Two years ago, I was contemplating renting an apartment in a Brooklyn neighborhood that a Craigslist ad called the “hippest new neighborhood East Williamsburg.” I was excited to go but when I got off the J train and walked down Myrtle Ave things were not lookin’ cute. Survival mode kicked in and I began power walking to the apartment out of fear that I would get taken if I made any eye contact with the sketchy mcsketchersons. East Williamsburg who? I was in what was a brutal Bushwick that real estate agents tried to sell me on. I admit, I was too scared away by the grittiness and rawness to ever consider moving into the neighborhood, but that was two years ago.
Two years later and its a random Wednesday that Damon and I are going to a photo shoot which was scheduled, ironically, on the same street as the apartment I was eyeing back in the day. Except this time, the area had a much more Damon & Jo approved vibe. How did two years really reshape what scared me away from the neighborhood in the first place? Good ol’ gentrification did its thang. What happens in New York is like a disease of inflated rents that spreads Eastward every six months or so. The overcrowding issue makes $1000 a month to live in a closet a normal thing if you’re residing in the “trendiest neighborhood” of the present time. First the rent skyrocketed in Manhattan, then in Brooklyn Heights, then in Williamsburg, and now Bushwick. It’s getting so bad that pretty soon we’ll all be living in Connecticut. Over the past two years, Bushwick has become the newest destination for broke 20-somethings to rent a lofty apartment and follow their artsy fartsy dreams while still being close enough to the city. Along with its transforming demographic comes along more and more hipster coffee shops, thrift stores, tattooed people in black (even if it is a midsummer day in July) — you know the deal. So after our shoot, we decide to take a stroll in the neighborhood to see what it was all about.
As we’re melting through the streets of Bushwick, I turn to miserable-looking Damon (who had an afro from how frizzy his hair got, his all-time favorite look) and say; “You know what would make me the happiest person right now? If we were to walk down a street and see a leaking fire hydrant to jump in, is that too much to ask for?” Mind you, I was born in Brazil, I just came back from a trip to Africa, and yet New York still seemed hotter on a painfully sunny day in July. Not even five minutes later, we walk down a residential street in the Brooklyn neighborhood and my eyes open wide “Could it be?” It was like a scene from a Hey Arnold episode — red hydrant bursting water from its valve, children playing and screaming at the intensity of the water pressure, and Damon and I taking turns to see who had the balls to jump in first. Clearly, I had the balls.
When else are you going to be able to jump into water jets that are bursting out of a New York City fire hydrant? These opportunities are scarce so I took full advantage of it and got completely soaked for the sake of the experience. Thirty minutes later and I was in a watery bliss that made the heat so much more bearable. Yeah, I looked like I peed my pants, but in a city of eight million weirdos, who really cares?
By Joanna Franco