A lot of people have asked for a blog post chronicling my impressions of Brooklyn, after having lived in Austin from August 1995-December 2009. Now that we’ve logged in 3 whole months here—and because the dreariness of the weather is compelling me to do something happy—I thought this would be a good time to tackle that request. So, for your pleasure, broken down haphazardly, some thoughts. Feedback is most welcome.
What do you miss about Austin? Figured I’d get this out of the way, since people ask it a lot. Besides beloved friends? The weather is the most obvious answer to this question right at this moment, even though my Austin peeps have made it clear to me that they’ve had a pretty bad (for them) winter. I’ve been reassured by many New Yorkers that this is the worst winter in a long time, so I suppose that a trial by fire—snow, in this case—is a good way to assure ourselves that we can make it. And now that there’s hope for spring on the horizon, I can say we did. I also miss the Alamo Drafthouse. New York has everything you can imagine, except the Alamo Drafthouse. Because of this hole in the city’s infrastructure, Marc and I have seen exactly one movie in a theater since we’ve been here, when we used to go the movies at least 3 or 4 times a month in Austin, usually more.
Now that this is out of the way, here’s some observations, broken down by category.
Politics and government. So far, an overall improvement. Seeing someone who makes Rick Perry look sane and moderate take 18.6% in the Republican primary only reinforces this sense. New York politics are as fucked up as they get, but it’s really nice knowing that your Senator is unlikely to compare members of minority groups to people who fuck animals on the Senate floor.
New York City is a wonder, of course. It’s really amazing how well the infrastructure works, if you’re an outsider looking in. Sure, the subway system has fucked me a few times, but I rarely get that tense, freaked out feeling that you get in a bumper to bumper traffic jam, when you realize you have no control over what happens. Here, there are options. And even though it takes awhile to get places, that’s not something I usually mind as long as I’m not driving. The green belt in Austin is pretty cool, but it doesn’t hold a candle to living near Prospect Park—I can’t wait until it warms up. The museums aren’t something you just do on a early date or when your parents come to town, but something you can get a group of friends together to go see. The library is the best thing that’s ever happened to me, I think.
Living in a pedestrian city. When there are a lot of people out and about, walking around, it makes you feel a lot more connected to your larger community. This weather has made it harder than I think it usually is to walk everywhere; I’m looking forward to spring, when I think the radius of “places we walk to” will expand rapidly. Often, taking the subway doesn’t shave significant time off a journey within some parts of Brooklyn, but you still take it to be warm. I look forward to not having to do that. I still am amazed at how people will hold their ground on a sidewalk, especially since I live in stroller derby Brooklyn, and often feel like perhaps the ginormous strollers should cede the right of way. I now get what people complain about. But on the whole, I’ve always been a fan of walking. It feels good, and I don’t understand why so many people resist it.
The fact that being a pedestrian city also means that anything you can imagine is delivered has also been a wonderful thing.
Food. However great I thought it would be, double or triple that. I thought I would miss Tex-Mex, but I really don’t, because there’s so many great options here. I’m having to relearn how to eat more moderately, dammit. It seems that 100% of New Yorkers are food geeks, as well. It’s just a culinary wonderland. Whatever you think it is, it’s better.
Fashion. For both Marc and myself, this has been a lot of fun. Austin is enforced casual culture, which means no jackets, no ties, no dresses, and skirts have to be dressed down with flat shoes and/or very casual shirts. In New York, you can wear whatever the hell you want at all times, and a lot of people take advantage by looking good and dressing up. I’m a huge fan of vintage shopping, but I was always sad because some of the best vintage clothes are, of course, dresses. But even in a heavy year for love, the number of weddings I was going to hit was minimal, so I couldn’t justify spending even the low amounts of money or giving up the storage space to cute dresses. Here, you can just go ahead and wear that dress, if you want. It’s been a blast for me. I’ve even stocked up with a few summery vintage dresses to remind myself that it is coming, oh yes, it’s coming.
Not to put down winter. Winter weather almost demands you dress up more, so it’s been a great way to acclimate. I’ve learned the art of wearing stockings (something I basically never did in the past), wearing cute socks (same), layering, wearing cute winter hats and scarves, and wearing knee-high boots all the time instead of just as a novelty. I’m a jacket fiend, so I’m looking forward to a spring and fall of wearing a lot of my cute stuff that I already have.
People. Great in Austin and New York, of course. Both places are places where people feel pretty comfortable skipping small talk rapidly and talking about what the fuck ever, so that was an easy transition. People hold their ground here, but they’re not necessarily rude, and they look out for each other, I’ve found. (If you drop something, there’s a 95% chance someone is walking behind you and will pick it up for you.) You’re expected to keep up and not get in the way, but I appreciate those values. Austin is a great city, but not very diverse racially or ethnically; obviously, this is not true of New York. Everyone gets along, and it’s very heartening. People do not bullshit you here. This was also true in many cases in Austin—waiters didn’t try to be your friend, sales clerks appreciate the value of not wasting time. So not much change there.
It was hard to learn to queue up with the efficiency of a New Yorker, but I’m getting there. I’m amazed and trying to learn the patience people have with long lines; the efficient, no bullshit thing does help them move fast.
Entertainment. Excellent, as expected. The main things to do in Austin are eat, hang out and imbibe, and see shows. This is true in Brooklyn, too. I think people expected us to have more trouble making the transition, but it’s basically the same, except more expensive. Jukeboxes here hold their own with many of the best in Austin. If you want to do something out of the norm, you have a lot of options. I expect to learn more about this in the future; I keep hearing about how New York really comes out of hibernation in the spring.
Things I need to learn more about. Cocktails. They like them here, and I’m a babe in the woods on that front. Where the good record shopping is—I’ve been too busy to really explore that, and I’m still having fun exploring the Brooklyn Flea Market. The growing seasons, for when good produce starts to really come back to the farmer’s market. And where on earth you can see a movie that doesn’t suck like most movie theaters do. And whether or not you’re supposed to make friends with your neighbors, since people seem kind of mixed on that front. How to wear shoes when you’re not wearing boots every single day.
Most annoying thing, besides snow. You have to stand by my living room windows to make a fucking phone call with AT&T. They really need to fix that.