Wednesday, February 20, 2013
I'm Worried About Brooklyn Kids
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking as my train pulls through Brooklyn, when I see expensive strollers laden with babies in preppy clothing, moms pulling out crunchy granola mixes to feed their toddlers. I’ve been worrying a bit about Brooklyn kids. Not their well-being, exactly, or if they’re receiving a good education. I’m worried about what they’re going to be like as they grow-up in Brooklyn. This “new” Brooklyn, slightly altered from the one I called home as a kid. All these transplants that speak without a trace of an accent, their love for organic products, their trendy $80 natural cotton t-shirts. What are their kids going to be like?
Brooklyn is full of ridiculous stereotypes that are both true and false, exaggerated and spot-on. I had a pretty safe, normal childhood on most accounts. I mean, my life wasn’t exactly the life of Biggie Smalls “packin gats and stuff,” but there’s something about Brooklyn kids – no matter how simple our life might have been – that makes us feel a little bit special. We might all have come from different economic backgrounds, social situations, and lifestyles but for the most part, we are all bonded on one common similarity that bridges most any gap- we’re from Brooklyn. We will raise our hands in excitement in bars when “Where Brooklyn at?” blares over a speaker no matter where we are with a sense of excited pride.
I was a good kid, and much of a nervous nelly goody-goody, with the occasional loud mouth. Overall, I was probably as mild-mannered as this new breed of Brooklyn kids who smile up at me from their strollers drinking soy milk. But, at the same time – these kids are so different. For the most part, my friends and I, the kids in my neighborhood, throughout my life, all the way up into my teens came from very Brooklyn families. Regardless of race or religion our parents and, sometimes, grandparents grew-up here. They told us stories about the trollies that used to roll through the streets, the stick-ball they played, the crime that made them stick close to their own neighborhoods. Families all lived near one another- in a 10-block radius or in the same house at times. Some people migrated to New Jersey or Long Island, but many stayed put in their rent-controlled apartments or long-ago purchased homes that have since quadrupled in price. When we were young, my friends and I sat on stoops after school, we liked boys who drank 40s and wore gaudy gold chains, we listened to ridiculous reggae remixes called things like Heads High [kill ‘em with it], and turned the “er” into an “ah” at the end of our words the same way everyone around us did.
These new Brooklyn kids are products of a completely different world. They have play dates...they don’t hang out. Their parents come from all over. They speak differently with the pronunciation of a person from Anywhere USA. Urban Outfitters, Abercrombie, and H&M have invaded our streets- stores you had to travel out to Long Island or New Jersey for when I was little. We’ve long ago adapted to what we used to call “shit suburban kids wear.” Little kids today grow-up eating sushi or vegan dishes in the same way we grew-up grabbing a slice at our favorite pizzeria or a bag of Dipsy Doodles at the corner store.
Most people will say it’s for the best. Society is advancing, changing, this is just the way things go. I’m sure our parent’s generation felt a similar tug of the unfamiliar as my generation grew-up with a steady stream of video games and the WB. But, it’s more than that. It feels a lot like the whole identity we’ve come to associate with “I’m from Brooklyn” is changing into something completely new. Black framed glasses and suspenders, slouchy hipster winter hats, kids who live in multi-million dollar brownstones that were considered three-family homes twenty years ago. Through the years some of us have stayed, but others are growing up and moving away. The new, fresh generation of Brooklyn kids left behind are already strangers to me. But, they sure are cute in their $1,000 strollers.