Williamsburg Brooklyn is the epicenter of cool. I mean a cool beyond normal cool. Remember that guy in high school who was really cool, almost “too cool for school”? Yea, Williamsburg is cooler than that guy. In fact, Williamsburg is so cool, I have coined a phrase for it, it’s “kelvin cool”. So cool it’s hot.
Ten years ago, I moved back to New York City. I spent three years living on the Upper East Side, the epicenter of both old and new money…along with recent college graduates, it’s a weird juxtaposition. As a rule, New Yorkers pick on the UES but in its defense, it does have some of the best thrift stores. I enjoyed my time there and never quite understood all the hate.
At the coaxing of an ex, I left the UES and moved in with her in the Williamsburg area about seven years ago, specifically Greenpoint. Seven months after that, she sent me packing. Immediacy and “the great recession” kept me in the area. Trust me, I didn’t stick around out of any sense of belonging or love, I just had to find a place, quickly.
Now despite having many of the tell tale markers of the cool guys in my neighborhood, the tattoos (bonus points for my first tattoo being older than most current Williamsburg residents), the advanced degree (points removed for not being from an Ivy league), the Frye boots, the beat up Chuck T’s, the snap shirts, the t-shirts, both weathered and crisp jeans (points removed for them being Old Navy jeans and not some no name $200 jeans). It’s worth noting that I have always dressed this way, I just seem to come into fashion every 15 years or so.
I’ve got a job in one of New York City’s “big five” employment industries (media, finance, food, health care and education).
Also indigenous to the area is the mufti-hypanate creative, of which I am one. I write, I’ve acted in theater, film and television (that’s me in the back), I’m a published playwright (not even self published, I’m in some obscure compilation), I’ve written and directed short films, I am a publisher and entrepreneur. And the icing on the cake? I even have the required therapist and accompanying anti-anxiety prescription (for me, you don’t become a New Yorker until you officially have a prescription for an anti-anxiety drug).
I am modern day Williamsburg, sans trust fund and ridiculous sense of self worth and entitlement.
Unfortunately for me, on most days in Williamsburg, I still feel awkward. You know that feeling as you step onto an escalator that isn’t working*, you sort of misjudge the steps a little? Those first couple of steps are a little clunky and awkward until you work out the normal step to stair ratio…yea, that’s what living in Williamsburg is like for me…all the time.
Even though I have adopted Williamsburg as my home, I don’t feel it has adopted me.
Now that is not to say I have been deliberately marginalized, I haven’t. My awkwardness probably says more about me than about Williamsburg.
While there are some really terrific people in the neighborhood, the community is experiencing a rapid and robust influx of assholes. Now look, I am typically not one of those people who pisses and moans about things changing. I understand change and, often times, I welcome it. It’s just that the nabe is becoming more and more populated with jackwads.
It’s been my experience lately that everyone puffs out their chest and extols the value and virtue in what they do. As if that is all that they are, as if it is all that they have. And unless you work for, or are part of an identifiable brand that they know of, you will generally be dismissed. For example, if I say I work at Comcast I will get this response “Oh Christ, I hate them! Their customer service is awful!” If I say I work at Comcast owned NBC I will get this response “Oh Christ, what is the deal with that network? Do you know Tina Fey?” If I say that I publish a digital magazine or that I have produced a web series, I will get a vacant stare. The same type of stare you get when you show a dog a card trick.
As awful as millennials are, and they can be pretty awful, they recognize new media. They’re just quick to talk right over you about their own awesomeness.
After the current soul sucking millennials have had their trust funds restricted and they are forced to move back to Greenwich, CT to work for their fathers hedge fund or they’ve married out of Sunday brunch at Egg or their parents have finally pulled the plug on financing that “free trade” cosmetic shop, I’ll probably still be Williamsburg.
And when the Gen X’ers, who bought during Williamsburg’s junkie years (because home ownership and child bearing are the crowning achievement of a life), and their forward thinking, name dropping, “my work defines me” brethren have sold their apartments; well, those that haven’t mortgaged them to the hill to pay for their heathen offspring’s private education. When the Gen X’ers finally get tired of saying “Oh my Gawd, I remember when Williamsburg was blah blah blah“, I’ll still be here.
And as horrible as those two groups are, I shudder to think what follows. If history is any indication, it will be wealthy Chinese and eastern block oligarchs, who may, in fact, be worse!
The only real upside I can see for the pending Chinese and eastern block oligarch influx is that they are traditionally lacking pretense…or if they have it, there is a HUGE language barrier that I am unlikely to overcome.
I suppose you are probably wondering if there was a specific incident that triggered this post. Nope. Over the course of my time here, at one point or another, I have met a fair representation of the people that make up my adopted home of Williamsburg Brooklyn. I’ve had great conversations with people and I’ve had conversations with self obsessed people who look at me as though I were speaking some African tribal language. Being that I don’t know any African tribal languages (although I am sure there is someone in Williamsburg offering a class) I am left to surmise that I just can’t relate to some of these people. I guess I’m just not cool enough.
I mean, I am never going to be cool enough to live in Williamsburg, I accept that. And I won’t let self obsessed or narrow minded jackwads stop me from doing what it is that I want to do. I guess, I’ll just keep fumbling my way onto this non-working escalator knowing one day it will start working and the awkwardness will stop.
“You can look for answers, but that ain’t no fun…now get in the pit and try and love someone!”
– Kid Rock
* – The late comedian Mitch Hedberg would say that it is impossible for an escalator to be broken. If the escalator isn’t working, they become stairs.