Monday, May 20, 2013

The Asshole Brigade, Coming Soon to a Neighborhood Near You

#1 Asshole
I've written a couple times about my gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood.

There is a lot about Brooklyn that differs from Manhattan. But there's one aspect of life that is the same the world over. No matter what neighborhood I'm in, I meet people on the street with my dog.

He's cute and clearly wants to be petted and played with by you (read: any sentient adult). People fall immediately, just as I once did, for his puppy eyes and nubby, quivering tail.

While my son is also adorable, no one, thankfully, asks to pet him. (The hordes have no qualms, however, about insisting I put a hat on my baby or keep his stroller uncovered lest he dehydrate.)

But Hudson makes friends; he always has.

The other day I was walking up my block when a woman on her stoop got an attack of the corgi-crazies. "Oh my god, a corgi! I love corgis! Love!!!"

"Do you want to say hi?" I asked her.

Hudson ran over, wagging his tail furiously and with aplomb as she petted him. They both seemed to be having a great time and I had nowhere specific to be, so I stopped to talk. She told me she'd lived in that row house for ten years, well before gentrification was a glimmer in the eye of the hipsters who live here now.

"Wow, you must have seen this neighborhood change a lot," I remarked.

"Definitely. When we first came, the cabbies wouldn't even drop us off in front of our house. So did you just move in there?" she asked, gesturing to my building.

"Yeah, we moved here about a year ago. We're part of that new wave of Manhattan yuppies," I laughed, trying to be sympathetic with the plight of her transforming surroundings, even though, in truth, it was she who began the first wave of artists infiltrating the neighborhood a decade ago.

She laughed, too. "You know, I don't mind that the neighborhood is changing, but so many people just walk around like this." She put two hands up to her face to mimic blinders. "God forbid anyone say 'Good Morning.'"

I nodded and smiled. I get it; I really do. Although I now exist in an upper-middle-class fog of performance outerwear and private pre-school applications, I grew up in a much less circumscribed milieu.

"Here, let me introduce you to the neighbors," she said, pointing to a couple next door.

"Hi," I shook the other woman's hand. "I'm part of the asshole brigade that's moving into your neighborhood," I said with a smile.

The other woman laughed, a bit relieved, perhaps. "Well, I guess you're not if you introduce yourself that way."

As I continued on my way, I pondered the interaction. In my year in Brooklyn, I'm sure I've walked past plenty of people without so much as a nod. I'm not trying to be rude. Manhattan is crowded and chaotic; you learn to look away. (Unless, of course, there is a dog involved.) If you greeted everyone on the street, you'd be spouting a continuous stream of hellos; you'd seem not friendly but unstable.

Second, if I'm being perfectly honest, most of the new, young families moving here from Manhattan have come for more -- and more affordable -- space, not primarily for "stoop culture." In the playground yuppie parents might meet and greet as their children swing and slide, but on the street it seems less common.

It's a shame, though. I like the neighborhoodiness of my neighborhood. One of the benefits of living in Brooklyn is turning out to be a perfect compromise between city anonymity and suburban suffocation.

But to keep it that way, I need to remember to connect with the neighborhood beyond my pooch, and teach Henry to do the same.

What do you think about making neighborhood connections?

Image courtesy of pakorn /