For the sheer variety and quality of stuff to see and do, you can’t beat New York. I live about an hour outside New York (by mass transit), but I’ve been working in Manhattan for the past 10 years in different locations and have spent much of my free time there since my teen years. SoHo, Greenwich Village, Flatiron, Union Square, and occasionally the Lower East Side are where I usually find myself browsing bookstores, enjoying parks, viewing art, listening to live music, among other random activities. It’s become a second home of sorts, and I feel like a permanent guest/visitor coming and going almost every day.
Some years ago, I’d begun making occasional trips further east, to the land of Brooklyn. Most of those trips were to visit friends or go see a friend’s band play — not really compelled by any personal interest in Brooklyn itself. I never knew what was really out there, beyond stereotypical images of art school students and assorted hipsters in Williamsburg, successful young professionals in Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope, and diverse ethnic groups in Bed-Stuy, Crown Heights, and other places popularized by news, TV and movies.
I couldn’t see what was so special or particularly compelling about living there, aside from the proximity to Manhattan. Friends and co-workers would rave about the (once) affordable apartments, the sense of community, and the easy access to pretty much everything from grocery stores to parks to nightlife. While I acknowledged these things somewhat grudgingly, I couldn’t find a strong personal connection to Brooklyn (I’m not terribly connected to where I am presently). I wasn’t sure I could ever call Brooklyn my home.
Recognizing my heavily subjective bias against Brooklyn, I’ve decided to balance my knowledge with more first-hand experience. Lately, I’ve been taking more frequent trips to Brooklyn, mostly to Prospect Heights, Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights, and DUMBO. I’ve even brought family visiting from outside the U.S. to visit the Brooklyn Museum (while doing a poor job of playing tour guide in semi-unfamiliar territory). There’s plenty I have yet to see and do, so I’m hoping to devote a few summer weekends to my on-going “research.”
I want to see what makes Brooklyn so special, so “perfect” for all those die-hard Brooklynites. But would I ever actually pull the trigger and move there? Is that what it takes to know for sure? We’ll see…