Tuesday, September 2, 2008

DUMBO makes me feel numb-o

Oh, how my world has shrunk. It's interesting because I used to make fun of many of my friends in high school that had never left New England. Or those friends in college who had never crossed from Colorado into another state. How could you not even have a desire to see the world I wondered, or at least another state? City? Nothing?

Now going above 96th St or below 14th is a big deal for me. I try to take the 4/5/6 line whenever possible; even taking the N/R/W makes me grumble. My life takes place mostly within 50 or so blocks. I hear the voices of the world in NYC tourists but I myself have become the definition of a townie. A citie? Give me Manhattan, or give me...yeah I sound horrible.

Uh, anyway. There was a time; let's call it 2002. I was in college plotting my move to NYC from the comfort of the Ellis dorms at Colorado State University. And my friends back home in the tri-state NYC area were telling about this great place called DUMBO. (That's Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass for the record.) On the tip of Brooklyn all of these factories were being converted into rentals and condos. You could get a place for $900/mo or $250,000. Significantly cheaper than Manhattan. The area was filled with artists and musicians according to the magazines and newspapers. It was like the new Village!

The deals didn't last. I looked at a couple of places in Brooklyn during my 2007 moving plans but the places were the same price as Manhattan. So I moved to NYC proper, without a real reason to go to Brooklyn. The longer I've lived here the further away Brooklyn has gotten so to speak. Cabs hate going there. It's like a 40-minute subway ride and forget walking there from the Upper East Side. Yet I feel a connection to Brooklyn. I spent a lot of time in the Flatbush and Sheepshead Bay areas as a kid visiting my Dad's family.

All any of that really proves is that I need to get out more. I made the trip to DUMBO twice last week: once for a women in business networking event at the HUGE offices (they're really big!) and once for a job interview. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Brooklyn has awesome views of Manhattan. I had some time to kill so friend A and I went to Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park. It brought back some fond memories of racing down to the area for U2's 'secret' concert after they shot their "All Because of You" video. I'm pleased by the simple surprises of the area. Closed-down factory! Weird arty sculpture things! Cobblestone streets! Two or three brides taking their wedding photos! And of course the Brooklyn Bridge which I love so dearly.

The problem with the area is that it feels kind of empty compared to Manhattan. There are plenty of buildings but they all seem to be residential or offices. Where are the corner convenience stores? And the little lunch places? I saw a few clothing shops and a chocolate shop and a bar. That was about it. Granted I'm no expert about the area but it just seemed lacking to me. Friend A expressed the same. Do people live the NYC life in that they just sleep in DUMBO and do everything else somewhere else? Or was it like Chelsea where every warehouse is actually a secret bar? Maybe I just don't know the code.

After my interview I met up with a couple of friends for Happy Hour drinks at 68 Jay Street Bar. The crowd definitely skewed more 30s than 20s but I enjoyed the chillness. Still, something was missing. Is it that I've just gotten so used to pretentious bar scene in NYC? Hard to say. We walked around a bit after we'd had our fill and I marveled at the lack of storefront after storefront. On my way back to the C train, I passed by a West Elm. It was an oddly welcome sight to see city decorating digs. Confirmed: I am now urbanized. Even Brooklyn feels like a suburb to me.

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