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The Great Park Slope Clipper

-Where have you gone, Rick DiMonaco?

November 24, 2003

New York Newcomer – what a title. I suppose it beats “King of Pop” these days. And I prefer it to “California Native.” That one usually shows up unceremoniously on the 405 freeway, affixed to the bumper of some chain-smoking Shirley Booth clone’s Ford Taurus. If your sole claim to identity is being born in the same state as countless millions, you might consider keeping it to yourself.

The question has arisen “at what point does one cease being a newcomer?” It’s a gray area. Having a mortgage may lend definition for some, but probably has more to do with the psychology of attachment. I think when you’ve remained somewhere long enough to enjoy it thoroughly yet be genuinely sick of it, you’ve probably put in decent time. In my specific case it will be when they turn this column over to a kid from Peoria with a Williamsburg sublet and a real job.

***

Unbelievably, I’ve received two invitations for Thanksgiving dinners. This points to an obvious need to start tempering the pathetic tone of my personal prose and pay select attention to suffixes when choosing between “loner” and “lonely.” It also adds to my already favorable impression of Brooklyners, be they natives or those who choose to move here. The most I ever got offered in San Francisco was temporary pardon from my status as Straight White Male. Perhaps I should have played the newcomer angle more out there.

Playing the cheap angle Sunday, I picked up a three-dollar copy of Richard Cramer’s Joe DiMaggio biography at a used book table on Seventh Avenue. My connection to the great Yankee Clipper is obvious. Both of us took New York by storm and by way of San Francisco. It is my dad, actually, who hails from Joe’s specific neighborhood. North Beach, though overrun with tourists these days, still hangs on to a good deal of its old school charm. It is also home to Specs’ and Vesuvios, two of the best bars I’ve ever come across. (Particularly the former on an uncrowded Wednesday evening.) I’ve noticed that despite the approaching winter, it is still difficult to find a Brooklyn bar that will make an Irish Coffee. I may find a wife, home, and career in this borough, yet still have legitimate reason to flee.

Despite the knee-jerk politics and unearned air of superiority, that city out west also has a decent view or two if you set out looking for them. I was reminded of this watching the 49ers on Monday Night Football last week, when they cut to the obligatory overhead shot of the Golden Gate Bridge. It is a jaded soul indeed who looks upon that structure with indifference, even if it’s the last thing he sees before jumping off. Brooklyn has more of a head-in-oven appeal, though I’m not going down that road lest I receive more Thanksgiving invitations.

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I’m starting to feel more familiar with Park Slope; its earth-toned Brownstones with gas lamps and warmly lit interiors and long avenues increasing in funky appeal as they retreat from Seventh. It is, in large part, a neighborhood for well-to-do families. (Or at least this is the case with the section I’ve moved to.) I glance in these homes as I walk the streets returning from a pint or cup of coffee and see pianos and nice couches and kids practicing ballet and antique bookshelves packed with good reading. It isn’t that I’m glaring into windows with cupped hands – these scenes offer themselves to the passer-by at street level, and blend interior with exterior nicely. Still, this projected domestic bliss can make returning home to a peanut butter and banana sandwich even harder to swallow.

Sketchy cuisine aside, the interior of my own sublet is beyond decent. The place is warm (too warm when they turn the heat on, actually) and has a neat old parquet floor and a turret with bay windows. I didn’t know I had a turret until a friend pointed it out a few days ago. I thought it was just a place where the floor jutted out toward the street. Her impression, looking at it, was the same as mine when I first saw the room: what a great spot for writing. Unfortunately, these visions rarely come to pass, and I’ve used the area more for TV-watching and cloud-gazing. Maybe someday the turret will appear in my prose, but for now it’s just a welcome bit of extra space in the apartment.

My personal belongings are also increasing in number, as I approach the last months on my lease. Both winter and summer clothing fill my closet, there’s a familiar cover from home on my comforter, and my well-played guitar rests against the wall. But it’s a bit like trying to force years of familiarity on a new relationship. Whether I stick this one out or go somewhere else, it’s going to take a lot more ups and downs before I can claim anything approaching love. The newcomer status may get chucked somewhere along the way, but the jury’s still out for the long haul.

2003 Rick Monaco All Rights

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