The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Interdependence Day

Every now and then I feel it's worth expressing again the Q's Statement of Purpose. I started writing, some thirteen hundred posts ago, on a dare from a coworker, who said if I had so many damn opinions and feelings I should "put 'em on my blog." I had to ask for what godly purpose a person starts a blog. He, being almost half my age and full of vitriol and vigor, looked at me askance and said "because if you're a loudmouth and a blowhard and can write, that's what you do." The first two descriptors didn't register, as I am capable of deep levels of denial, but the last bit about being able to write reminded me that I'd always the act of writing, that it was how I figured shit out, and I was already sort of a writer, having been a lyricist, writing sometimes 10 songs to get to the one I actually used. I asked the young fellow why one would bother putting it out there for all to see, and he told me something that stuck with me to this day. "Because when you post on your blog, you're instantly a published author." When he showed me his own blog, about music 'n' tings, I asked how many people read it. He told me that maybe 100 or 200 people showed up at his page every single time he posted. Holy cow, thought I. (That same guy now has like 10,000 Twitter followers, Twitter being a 140-character-max micro-blog, perfect for Generation G, the letter "G" standing for Generation. Yes. Those born from 1985-1995 have just been dubbed, by the Q, the Generation Generation, the generation so nice they named it twice).

Now, I've been around the indie-rock block a time or two, and I'll tell you right now that if 100 or 200 people show up at a gig, that's pretty darn good. Do that 20 times in a month and you got yourself a tour. But I don't like touring the end I loathed it, and the Motel 6's that I'd once adored, and even the red Chevy van that we'd nicknamed "Mensy" and written a song about, though in retrospect it was a bit of a requiem. That is to say if someone had told me back in 1992 that one day a few hundred people would read a "column" of mine (that was the only kind of blog they had back then - they were called columns, because, I think, they take up about a column of total space, if all the paragraphs are stacked top to bottom, in the newspaper), I would've said you were dopey and that you had precious little expectation from journalists. In other words, columning didn't seem like something I'd do in this lifetime, or even in the next three or four.

Yet, 1300 posts later, here I am. And I'm here to tell you that every single one of those posts is dead center on the mark (psyche!), and I wouldn't take a single thought or sentence back, because it came off the keyboard fast and furious and rarely did I spend more than a quick read-through before publishing it (a-ha you say - that's why all the typos!) I toy with the idea of taking advertising, but frankly I have barely the time to write let alone try to convince struggling local businesses to cough up coin to help me express myself. I would then feel obligated to write with their interests at heart, and frankly I'd rather maintain an air of independence and gadfly-ness. I appreciate newsy blogs greatly, but I haven't the heart to be the "neighborhood online." I do hope someone takes up the charge though, then maybe I could stick to the edgier less-narrative stuff, losing readership I'm sure, but allowing myself more breathing room to NOT post about local goings-on, which I both appreciate and resent from time to time for being so blasted frequent. If I become suddenly unemployed from my day-job, the one that's actually paying my modem bills, well then I'd surely get my typing fingers much more dirty scouring the streets for each pothole and the sidewalks for each new awning.

I read (sometimes) the neighborhood blogs, the real estate blogs, the gawking blogs - and the NY Times. Now with SO many Times employees living in our neighborhood, I feel practically OBLIGED to read it. Oh, and I read links that people send me, and I illegally download books that sound interesting on topics about which I'm curious, mostly about truths that have been unearthed through skepticism and stealthy research. I love a good Devil's Advocate. I'm not particularly fond of conspiracy theories, but when they turn out to be true - like the myth that crack cocaine was some sort of revolutionary new instantly addictive menace to society - then I begin to appreciate the odd crackpot "truther" argument a bit more, for its contrarian insistence in spite of ubiquitous media statements of fact.

