This is not going to be a terribly deep or trenchant blog today, but we took a trip to the Fairway Market in Red Hook this afternoon to see what the fuss was about. Indeed, the fuss was earned; this place puts most markets in the country to shame. Built into an ancient coffee warehouse right on the water overlooking the Statue of Liberty, it has every kind of food you've ever known. Hell, this is a partial sampling of their salmon section:
They had this banana walnut oatmeal I like, "Bounty" coconut bars from England, and even the Bristot coffee pods I usually have to get on eBay. It being mid-day on a Tuesday, there was hardly anybody else there, and checkout took three minutes. If you're in Brooklyn and have a car, you owe it to yourself.
Here's the not-so-deep part: driving there, you go through some neighborhoods - if one could use that word - that look like they were hit by a daisy-cutter bomb. These streets aren't even dangerous; they're dead. If you live in the more gentrified parts of Brooklyn, you no doubt harbor hope that the Gowanus canal could become another Riverwalk in San Antonio. But if you see where the Gowanus actually goes, you lose all inspiration.
Coming back from JFK airport, you may have also traversed the long part of Atlantic Avenue. I have been to the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya, and I have to tell you that Atlantic Avenue offers less hope. We live in our cute little brownstones in Park Slope, Cobble Hill, and Prospect Heights, but we are surrounded on all sides by despair. Venture five minutes out of your comfort zone, and you are presented with the American Dream gone devastatingly sour. You begin to ask big, stupid questions, like "is this the best humans can do?"
How unbelievably blessed most of us are. I know it's a boring sentiment that inspires defensive posturing, even in me, but to drive through the ass-end of Red Hook's decay and blight en route to a 12-dollar brick of cheddar cheese just put it in sharp relief.
Posted by Ian Williams at November 28, 2006 10:13 PM
LFMD--good question. I think I go about my life a bit more cautiously in the city than I would in the 'burbs, which is a personal tradeoff that I am willing to make at this time, and that, as a result, I actually am safer. I think that sticking to well-traveled routes and factoring the price of a cab home into my evening entertainment budget can go a long way.
Also, I worry about different safety issues than suburbanites. Perhaps I'm naive, or simply mistaken, but I think that drunk driving, and actually bad car accidents, in general, are a major problem in the suburbs, and much less of a problem in the city. I think that citydwellers are far more likely to face minor crime than suburbanites--muggings, vandalism, pickpocketings, bicycle theft, etc.--but that, due to the dense population, we MAY actually be better able to safeguard ourselves against truly awful, drawn-out crimes that could thrive in isolated areas. Plenty of bad things happen in suburban mall parking lots and quiet rural homes.
My comments have nothing to do with this post but are, instead, directed at Caveman's comments. First of all, I love that Band Aid song and that line by Bono is my favorite. While traveling home from NC over Thanksgiving, our 9 month old started getting restless in the car seat. My wife and I started singing Christmas songs to him in quiet, soothing voices. We went from traditional tunes to some older pop songs like John Lennon's "Happy Christmas (War is Over). Finally, I started crooning, "Do They Know It's Christmas".
I started with Paul Young's mellow voice and was proceeding along smoothly imitating each singer's voice as best I could. It was working, too, because my son grew quiet and restful.
Then I got to Bono's part. It is IMPOSSIBLE to sing that part quietly. I belted it out just as loud and proud as Bono did more than 22 years ago.
It woke the baby and pissed off my wife.
To atone for my prideful sin, I had to sing about 13 rounds of the ABC song (to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, no less) to get my son back to sleep.
It was worth it. And Bono and Caveman would have been proud.
I could not agree more with Neva. Here's another story for you.
Last Friday I went with a teacher friend to a concert. (Dixie Chicks, Staples Center, Awesome) Michelle is teaching kindergarten in Tustin, the town next to mine here in SoCal. The kids are mostly hispanic. She told me that of her 31 kids after almost 3 months of school, 17 can write their name. Most of the kids cannot count to 5, the age that they are! They don't know how to use crayons, or their colors, much less the alphabet. Aparrently it is not an ingrained parental trait to want to teach your children. Isn't that unimaginable? Think of the joy you get from watching Lucy learn something new or hearing her count. How can these parents not want to have that feeling? But they don't.
Of course, the long term problem is that these Hispanic children, who are American citizens even if their parents are not, will probably not live a better life than their parents. It's not part of their culture to support education and have the desire to break free of the community where they were raised.
On the other hand, I live in an affluent area that has many Asian immigrants. Ethan has a friend down the street who goes to public school M-F, takes off Saturday, and goes to Chinese school all day on Sunday. It's just the norm in their culture.
So how can we as a society teach these Hispanic parents and children to value education? Are they happy with their place in life, or do they want more?
My friend is just so frustrated with the total lack of interest from the parents. Homework goes home, and 25% of the kids bring it back. So Michelle is already feeling pressure, because these kids are supposed to be reading by June.
Like Neva said, so many people live in "oblivious isolation." But it's hard to help people who aren't willing to help themselves.
right on, neva.
rebecca, if your friend is seriously committed to helping those kids she needs to enroll in some absolutely serious diversity training and start having meetings with the parents. you should attend the training too.
your friend should do this before she winds up needing a mediator, because i'm sure there are seeds of discontent brewing - she is going to be in for a rude awakening if she thinks she is going to *fix* her students *despite* their parents.
she is absolutely insane from ingrained racism if she believes her kids' parents have no interest in educating their kids.
of course they do.
they also have other jobs and other problems and entire friggin lives to manage as best they can.
so she needs to get off her high horse and turn herself into those parents' strongest ally and supporter, from a perspective of real deep understanding, not as a savior sweeping in from above to help the kids of *those people*.