It’s only words

A few weeks ago, my husband and I took our kids out of the usual suburban routine and drove them into Brooklyn.

Brooklyn is the land of my people. It’s where three of my four grandparents were born, it’s where both of my parents were born and where my father was raised, and it’s where nearly everyone in my family has lived for a period of time.  Some longer than others — like, say, their entire lives. Me, not so much. I’ve lived in Manhattan and Queens, but I’ve never been fortunate enough to actually call Brooklyn home. I spent so much time there as a kid, visiting my grandparents and aunts, that I think of it as my adopted borough.

Brooklyn today, however, is not the Brooklyn of yesteryear. It’s new and improved, to put it mildly, although I’m sure the old-timers would beg to differ. My Great-Uncle Charlie would have to duck into the corner bar and grill and ask for directions to the Flatbush Avenue Junction, because he’d have no idea where the hell he was. And he’d be really, really cheesed to discover that Ebbetts Field was torn down. But that’s a story for another day.

We spent the day at Brooklyn Flea — a weekly flea market that takes place on Saturday and Sunday in Fort Greene or Williamsburg, depending on the day. We were on the hunt for working manual typewriters. I’d wanted to own an old typewriter for years, just as soon as I realized that my parents had given away my father’s college typewriter, complete with its linen-look hard case. I wrote my first story about Mr. Strunsenfusel the hunter and a large, unruly mob of squirrels on that typewriter, and I wanted my kids to enjoy that same experience.

The kids found several booths at the Brooklyn Flea that had typewriters for sale. Some of them, sadly, were as much as one month’s rent on my first apartment in Manhattan.

At each booth, my son and daughter raced up to touch the carriage return lever and lift the paper catch, to feel the weight of the keys as they depressed them, and to bunch up all of those strikers at once in a clacky cluster. I reminded them to be respectful and careful with an “antique” (sweet Jesilu), and each vendor smiled as they marveled at the mechanics of these forgotten machines.

All except one. At the last booth, a thirtysomething hipster vendor — who probably rents out the garden apartment in my great-grandfather’s old row house on Carroll Street — emerged from underneath his makeshift hipster tent, and said ever so softly and plainly and hipsterishly, “Please don’t type.”  Which I found to be completely hilarious — typewriters not meant for typing.

It speaks volumes about what Brooklyn has become, actually. This here? This thing that you see? Yeah, well, it’s not for you. It’s only for some of us. It’s gentrification in the worst sense of the word.

Even though I’m a fan of artisanal sandwiches and bacon ice cream and ten-million-dollar lofts in the Brooklyn Navy Yards, in my heart, I’m still a kid who loves what Brooklyn was — graffiti and grit and so’s yuh muthuh and goin’ up the avuh-knyuh and Spaldeen and eggcreams and all.

I’d like Jackie Robinson and Pete Hamill and Jackie Gleason and Carole King and Barbra Streisand and Jack Gilford and Rosie Perez and Jerry Stiller and Brenda Vaccaro — all of them, and whomever else they grew up with in Brooklyn — to all converge on that booth at once and hit a typewriter key in unison. But that’s just the outerborough in me.

Good luck with selling that four hundred dollar Royal with the broken space bar, jackass.

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