Touring the Boroughs: Brooklyn, Where Non-Hipsters Fear to Tread

16 Jun

As a means of “getting outside of your head,” a friend recommended getting out and seeing the city. CityBoy and I roam around quite a bit, but there are parts of New York City that we rarely visit. Namely the boroughs, which, as all good Manhattanites know, means those *other* boroughs, the ones off-island or way-way-way uptown. Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Staten Island.

So I packed a bag with a book, a snack, and some water and spent a day wandering.

First stop: Brooklyn (Greenpoint/Williamsburg)

I’d been wanting to visit Word, a quirky indie bookstore in Greenpoint that has a great Twitter presence and some unusual events, so I decided I’d make it my first stop.


We're heeeere!


I should say it takes three subway trains to get from my apartment on the Upper East Side to get to Greenpoint, which is due south and across the East River. It wasn’t a bad commute, though I did manage to pick the hottest day of the week for this excursion. This makes a difference in Greenpoint, since it is an old industrial area, with very few trees or skyscraper-ish buildings to block the blindingly hot noonday sun.


Landmark! Landmark!


By the time I’d found Word (delayed by my horrible sense of direction, which had me going the wrong way into a creepy industrial no-man’s zone for about fifteen minutes), I was soppy wet. From my own sweat. I say this not to gross you out (okay, maybe a little) but to encourage you to consult your local weather when planning your next outing. And also to get a firm grip on your bearings before exiting the somewhat cooler confines of the subway station.

But back to Word – it’s a super cool, smallish bookstore, with a great selection of new fiction (lots of authors I’d never heard of), interesting events (there’s a running club that meets on Sundays), and friendly, personable people who give good advice (the lady at the counter told me about a cafe down the street where I got a very tasty curry chicken wrap for lunch).

One of the funniest things about the store is its matchmaking corner:


Readers seeking readers


I’m surprised other indie bookstores haven’t jumped on this bandwagon. From what I understand, Word actually hosts matchmaking nights, where you can meet that tall dark stranger with a penchant for brooding thrillers and James Joyce. Nice, huh? I picked up two goodies:  a children’s book for one of my nieces about a mole who chases a duck through New York City, and Brian Turner’s Phantom Noise, the war veteran and poet’s sophomore effort.

Then, it was off to the East River State Park for lunch. Again, I wandered in the wrong direction for a while (I really need a GPS implant or something) before finding this state park, where you can actually get down to the water, which is blocked-off elsewhere by buildings, industrial parks, etc. It’s actually a pretty lame park, by most standards, but it does give you an uninterrupted view of the Manhattan skyline and, more importantly, interestingly garbed hipsters enjoying the outdoors.


Hipster horseshoes, anyone?


During my hour-long squat, I counted no fewer than:

7 rompers

5 full-arm or -back tattoos

1 fanny pack

3 beards

2 jean shorts on men

1 mutton chops

and the winner…a woman in jean short-shorts with built-in suspenders wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with a crying kitten. Ah, the ironic displays of bad fashion and questionable amounts of vintage polyester. It was truly a sight to behold.

By the time I made my blister-hobbled way to Williamsburg, just a few blocks away, I was too tired and sweaty to really appreciate the sweat-bathed humanity that is this hipster mecca. It reminded me of Berkeley in the 90s, with its mingled smells of old beer, vomit, and youthful disillusionment. Everywhere I saw young people in too tight clothing and oversized eyewear, lit cigarettes dangling from fuzzy beards and organically-lipbalmed lips. I forgot my personal angst for a couple of hours, which was entirely the point.

Rock on, people.

– Jho


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