SIDE A: 2. ‘The Ghetto’ by Donny Hathaway.
So, for the first 8 days of my NYC adventure I stayed on Quincy Street, Brooklyn…
I thought Brooklyn was a suburb… like Footscray or New Farm… but no, it’s a Borough (like Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan) and in fact covers a really large area. After meeting Garon, who I stayed with, and having a chat with him, I soon discovered that my new home was in Brooklyn but the suburb was Bedford-Stuyvesant. (Garon grew up in the funeral home around the corner). So I learnt that my new hood was “Bed-Stuy” (That’s the cooler way of saying it). Bed-Stuy is where Spike Lee, Talib Kweli, the Notorious B.I.G (“Do or Die in BedStuy”) and Jay-Z (“Me, I’m out that Bed-Stuy, home of that boy Biggie”) grew up, just to name a few. It also featured in Dave Chappell’s 2004 documentary Block Party. I could see why it was a place with so many stories to tell…
My Google search revealed that Bed-Stuy doesn’t have the best reputation and I labeled it in my head as “the Ghetto” – but in a good way… it was a place that I loved and I am so happy I stayed there.
When I first hit the streets in the day time, what struck me was the way people just ‘hung out’ all over the place – people on the corner chattin; people sitting on fold out chairs in front of take out stores; residents gathering in the front of apartment blocks; people stopping to chat in the streets – kinda like on Sesame Street – there seemed to be a real sense of community… But of course there were those very forward and friendly’ young chaps who liked to call out cheeky stuff to people who look like they’re lost ie. Me!
The neighbourhood residents seemed to be mostly African American and there were lots of Dominican Beauty Salons (where I got my hair cut shorter than expected because I can’t speak Spanish!) and Caribbean style take out joints (where I enjoyed Ox Tail Curry).
I found a great little café called The Tiny Cup where I enjoyed French Toast with fresh berries and maple syrup for $6 and of course Mrs. Daliah’s cucumber lemonade hails from Bed-Stuy (I seriously couldn’t get enough of it on those hot summery days of over 30 degrees – and it made my subway rides so much better).
And on the weekend, Quincy Street had a Block Party all day and all night with sidewalk BBQs, basketball, games for the kids and music all night long. By the end of my stay I felt at home in this hood.