Throughout this year, several bloggers will engage in a conversation here and on their blogs — asking questions of each other and responding. Others are absolutely welcome to join the conversation, as well. Learn more about the ladies of Blogversation 2012.
Today’s question is from your host — I’m @cnewvine on Twitter:
At first, I was offended when I heard comedian and actor Reggie Watts was talking smack about my neighborhood.
When I stopped being defensive, I thought more about what he said in an interview with College Times:
I use to live in Brooklyn Heights, and it was mainly just brownstones with kind of upper-middle class, a few white rich people and their ethnic nannies taking care of their white babies. There’s a lot of strollers going up and down the street with all these women that are obviously not the mothers of these children just walking around.
And then some kind of boring college students going to whatever university is there. It’s the most uninspiring place to live. If you’re an artist, never live in a family community, unless you draw inspiration from children and nannies. It’s just horrible.
I realized that I agree with some of Watts’s objective statements — yes, Brooklyn Heights is a brownstone neighborhood with lots of well-off white families and their nannies, along with college students coming and going from St. Francis and Brooklyn Law School.
Where I take issue is his declaration that it’s uninspiring. I think like beauty, that’s a subjective assessment.
We moved to Brooklyn Heights after three years in Manhattan, where we lived across the street from Lincoln Center and Julliard and a five-minute walk from Jazz at Lincoln Center in the Time Warner Center. Our Manhattan apartment was in some ways in the center of the New York creative universe, but I didn’t really feel it. To me, the neighborhood felt cold, aimed mostly at tourists, and much of the creativity seemed aimed at people far wealthier than us.
Is that fact? No. That’s just how it felt to me. Others might’ve lived there and struck up deep, inspiring friendships with Julliard students practicing in Central Park, for example, or become regulars at the late show at Dizzy’s jazz club. We just didn’t.
Meanwhile, Brooklyn Heights makes my heart feel good.
We’re a 10-minute walk from the East River and a view of New York Harbor. I can take my laptop and sit on a bench in Brooklyn Bridge Park where I can smell the water and see the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan’s financial district.
Many of the blocks near us are lined with trees and well-tended brownstones with lush city landscaping, like overflowing window boxes and colorful pots on the stairs. We stroll the sidewalks of our neighborhood many evenings and while we still live in a vibrant urban neighborhood, where we can walk to grocery shopping, the dry cleaner, our dentist and the like, there’s a peacefulness at night that we didn’t get in Manhattan.
And yet, we do far more socializing on foot than we ever did in Manhattan. Last weekend, we went to brunch about a 15-minute walk from our apartment and while sitting at a sidewalk table, we saw an artist couple we’re friends with… our own Blogversationist Lesley Ware and her hubby Kamau! They sat with us then John texted another artist friend of ours, who arrived a few minutes later and shared a beer.
That kind of casual encounter didn’t happen for us in Manhattan. Could it have? Almost certainly. But it didn’t. The creatives we knew generally didn’t live on the Upper West Side, and we never made many friends in our immediate neighborhood.
I find the beauty of our neighborhood, the ease of living here and the creative friends nearby all inspiring.
So I’m not sure you can label a place “inspiring” or “uninspiring,” because so much of that is about the individual.
One person might find it profoundly inspiring to live in a cabin in the mountains miles from the nearest neighbor, while another would find that isolating and lonely. Reggie Watts finds it inspiring to live in Williamsburg, where John and I enjoy going out for music and food, but I think if I lived there, I’d quickly get irritated by the noise of the partiers and the parade of hipsters.
My question for this week: what do you want from your hometown or neighborhood? Has that changed over the years, either because you’ve changed or your neighborhood has changed?
Living in Williamsburg is inspiring to Reggie Watts, whose new Live In Central Park includes this absolutely NOT safe for work bit peppered liberally with the f bomb:
- Blogversation 2012: Who or what inspires you?
- Where do you want to die?
- Are New Yorkers really unhappy?