Thinking Brooklyn

Thinking Brooklyn

Ok, I’m not an expert. I don’t live there. All I know is what I’ve seen. A couple of times.

I’m not going all Travel Channel or anything. But I remember Soho before the shoe stores. I remember the loft galleries and the raw spaces. I remember the hanging tapestries that separated one gallery space from another. And I remember River North in my hometown of Chicago at a time when there was nothing there except run down warehouses. Seriously.

Once my wife and I had an opportunity to buy a house in Chicago’s Bucktown for $5,000. In fact I think the guy would’ve given it to us if we’d agreed to sign. What would it be worth today? Well, let’s just say I wouldn’t need to be working every day for a living at this point.


But this isn’t about real estate speculation. It’s about creativity and inspiration. So when I spent some time in Brooklyn a couple of weeks ago I wanted to see if there was something going on there that was either A) inspiring or B) creative. I was looking for a Brooklyn perspective on doing stuff.

So what did I find? Signage is just not cool, man. The best places I went to, as in really interesting food, looked so nondescript that if someone hadn’t told me it was awesome I would have just been completely disinclined to go in. Then, once inside, it was like a different world, the place was happening – lots of cool looking people, music, sounds, smells.

Maybe I’ll call it the Roberta’s syndrome because for me a few years ago, that was the first. For someone from Chi to say that was one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had is saying a lot. And it was. But what sticks even more in my head is the remoteness of the place and the complete lack of overt notification on the building. Yeah, there was a sign. And a metal door IIRC.

So what’s the take away? The easy answer would be that in the world of Twitter and FB and Instagram who needs signage or old-school methods of communication? Who needs golden arches anymore? If the place is cool, the food is amazing, and people have a good time there, they’ll tweet about it. And enough people will find the place to turn it into a legend.

So now we’re all chasing a tweet, or trying to go viral on YouTube. This isn’t really new either, is it?

So did I discover anything new at all? Yes. I found out that what’s really going on there is the evolution of a new sense of community. Sit in Irving Square Park for even a few minutes and you’ll get it. Families, couples, kids, dogs, a woman with a guitar, all hanging out and enjoying a summer evening – together. Walk down the street, day or night, and there’s an openness that belies the stereotype of a city like New York.

You know, if we’ve made any progress at all, it is this: we are slowly breaking down the impersonality of a commodified life and building real personal relationships. It’s communication on a human level, me to you. And it’s founded on the simple fact that we are all people, living together, here. We’re not strangers, we live here. And slowly we’re starting to act like we know each other, and maybe even care about each other.