Brooklyn is a badass borough. I know, I know, most tourists think of Manhattan when they come to NYC and check out The Statue of Liberty, The Empire State Building, and insist on seeing the “World Trade Center”. Just a note people; the buildings are gone. And no self-respecting New Yorker will ever take you there. It’s bad enough our visiting family and friends drag us to Times Square, but at least we can roll our eyes and pretend to be bored and jaded by the spectacular billboards and neon lights and semi-naked former strippers charging for photos.
But if you’re lucky to know a New Yorker who will play tour guide, beg them to take you to Brooklyn. Brooklyn is the baddest borough in the city. I don’t mean “bad” as in dangerous or down and dirty or where all the hedonists live (although that’s all true). I mean baddass bad.
In the past, I was a planner. I would write a blog post every summer about the free outdoor summer concerts and movies and festivals, and I still do check out my favorite venues to see if there’s anything especially cool coming up each week. But Brooklyn has become such a hot place to hang out that lately I can just wing it and have an amazing time.
This past weekend proves that it’s impossible to be bored in this borough. On Friday I was a bit exhausted from a long week, so I thought I’d stay home and chill. There were a bunch of cool events happening, like the free fireworks at Coney Island, or the outdoor “pan” parties in Crown Heights, so I considered going to one of the “yards” to listen to the steel pan drummers rehearsing for the annual West Indian Day Parade (which happens every Labor Day) but I decided to pass and watch a movie at home when it started to rain. However, as I lay in my bed I heard music outside of my window. Since my room is upstairs on the top floor, it’s usually extremely quiet. Rarely can I hear sounds from the street below, even when my windows are open. After a few minutes, I stepped outside on the roof to investigate. I was surprised to see a small group of people on the next roof over, all laughing and dancing in the rain to the cool sounds of Adele. They invited me to join in, and as we danced and talked we could see the fireworks in the distance.
Yesterday I had planned to see a Broadway Show. I was excited because I don’t often splurge on high priced theater tickets, but I’d gotten a Groupon special so I was looking forward to it. However, when I checked my Groupon I realized that I would not be going to see Alladin the hit Broadway musical at the Amsterdam Theater, but an adaptation of the fairy tale at a theater that actively encourages screaming little humans to be as loud as possible in a location that’s so far off Broadway that I thought I might need a NJ Transit pass to get there. I passed.
Instead, I went to the Imperial Bike Club’s annual bike blessing and block party. If you’re a new gentrifier and you stumble upon St. Marks between Classon Ave. and Franklin Ave. during the bike blessing, the hip hop and gansta rap blaring from mega-speakers and the hundreds (thousands?) of burly, black men rolling up on their Ducatis and cruisers and even a few Harley’s might be a bit intimidating, but I’ve been living a block away for more than 15 years and coming to the bike blessing just about every time they’ve held it and people have been pretty welcoming to me. There are vendors selling cool bike patches and leather vests and biker items, and groups like ABATE Brooklyn, led by husband and wife team, Michael Rock and Phyliss Bryte Knight-Whetstone are super sweet and love meeting new, novice bikers and old timers who love to ride. ABATE is a motorcycle safety and awareness advocacy group, so stop by and say hi, even if you don’t have a bike yet. The first time I met them, I tried to hide my old scooter a block away from the ABATE meeting, embarrassed that I didn’t yet have a “real” motorcycle, but they made me feel welcome and introduced me to the other members and made me feel welcome.
Later a friend picked me up and we drove over to the Italian festival in Williamsburg. Although it appeared small when we first entered near a small bandstand, the festival was actually on four intersecting streets and included a Ferris wheel and other rides for kids and adults, plenty of game and food vendors, and a flea market in the basement of the huge Catholic church in the center of the feast.
For food lovers, there were plenty of big, fat sausage and pepper or meatball sandwiches to choose from, and of course, pizza. Gamblers were seduced into the church basement where a casino was set up, steps away from the confession booth where addicts could ask for forgiveness. For the party animals, the bandstand was surrounded by people enjoying the sexy Italian singer crooning Frank Sinatra as well as original tunes, but once he finished the party really began. The minute the dj started playing old school hits that inspired one middle aged cougar to grab her friend and take over. Her friend, a woman who must have been at least 80 years old, moved her ass so much Miley Cyrus would have had to get nekkid in order to divert the attention off the competition. At least one of the videos almost everyone in the audience was taking has got to go viral. This woman could bust some moves. A few people, including one sexy twenty-something year old with a ponytail who tried to keep up, but he was no match for the new guy I nicknamed “Travolta”.
Travolta had a full set of thick, black wavy hair, a tan, a mouth full of ultra white dentures, and a nose like the infamous Saturday Night Fever star, but the resemblance stopped there. Not only was closer in age to twerking grannie, he needed to dance off the extra fifty or so pounds (all conveniently held in the tummy area) before anyone would mistake him for the actor, but he sure did know all the moves, including his special signature move, which was to suddenly drop down to the ground and do a few “sexy” Chippendale’s push ups in the middle of his routine. Then, he would run and grab a cardboard sign and leave granny on her own for a minute or two in order to prance in front of the audience to let them read that he was homeless and his “request for dollar bills, yall”. Magic Mike be damned. The best part of the show was not him and granny twerking together though, but when he bent over to show everyone his enormous ass. It wasn’t the synchronized senior’s twerking that shocked the audience, but the fact that his extremely large derriere was covered (barely) in the tiniest, daintiest jet black thong. Hey, at least it matched his unbuttoned to the navel, black, 1970’s Travolta shirt.
From there we went around the corner to the Brooklyn Knitting Factory where we watched a free comedy show that was as funny as anything I’ve seen on Comedy Central, probably because a few of the performers actually have been on Comedy Central!
Do you agree that Brookly is the most badass borough in NYC, or do you know another neighborhood that is even better? Where do you hang out in the summer in Brooklyn?