The L subway line runs west to east across the center of Manhattan, tying up the belly of the island like a belt. As the train runs east from 1st Avenue it dips under the East River and arrives at Bedford Avenue. Bedford is where you get off if you want gourmet Southern barbeque ribs, or if you want a wheel of goat gouda, or if you want to listen to weekly swing sessions at a German beer hall. From here the subway line continues to the Lorimer stop, home to Barcade, where you can play original Asteroid, Pac-Man, or Donkey Kong for 25 cents a pop, and the Alligator Lounge, where you can get a free personal pizza with EVERY beer you order. Then the train arrives at Graham Avenue. From Graham, if you walk six blocks north—past the dollar store, past the paint shop, past the pharmacy and J.Pinz Scrap Metal--you’ll find my new home.
Graham Ave is the central artery of my new neighborhood—an Italian area right on the border of a steadily advancing army of Williamsburg trendiness. The colonization is already in full swing. Several coffee shops specialize in lovely cross-pollinated food groups like pear-ginger pies and orange-hibiscus tea. The organic food market is two blocks from the subway, and a bike-repair shop is right around the corner. The local bar, with a nod to gentility, will serve you a carafe of water with your beer, and the area is dotted with several multi-level apartment buildings, glinting with fresh steel and floor-to-ceiling windows. A floor-plan of Graham Ave would look like a checkerboard, with each square home either to a faded laundromat or a new restaurant.
But then, that’s what makes this area so special—it’s in transition, so it’s temporary. Half the businesses on this street have been here less than ten years, the other half more than thirty. When I asked Rosemary, our lifetime-resident landlady, about the best local businesses, she said, “Well Anthony makes the best fresh pasta, and Emily has some wonderful pork products.” Where might you find these people? Well, you’d find Anthony at Anthony’s Deli, and Emily and Emily’s Pork, of course. These are no “Papa John’s” businesses, with John sitting in a fluorescent-lit office in Omaha, Nebraska.
Another ten years from now, Graham Ave may look a lot like Bedford Ave, full of tiny sushi joints and colorful boutiques, with little historical residue remaining. For now though, it’s rife with that fantastic tension of diversity: permed ladies on the stoop commenting about the skinny-jeaned dog-walkers; 20-somethings in plaid confiding in each other about the best local place to get Italian bread. My plan is to get to ‘em while the getting it good.
So, friends, welcome to Installment Quatre of the DeedleBlog, where the same hankering for Deedleosity that brought you the waitresses of Pittsfield, the accordion-players of Paris, and the fishermen of Nicaragua will rip open the wrapping paper of Brooklyn.