We took a road trip into Brooklyn yesterday. We left our house at about seven in the morning and got into Brooklyn at about quarter to ten. It is a long drive. We went in to meet my friend Chrissie’s sister and her family. Her daughter was born the exact same day as my son. She is red haired and freckled with a Chinese husband so her kids are hapa. They all live in Sunset Park Brooklyn but we were meeting them at the Brooklyn Flea, Williamsburg edition. We were there pretty early and I had forgotten some of the main things to remember about travelling into the city; 1) there are no bathrooms and 2) if you are lucky enough to find a bathroom, there will be no toilet paper. Of course, forgetting these two tenets of city travel, I drank a LOT of coffee on the way in. Needless to say we were frantically searching as soon as we got out of the car. Luckily the Flea has port-o-lets and lucky that my friend Chrissie was packing a roll of paper towels.
In case you didn’t know, Brooklyn is a haven for hipsters. How to describe the hipster crowd if you have yet to be exposed? The young and single seemed to all have a dog but these are not the apartment dogs of old. They are big and jowly, bowlegged and drooling. It seemed a perverse contest to own the most inappropriate dog possible for Brooklyn living. These denizens had lots of facial hair, many hats (think fedora), fashion bordering on the ridiculous (potentially just too trendy for me) and a general slowness to get going on a Sunday morning. There were older hipsters who had managed to procreate. Their kids were firmly ensconced in carriers; the tops of their heads the only thing visible as they were all strapped face first to their Dad’s bodies. There were double strollers, ridiculously expensive boots and knit pants that failed to provide any diaper support. I really loved it. It is hard to describe the vibe, the atmosphere the environment. It is pregnant with possibility. This up and coming neighborhood exuded potential; artists’ areas abounded, vintage clothing stores both inside and impromptu tables on the street, every store we peeked into tempted with off-the-wall furnishings, odd pottery or interesting food. Electrifyingly eclectic. At the Flea, we ate blood orange donuts, a red egg (poached egg in red sauce on toasty bread), Sunday gravy (meat sauce on pasta), pizza and vegetarian sandwiches on homemade focaccia bread (made by a very surly woman).
One of the cool things about Brooklyn is that it is huge and diverse. After some mid-day kid ditching that had us gulping beer at the Brooklyn Brewery, we ended our day in Sunset Park which is the home to a large Chinese population and where Chrissie’s sister lives. We headed out into the street with the kids. Despite the sunny warmth of the afternoon, all of the babies in strollers were covered in these giant sheets of plastic, like the kind my Italian neighbors had on their furniture when I was a kid. The sidewalks would get all backed up by the street vendors with the live sea life. We saw toadfish, mantis shrimp, blue crabs, squid, both big and small, whelk along with various fish. Stinky durian fruit swung in plastic netting. A small area was covered with handwritten notes in Chinese. It looked like a community bulletin board for jobs? Things for sale? I will never know. We purchased mini-pancakes; 20 for one dollar. The woman in her impossibly teeny cart counted them out and scooped them into waxy bags for the kids. The walk two blocks up and back exhausted all of us.
On the way home, stuck in traffic on the BQE, we caught a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. She seemed far away and small. My son was intrigued. His two takeaways of the day were the iconic NY spots seen from the car; lady liberty on the way home and the Empire State Building on the way there. I am planning on getting him up close and personal with these before we head home. I asked him what his favorite part of the day was and his response was the time he spent playing in the grassy knoll at the Brooklyn Flea with all the kids. I love that his takeaway was more about who he was with than where he was. Friendship and being together, regardless of what you are doing. A good takeaway.