I’ve lived in Brooklyn for almost four years now and I still hear the story. “The Suitcase of Opportunity.” The way the story goes apparently is that a group of Hasidic Jewish men drive around different neighborhoods with a suitcase full of money and when presented is too much to turn down. A tool of bribery to get people to move out of the neighborhood and corner the market. I thought this was just a running joke until I heard of more than one person speak of the infamous suitcase.
As much as everyone says they love this place, what would you do if the suitcase appeared at your front door? How would you react? With this place ever changing, do you see a future for your homeland or the beginning of the end? This isn’t just to make my natives think but also the people who travel and bust their ass literally to live and be here. Do you see the longevity in a place you fought so hard to be in? A place that played a part in making you who you are today-good or bad?
I can’t point the finger at all the people. It plays a major role but the main cast is the realty companies that set the trend to begin with. They seem to forget that these are people’s homes, to build and protect their families, not a fashion statement. The only real up and coming trends are the children that come out of these neighborhoods.
Realtors are the Christopher Columbus of gentrification. They come to an area that was already established. Stick their sign down and rename it some bullshit they think sounds cool and modern. To diminish the identity that laid the foundation, for the apartment buildings and fancy supermarkets that destroyed so many homes to build.
So I ask you again, where do you stand?
Long Island City is an area in Queens(for some reason people refuse to admit that it’s Queens), still going through a major gentrification renovation. I pass through this area of Queens quite a bit and on Van Dam St. the heart of Long Island City is the Van Dam Diner. A classic eatery, with seats at the counter, a line of booths on one side and tables on the other. Every inch of this restaurant screams nostalgia and I eat here as often as I can when I’m in this part of Queens.
As soon as I walk in, the host who knows me for years, seats me at my usual spot, right by the window. I love the window seats because they’re great for people watching, which is getting more interesting every year. As I take my seat, I’m immediately accompanied by a cup of coffee from a server who is new to this stomping ground of mine.
As I look at my phone to respond to a text message, my breakfast is sitting right in front of me as I look back. Service is one of my most important determinants when it comes to recommending a place for my readers to enjoy. Now I didn’t give my order to the server and yet there my breakfast is right in front of me. The host knows what I want and puts the order in. The server benefits from the gratuity I am about to leave after receiving excellent service.
My meal is always excellent when I come to the Van Dam Diner as it should be. I have never been disappointed no matter what the meal is, hence why I am not going to elaborate as to what my meal was. Dining establishments can have the best food which can always be ruined by sub-par service. That is why I love Van Dam Diner, the service is great and on point.
The Van Dam Diner is a pillar of the community and hasn’t changed all these years. Gentrification has had no effect on this classic grill and I am absolutely sure it’s going to remain the same. Gentrification causes change we are all aware of that, it’s places like Van Dam Diner that are resistant to change and keeps us optimistic about the future of New York City and its boroughs.
There really aren’t many of us left and that sounded super weird in my head and even more weird to admit on paper but its true. More times than not, I bet you are the only New Yorker in your group of friends or even at work. You ever go somewhere with them and they try to tell you the best way to get somewhere when they weren’t here for tokens or 9/11?
It’s almost like starting High School and hoping you see a familiar face somewhere in the crowd. Forced and/or bought out of their homes to make room for people who are too scared to live in it themselves. “It’s not the best neighborhood but the rent is cheap and they just built a hotel, which means it will be really nice in 5 years! Haha, I definitely won’t be there by then.” Literally a real conversation!
Being ditched by your first yellow cab, eating dirty water dogs(hot dogs) and of course running for the train only to be in the lonely car with the homeless guy who carries his original fragrance. If they survive more than a year of that, people consider themselves Native. That’s the average day for a New Yorker and that’s only the morning time. I need your public school to have a number in it. Did you take the regents? Ever go to school during a snowstorm? Can you double parallel park anything? Even then, you’re not valid.
A big part of New York isn’t just about great shopping, pizza, skyscrapers and the sight-seeing. It’s about the people, which makes New York New York. It’s damn near a novelty and a raw form of respect that comes with it. We’re exposed to a lot so we’re open but could sniff bullshit before it hits our nostrils. I’ve heard a lot of transplants admit they couldn’t grow up here or even raise their kids here, a lot of our parents did both. Now a lot of people are either being pushed out or just tired and leave.
This is not to talk complete shit about transplants. I have many friends from the transplant community. You get to experience a place you’ve been your whole life in a completely different way. Take everything in! Admit-tingly, you end up doing things you would not have done and finding little things you walked past every day. Specialty shops that make eating fun and just happen to be vegan, gluten-free and sourced locally. I know for a lot of people that come here, it’s about conquering fears and following dreams, New York is their Wizard of Oz. I just don’t want to look up one day and not be in Kansas anymore.
