stuy doesn’t lose its Do or Die edge while I am back in the two-one-zoo + the city of azaleas. Something tells me it’s gonna be pretty hard to shake.
Here are a several of my fave Brooklyn songs as a tribute: (Parental Advisory! Most of these are pretty gritty…)