1. “Oh shit, I am going to have to drive places now…”
Perhaps one of the most frightening things about leaving New York in general is the sudden absence of comparable public transport virtually everywhere else in the country. C’mon America, you know that trains are amazingly convenient, right? Goodbye cheap, glamorous 5 AM MTA rides across the Williamsburg Bridge, hello drunken nights where I spend more money on Uber than at the bar I just left.
2. “Dear God, nature is spectacular. Is that a hummingbird outside my bedroom window? How are there trees taller than the buildings and why are there so many?”
Yeah, Betty Smith probably originally wanted to use the title “Several Trees Grow in Brooklyn” for her novel, but realized that making “tree” plural would be too outrageous a lie. It is a strange feeling leaving Brooklyn and being confronted with the reality that green isn’t just the color of the el- train tracks. Still, there was something to that “this is the filthy, barren world you deserve to live in, humanity” Mad Max-y vibe that kept me appreciating that one tree. And kept me recycling.
3. “Oy vey, why do these delis keep calling my belly lox “salmon” and why is my bagel toasted?”
As of 2012, Brooklyn is home to more than 561,000 Jews (which is almost a quarter of the population and one of the largest Jewish communities outside of Israel). And anyone who has spent a couple years in the borough knows that to live in Brooklyn is to live the privileged life of the best delis and bakeries on earth, and you just can’t help but let it rub off on you a little bit. Now you’ll have to explain to the pisher schmucks behind the counter that a toasted bagel means that you are being schtupped into eating schlock. Enjoy looking that shit up, goyim.
4.”I can’t see Manhattan- WHERE AM I?”
Most cities have some geological marker that makes it easier to know where you are in relation to everything else, but it is rare to have that single marker be an *entire* city across the East River. From 1 World Trade to the Empire State Building and the new 432 Park Ave, Brooklyn is easiest to navigate when you always have a view of the glowing spires. Without them, how does one know one’s place in the world, physically and metaphorically?
5. “Why are all the streets empty? Where are all the people?”
Games of domino, pick up basketball and general ruckus by an open fire hydrant are three activities that Brooklyn excels in, and by definition they must take place outside on the sidewalk. Sure, I may have gotten knocked over a couple of times on my way to the bodega by a toddler on a razor scooter, but damn does that feel better than listing down an endless vacant boulevard to a strip mall 7-11 in LA.
6. “This non-Brooklyn air is delicious! Hey everybody, come taste this air with me!”
Brooklyn, like any of the boroughs in New York, doesn’t often smell like roses. Usually it smells like garbage with a hint of lead and, occasionally, freshly baked bagels. Add the general air pollution of the tri-state area and the clouds of $1.50 flavored cigarillo smoke to the mix, and you have the fairly toxic concoction we fill our lungs with day-in and day-out. But part of the Brooklyn experience is spending more time outside, so we Brooklynites find ways to deal with the countless smells. When I left Brooklyn and my lungs accepted mostly-oxygen for the first time, it was almost confusing just how good it felt to, you know, breathe.
7. “I guess chicken slaughterhouses next to pricey cocktail bars isn’t so common after all…”
One of the great ironies of Brooklyn’s newfound hipness is that, despite the hype, it is still home to a lot of industry. Less suitable urban dwellers enjoying the “dining patio” might faint when the smell of chicken poop and axel grease wafts over their farm-to-table salads and cheeseburgers, but it never bothered me. In fact, I think I might actually sort of miss it.
8. “Wait, why am I getting change in quarters from my bartender? How does a craft pint only cost $3.50?”
A little trick Brooklyn bars figured out forever ago is that giving back change is a tremendous hassle that is best settled by simply rounding everything up, be it fifty cents or whole dollars — just for the heck of it. Of course, once you got in with the neighborhood, you could almost always count on a free shot of a mysterious “house mix” that the bartender threw together last-minute. But it is probably time to say goodbye to those guaranteed highways to puke-town and just enjoy the plentiful happy hours that last until 8PM and actually drop the prices of everything by half.
9. “Oh my god, I can walk outside without turning into a puddle of sweat/an icicle.”
For some reason, Brooklynites really like talking about the seasons that they get to “enjoy.” But you know what half of the year consists of? Sweating so much that your shoes make squishy sounds when you walk outside in the Summer, and feeling your hair freeze as you get bombarded with loose trash bags that have come unstuck from snow banks in the Winter. Still, now that you live in California and don’t have to deal with such perils, you almost miss the opportunity to show off your winter wardrobe of ¾ length coats and flannel scarves that took years to perfect.
10. “So I guess housing in the rest of America isn’t so cheap after all.”
Damn, fifteen hundred bucks for a studio in Portland? Well, I guess the advantage there is that you don’t have to worry about living in a six story walk up with hundred year old plumbing, a nest of rats in the basement and a super who doesn’t care that your bathroom ceiling collapsed and that you keep finding carpenter ants in your toilet. But my brownstone was so goddamn beautiful!
11. “Why the hell won’t anyone dance with me?”
Thanks to the salsa clubs, the Showtime boys on the trains, and the never-ending raves in warehouses, your dance skills are on point. You can now show up to a sleepy bar in Pittsburgh, smack a dusty jukebox and vogue the shit out of a John Denver tune without anyone uttering a word beyond, “daaaaamn.” If Brooklyn culture is about anything, it’s about bustin’ crazy new moves when those around you least expect it. And now that you can dance when you want to, you might just find that you have to leave your new friends-who-don’t-dance behind.
12. “I am not going to be able to stay away for very long, am I?
There is something about Mama Brooklyn’s robust existence that draws lovers of New York City back to it. The folks who say, “I love New York, but I would never raise my family there” have probably never spent an afternoon on a sidewalk in Bedstuy, or had a picnic in Prospect Park, or a barbecue on a rooftop in the middle of summer with their neighbors. Brooklyn may have a million more residents than Manhattan, but it still feels like the old village resting alongside the Big City. When you leave Manhattan, your friends tell you that it will always be there. When you leave Brooklyn, it’s your community that tells you that they will be there when you get back. As a customer at a bar I used to work at once told me, “you can take the Brooklyn out of the boy, but you can’t take the boy out of Brooklyn… for long.”