Closing in on the colossal stadium, in the now metropolitan, which is Fort Greene, lies the Barclay’s Center. The Barclays Center is certainly a circus of lights, advertisement and a certain glint of “New York” spirit. Whether it is the most out of place Roc-A-Wear clothing store or extremely lit (with actual lights) subway entrance to guarantee that you’ve definitely made it to your destination the Brooklyn way. Making my way into the colosseum in the city there’s a brief halt to the glamour and glitter while being checked in through the short security section. The lobby area is nothing special, especially when comparing to the light show that’s going on outside. Once past all the meekness of entering the tunnel to get to your seat, lies vendor after vendor serving decadent meals and frosty cold beers. The homage train car near the exclusive “American Express” entryway isn’t lost on this New York however, it does serve as a cool separation for the haves and the people who are actually riding the train.
(Image Courtesy of New York City Theater)
The Internet was a sublime opener for those previously unaware of the group. With a cocktail mix of R&B, hip-hop, funk and electronic they served as the perfect amuse-bouche to the audience. Even though there were a number of seats still being filled in, the waiting crowd was vibing to the beats.
Anticipation wore heavy on me wondering with questions of what form the band would appear in for the show. Previously known for concealing their identity with some groovy animations or using their silhouettes, the band storms on stage with a wild energy. Their outfits matching the presence of their music, electrical and eclectic. All except for the frontman of the band, David Albarn’s character 2-D, represents a similarly grungy, laid back, cigarette ashing on my washed out black T-Shirt vibe. The other members performing as the backup in some radical bright patterns and eye-catching colors, like the animated videos in the background showing the remaining animated members of the band.
(Image Courtesy of Brooklyn Vegan)
The first song bringing the band on stage “M1 A1” screams out an ominous call for help, behind a building guitar riff which is reminiscent of early guitar hero strumming that breaks into an electrifying brit rock anthem. It was an excellent way to start and rile up the crowd after a comparatively calm band like The Internet.
Followed up by ‘Tranz’ a trancey toon with an animated video of the nonhuman portion performing, gives a feel of what some of the first songs put out by the band. There is more of a rock influence backing the track. ‘Last Living Souls’ was next up using a beat machine. David Albarn introduces a tougher hip-hop beat while the song sings out questioning the humanity of people while alternating between beats and a country-like ballad. This song shows how the band can seamlessly incorporate different genres.
The band coasts through “Rhinestone Eyes” a softer melody before getting into the far creepier “Saturn Barz” featuring Popcaan. The song is dark visually and linguistically. Popcaan sings through some of the painful realities of his life growing up in Jamaica, to a contrastingly creepy electronic rhythm. The electronic presence of the group, likely wouldn’t have translated as well without the harmonious background cast of all black singers. There, a solo by a spectacular talent that was especially appreciated by the audience.
Other highlights of their epically extravagant set include a variety of guest stars including De La Soul, Peven Everett, Bootie Brown and a Brooklyn native Mos Def. The experience was a definite separation from a typical concert experience with well-choreographed animated videos, to bring clarity to the lyrics that are usually far more serious than their sometime’s pop-punky backtracks. Towards the end of the show, most of the sparsity in the crowd was filled with standing fans singing along. This being a more personable performance for the band, it only leaves us fans anticipating what the transformative group has ahead of them.
Dwindling in population steadily over the last two decades, more significantly within this past decade, is a colorful, diverse and growing extinct species. However, they have an amazing ability to migrate and leave many dazzled by their ability to move through spaces designed specifically against them. Wonderful beings, dying out by the haphazard misguidings of the authorities and communities meant to protect them. People of color deserve far more.
Once the majority of the ghettos we were once segregated to, slowly but surely a large shift in the neighborhoods once deemed “unsafe” by the people who now inhabit them. Either grown tired, evicted from or displaced, the numbers of the black and brown natives are exceptionally low. The faces of those who built up the oh so cultured neighborhoods are now more commonly seen with goofily smiling faces on street murals, as if in a happy memorial of oneself.
Even though there aren’t many things more discomforting than seeing the faces get paler closer to the final or ‘hood’ stops on the train. The thought of the young pupils growing further and further away from the mosaic of mothers shouting down shopping lists from the second floor, the quick sentiment of “borrowing” a jump from the pig tailed double dutchers disappearing or the barbecues that started on Friday and ended the week after fading away, is a striking one.