As the large apartment building two doors down has now opened its doors to myriad new renters and owners in a wholesale transformation of the demographic of what was just two years ago an exceptionally ordinary six story Leffertsian edifice, I feel obliged to reiterate that I don't resent ANYone for wanting to live here or for in fact buying or renting, even at prices that could make a millionaire of a longtime homeowner. I'd be exhibiting a great deal of self-hate in such an emotion, and in fact I've come to see that we are merely experiencing a form of hyper-gentrification heretofore unseen in the borough, and that many factors can be attributed to the onslaught. And yet, I know for a fact now that the cards are obscenely stacked against renters of color and modest means and that rent stabilization is hardly a fix. Renters of limited means, education and/or trust of authorities and outsiders are easily preyed upon by unscrupulous players of all persuasions. Civil rights laws are notoriously difficult to enforce. And often it seems as if the mainstream media only sit back and comment on the state of affairs, eliciting sighs of resignation at yet another neighborhood being swallowed by the engorged yet ravenous entitled classes. I mean who doesn't want a decent cup of coffee and a kale salad or two? Is a make-your-own frogurt place so much to ask for? And what of ramps?
Exhibit A: Ramp

Here's the thing. If you're curious like a cat, like the Q, and you start to notice and listen and act outside of your comfort bubble, you can't help but notice that not everything is as it was presented. And while I must admit I've often been misdiagnosed myself, it's now clear as a bell pepper that the average whitey hasn't a clue about the rich and varied black Brooklyn that he has now pretty well colonized. It's not usually due to mean-spiritedness; it's simply ignorance at best or willful blindness at worst, though occasionally a verifiable old-school bigot comes on the scene. But most of Central Brooklyn is probably still "too black" for that sort of fellow, and he quickly moves out to Westchester or better yet Windsor Terrace.

And so I'll leave you with a crowd-sourcing campaign, often the best way to glimpse what the dreamers are up to. In this case, Imani Henry of "Equality for Flatbush" is just the sort of person one might never encounter personally, but who works tirelessly to bring a voice to the voiceless around here. His campaign is embedded below, and I encourage you to meet him through the video and consider what he's saying. Were it yours whose very cultural homeland were disappearing before your eyes, you too might want to identify a way to bring the fact to light. And you too might choose to do so through the eyes of those who have actually raised families and been raised and bore witness to each generation's creativity and progress and hardships. Or something like that.

I've had the pleasure of speaking at length to Imani, and while he and I may not agree on everything, we certainly agree that folks right now are hurting and confused and that for every "step forward" the country appears to make, there are almost always those who get "stepped on" in the process. Please do give his pitch a viewing:


suzanne said...

Thanks for raising awareness about this project. A lot of history gets erased in this city and around the country because people don't speak up and/or don't have a forum in which to raise their voices. This is an important project and I wish the filmmakers all the best.

Rie Selavy said...

"In this case, Imani Henry of "Equality for Flatbush" is just the sort of person you might never encounter personally"

Curious about your wording here...why not? I've never met Imani personally, but he's a friend of a friend, it's a pretty tight neighborhood and he's campaigning tirelessly for this project.

I like this blog, but your choice of wording sounds like you're assuming something about your audience.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Seriously Rie? The word "you" here is synonymous with "one." As in, "one may never encounter personally." His big focus has been on reaching out through social media, and frankly, not that many people are going to meet him personally, but they'll see evidence of his work everywhere. It's a compliment, meant to show that his work reaches far and wide.

But yeah, I know who my readers are, generally. And I know, too, that they're very sensitive to being called out. If you personally feel that I've mistaken you for someone you're not, I apologize. However, the word "you" does not refer to you personally. A less defensive reading might have revealed that.

Rie Selavy said...

Wow, that was...not what I expected.

I think that you, Clarkson Flatbed, know exactly what I mean about addressing the white gentrifiers of the neighborhood at the expense of longtime. mainly POC residents, but chose to respond in a really bizarre manner. I'll get my neighborhood news elsewhere.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Okey Doke!