The Tehrangelesazation of Brooklyn
I have a problem with the mindset of a lot of Brooklyn transplants
July 12, 2007
BROOKLYN, USA -- East Tehrangeles. Not literally, of course. There aren't scores of 'Purshian' mafia running around with sharply gelled tips, fake boobs, and nose jobs. NOT YET. But I tell you, if the L.A. Persian hipsters ever find a way out of SoCal and get into tattoos, thrift shop chic, and adopting Asian babies, I think they would feel right at home in say, Park Slope or in the other colonized neighborhoods in BK.
Why, you might ask. Because the kinds of people that have taken over Brooklyn's choice neighborhoods increasingly exhibit the same social ambitions and hang ups as my West Coast brethren. Smug sense of satisfaction with their zip codes? Check. Pride at being able to say they live in a particular neighborhood? Check. Sense of 'realness' and 'insider' status validated by how long they have lived there? Check. Barely cloaked superiority complex towards the rest of the world that does not live as they do? Absolutely. Reluctance to leave their heavenly enclaves for the forsaken wastelands of the rest of the city? Sure.
Here's the disclaimer: Brooklyn is cool. It always has been--it gets more shout outs in hip hop songs than the rest of the city combined. It's really diverse and has an awesome park and Coney Island. Artists, musicians, and other creative types seem to sprout everywhere, as something there feeds creativity well. People have always upped Brooklyn because it is a unique and cool spot, period. No disagreements there. I don't hate on all of the people who live in Brooklyn's nicer neighborhoods-most of my closest friends live in BK (though the majority are not in the posh spots), and the nice neighborhoods are pretty sweet. They have nice restaurants, fun bars and lounges, and decent people watching. If I could afford to live in those neighborhoods, I would definitely consider it. And there are plenty of spots that I like to hang out in there myself; BBQs in Prospect Park are a lot of fun. So the issue isn't me hating the place.
But I have a problem with the mindset of a lot of Brooklyn transplants (BTs). There is a robust culture of status endemic to BTs that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of those who are otherwise fans of the borough. I don't like how these nouveau-Brooklynites instantly adopt their upper class transplant-laden neighborhoods as a badge of their authentic Brooklyn-ness. To me, that smacks of a pronounced un-Brooklyn-ness. From my 7 odd years of observation, 'Billyburg' and Park Slope have more rich elite 20something Midwesterners than 20something Brooklynites. I don't like the inevitable reticence that these people have about leaving their (virtually) gated communities whenever evening or hang out plans are being made. I don't like the limousine-liberal ethos to the food co-ops and museum happenings. And above all else, the attitude that being able to afford living where 89% of the rest of the population cannot in of itself confers some sort of coolness is lame. Give me a break.
It's not healthy to live so isolated, because it makes you weird and often insufferable to other people who don't reside in the same socio-economic bubble. An example of this came during last week's 4th of July holiday. I was in Brooklyn, Park Slope as it were, at a rooftop BBQ of a friend of a friend. There was an adjoining rooftop BBQ at the next building. Instantly, a silent class war developed between our respective groups. We had a $15 Smokey Joe grill and 3 folding chairs, while our neighbors had Pier One patio furniture, a large gleaming propane grill, and lawn chairs and not a single person of color.
Once it started to drizzle, they opened up a massive table umbrella and produced to large golf umbrellas to protect the grill. As grillmaster at our soirée, I got soaked and had to stay out and fan the charcoal to make sure the coals didn't die or get to wet. Instead of minding their own business and having fun among themselves, the guests of the other rooftop BBQ spent most of their 4th of July gawking at us and sniggering to themselves and flaunting their BBQ's amenities with gusto. Dickheads. Why the hell would I want to move to a place where these people are omnipresent? The BT mindset is a kind of culture that equates the outer, material trappings of life as a signifier of what your values, personality, spirituality, and social views might be a hyper-consumer culture in which your address, your friends, your outfit, your hangout spot, the grocery you shop at, and the subway stop you use all somehow embody who you are.
The attitude that where you live and where you hang out is who you are is so LA, to bring it full-circle. The Iranian grapevine (a notorious and colorful source of urban myth and rumor) is chock-full of stories about LA Persians who lease S-class Mercedes on credit cards and cram 4 people into a one bedroom apartment on the boundary of Beverly Hills just to be able to make a CV with the 90210 zip code on it. Or the folks who buy Versace and Armani to wear to parties and then return the clothes the next day. We call this pose-dadan, which is a Farsi-English hybridization that means posing. People pose in order to compensate for something they lack internally -- self-esteem, confidence, coolness, happiness, etc. Often the biggest posers are the ones who talk the most shit-a truism clearly exhibited by those lame bastard posers on the other rooftop last week.
I was forwarded a NY Times article about how 30somethings moving to Brooklyn (esp. to Park Slope) to "breed" have created this Facist yippie paradise where public breastfeeding and passive-aggressive behavior is the norm. Reading that article actually moved me to waste all this time and write this. Roving bands of pre-menopausal mommy-cliques patrol the farmers markets, streets and cafes with $400 strollers and have created their own pecking order. Are they bad people? Probably not-but we can't rule out that they might be totally vapid. Are they strangling the cool out of Brooklyn? Me thinks definitely. Something tells me that I would feel about as much at home in Park Slope as I would in Westwood--but at least LA has chelo-kabob and nicer weather. Comment