Tag Archives: Park Slope

Fall Sunday Stats #8: Long Weekend.

Miles run driven: 1610, round trip.  After a great Thanksgiving dinner with old friends, we spent most of Thanksgiving weekend in Brooklyn, in my old neighborhood.  Park Slope was on a gentrifying, yuppifying trend when I left in 1987, and it has continued on the same path since, which means it has MUCH better restaurants than when I left.

I am proud to say that even though the yuppie sports bar (which my little group of juvenile delinquents always called “The Fern Bar” in a tone that was positively dripping with disdain) is still open and was only a block from the apartment we rented, we didn’t eat there.  I remember swearing an oath in blood with several of my friends that we would never give The Fern Bar our custom, once we were 21 and old enough to get in.  I kept my part of the bargain.

Instead, I showed the kids the house I grew up in (from the outside), the pizza place I used to go to, and various places I used to hang out.  The kids put up with my blathering on about my childhood with good grace; they were just happy to see their grandpa and try a few new things.

Much to my daughter’s chagrin, she and Junior liked New York pizza a lot — perhaps even better than Chicago pizza, which caused me to laugh maniacally in the middle of the Smiling Pizzeria.  They liked the park and the little local bookstore with the feline-in-residence.  And the place that sold Smurfs back in the day now has entire walls covered with Thomas the Tank Engine products (I did find one Smurf on a shelf of unboxed figurines for sale; I think it was Sultry Smurf, but I’m not sure.  Mainly, they liked the big park.

On the last day before we left, we went into Manhattan to meet my mother; before we went uptown to the Museum of Natural History, the Mrs. suggested we take the kids to Forbidden Planet, the science fiction/comic book store where I used to blow all my free cash.  I didn’t argue, and Junior and I had a great time; Unfocused Girl was less impressed, although she ended up with some good stuff, including a Thor graphic novel (and since Junior can’t read, all the comics that he asks for end up inuring to her benefit, too).

I think they liked seeing where I grew up, even though they didn’t like the crowds and I rambled on a bit long a few times.  Probably the thing I said that caused the most consternation was my description of stickball, which we used to play in the street, since they know that if I caught them playing anything in the street, they would be in serious trouble.

How about the writing? I have finished my edits of “Jimmies,” and expect to submit it this week.  I plan to start revisions of Meet the Larssons, but I have (surprise) to go out of town for work for several days this week and may not get much done until the weekend.  Blah.

Hatin’ the Slope? Really?

In high school, I had a button I used to wear pinned to my long black overcoat (and yes, I am thankful every day that I graduated high school long before high school students were profiled as dangerous for wearing too much black) that read “I am now the person I swore I’d never become.” I wore it with a sense of what I believed to be subtle irony, because I was, y’know, in high school; when did I swear not to become a science fiction-reading, angst-ridden, Pink Floyd-quoting high school student, third grade?

I wore that button, along with half a bottle of hair gel and my Chuckie-Ts, to an eighties-themed benefit last year, and it was neither subtle nor ironic; I am, in fact, the person I swore I’d never become: a suit-wearing, mortgage-paying, big firm lawyer. But I’m also pretty happy with the way things have turned out – the wife, the kids, the house, the neighborhood, even the job (most of the time) — which leads to the inescapable conclusion that when I was 16, I didn’t know jack shit. Big surprise: 16-year-old boy generally clueless. Alert the media.

I’m reminiscing about my misspent youth because of an article in this morning’s paper. Apparently, everyone in New York hates my old neighborhood. At least, that’s the premise of an article in today’s New York Times, Park Slope: Where Is the Love? (Only in the Times; anyone else would have said, “Where’s the Love?” but it seems the NYT hates contractions almost as much as New Yorkers hate the Slope.) According to the article, Park Slope — so named because it is the neighborhood downhill from Brooklyn’s Prospect Park — has been taken over by obnoxious yuppies and stroller pushing, latte drinking, tavern invading mothers.

I don’t pretend to understand how this is different from any other upscale neighborhood in post-Giuliani New York, but I haven’t lived there (except for a couple of summers during college) in 20 years, so what do I know? What I do know is that darn near anybody — even me, at age 16 — could have looked at the changes in the neighborhood from 1976, when I moved to 6th Street, to 1985, when I turned 16, and predicted at least some of what’s happened to the ‘hood. By 1985, every block on Seventh Avenue (the main commercial strip, at least then) had a storefront real estate agency, and every other block had a little grocery store with a salad bar. The Associated supermarket hadn’t yet converted to a D’agostino’s, but you just knew something like it was coming. An upmarket pizza place opened up — I think it was called The Berkeley Kitchen — and was definitely a step above the other local pizza joints (it closed within a year or two; it seemed mysterious at the time, but the restaurant business ain’t easy, so there was probably nothing sinister about it). And then, there was the fern bar. Goddamn fern bar.

Look, we were teenagers. The number of neighborhood bars that would let us in could be counted on one finger of one hand, and that was because most nights we were the only customers. We never had more than a beer or two, because the woman who owned the place was nice, if a little dotty, and we didn’t want to abuse her hospitality; she probably wouldn’t have sold us any more than that, anyway, but I don’t think anyone ever pushed the issue.

But back to the fern bar. I think it was on the corner of Union Street and Seventh Ave., and I can’t for the life of me remember what was there before then, but around 1985 some bozo opened up a fancy-looking bar with great big ferns, in planters, visible through the floor-to-ceiling windows. Words like “yuppie scum” were tossed around a lot in the mid-eighties, and they were used in connection with the bar. My little group of friends vowed we would never patronize the soul-sucking place, and as far as I know, none of us ever did. I don’t even know whether it’s still around.

So we could have predicted the yuppie takeover of the Slope. I don’t know how bad that is; I understand that there are some excellent restaurants on Fifth Avenue now; Fifth was a commercial wasteland when I was a kid. I’m sure a lot of the grittiness I remember is long gone, but I was mugged a couple of times as a teenager, and if Park Slope has benefited from the general decline in crime in New York, that’s nothing to be sorry for.

I don’t get back to Brooklyn much. My mother moved out of the city back in 1999, and my father’s place is too small for us to stay in, so when we get to town for a social visit, we stay at a hotel in Manhattan; prices being what they are, we haven’t done that in a while. I’d like to go back there sometime soon and show the kids around. I just won’t take them to the fern bar.