Bushwick is another Brooklyn neighborhood with Dutch roots. It was originallycalled Boswijck, which means little town in the woods. How quaint. It has since lost any resemblance of a green place. With an Industrial skeleton, it tugged my heartstrings and made me miss Detroit. It is not without its history either. During the blackout of 1977, Bushwick was one of the neighborhoods most decimated by looting and arson. In the last decade, with Williamsburg’s dwellers being priced out, gentrification is on the rise. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
The moment my friends and I step into Bushwick I wonder, why hadn’t I come here before? It is filled with mom and pop shops. There is a thriving artistic community that is fast becoming an artistic collision. Even a vacant lot leaves room for a little artistic expression with strange urban scarecrows.
On the corner of Morgan Avenue and Ingraham Street is a tattoo shop, Body Art and Soul. When I walk in my eye is immediately drawn to a wall of hand painted skateboard decks and Stormtrooper heads. A fellow from the Bronx named Carlos immediately greets me. How is Brooklyn different from the Bronx, I wonder? “Everyone’s a bit more chill in Brooklyn,” he says with subtle laugh. When asked what he loves about Bushwick, he replies, “It’s a place where you can go and have a date… Walk out a day.” The wall of skateboards, I learn, is an artistic collaboration called Ink on Deck, an exhibition that showcased artwork on skateboards. “Tattoos and skateboards go hand in hand,” Carlos offers.
Sadly, I leave the tattoo shop without a tattoo. My friends’ quest for a Bloody Mary takes us to the 983 Bushwick’s Living Room. Eli brings us a round of Bloody Marys’. It feels like the Cheers of Bushwick, “where everybody knows your name”. It is a room full of love, not unlike someone’s living room.
Complete with a round of shots between the hosts and a few regulars. I eat my Dragon Bowl (brown rice with a menagerie of grilled vegetables topped with tahini dressing), smiling the whole time at the constantly revolving interactions. In the midst of a stark and industrial landscape, it gives off the warmth of a cozy house on a tree-lined block. For a moment, I forget where I am.
I watch my friends dance through an open fire hydrant and wash away the humidity of one of the summer’s hottest days. They carry on down the road while I stumble into a used bookstore on Flushing Avenue called Human Relations. A diminutive space crammed full of books. I find the treasure of a small copy of The Call of The Wild by Jack London published in the fifties, one of my all-time favorite stories.
We end our day with a pop of color at the Cotton Candy Machine, a retro boutique and gallery. They are in good company with the dense artist community that has blossomed in Bushwick. Owner Sean Leonard offers that the neighborhood is an “exciting environment to be in.” And he is right.
©dm hall (www.darleenhall.com). Photos courtesy of Katya Hall (www.katyahall.com)