Crown Heights Sonata

Still morning. Crown Heights. Oxymoron.

If you had not heard, I am holding up temporarily in a sublet in Crown Heights. After 6 years in Ditmas Park, it is a drastic change. But I am approaching it as a kind of study.

What hits one in the face is the demarcation between classes. In Ditmas Park, you are treated to a rainbow of ethnicity that is hard to find anywhere. In CH, there is black and there white white. No that was not a typographic error. White white means that there are people here so white, they sweat wonder bread. On one hand you have the old guard of the neighborhood. Black men hanging out on corners, getting updated on their comings and goings, having conversation and then, right in their midst comes jogging past them as if they did not exist a pudgy girl in polka dot running shorts, with ear plugs, head in the air, as if these men did not exist. As I sat in the corner Chinese takeout, I watched with intense interest the movements of Franklin Avenue. Young white couples, still wet behind the ears. Conquerors of the economy. Hipster. Black people and white people moving in parallel universes, never intersecting.

For an enlightening view on the rampant white invasion of Crown Heights, check this out.

Many of the newer stores here in CH look like they went up over night. They give the impression that somehow they appeared instantly. Fore instance, we went into a bicycle store over the weekend. Excelsior Bikes. Just opened. Very few bicycles, but incredibly polished floors. The crew was friendly, but I could not shake the sense that there should be grease on the floor of a bike store. No tire marks, air pumps, hanging parts or old bikes. In other words, no character.

At the other end of the spectrum there are several bars that serve as a weekend destination spot for young courting african americans. Late Friday and Saturday, they can be heard underneath our window in loud conversation, or a relationship gone bad. This usually is about 5 am. This urban soundscape is mixed with passing fire trucks and buses who use the street we live on as a main corridor. Truly the sounds of the city.

But despite the differences, I find the area intriguing. It seems to present a challenge. In DP, meeting new people was so easy. Everyone is relativly friendly. We had Vox Pop to help form social connections, as well as the heap of community activities that we engage with. Circles formed around art, music, environmentalism, bicycling, gardening and even a meditation group. I have been featured on the Ditmas Park blogs and have performed music for my neighbors. The Flatbush Family listserve has helped me sell off stuff I did not want to carry with me any longer. There is a vibrant, and active collective in Ditmas Park. And gentrification does not seem to burning like a cinder forest.

Although I find Crown Heights intriguing, and very European in character, I hope to move back to the Ditmas Park vicinity at the end of this sojourn. Pray for me.


One Comment on “Crown Heights Sonata”

  1. dianezee says:

    I hope you can find a place in Ditmas Park because that neighborhood suited you to a T.

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