The Awl interviewed Jonathan Van Meter, the man who penned the much beloved/much maligned New York Magazine essay “I Hate Brooklyn” back in 2005. Mr. Van Meter’s essay included a multitude of wonderful zingers, including his thoughts on a visit to Brooklyn Heights: “You can see the entirety of Manhattan across the river, a fact I found both oddly comforting and deeply disturbing. Why can’t we just be over there, in actual Manhattan?”
Seven years later, Mr. Van Meter admits that much has changed. Mostly, though, it’s that Manhattan sucks more. So much so that he even—gasp!—admits to having “seriously looked at some real estate” in Prospect Heights and Fort Greene. But not to worry, Mr. Van Meter and his partner decided that they’d rather buy a vacation place in Woodstock than move to the dreaded borough.
Among the more delightful things that Mr. Van Meter says—and there are many, read the whole interview!—are that he came to Manhattan “to escape the dreariness of that hoagies-and-sewda existence” that was a hallmark of his blue collar childhood in Philadelphia (implication being that Brooklyn is still all about hoagies-and-sewda dreariness).
Except for the parts that are still are twerpily twee, like the practitioners of foodstuffs trends whom so finds so self-parodying that it is redundant to make fun of them. But then adds: “to be fair to my own point of view on this topic, that is the part of Brooklyn that I loathe the most: the whole twee/hipster/foodie aspect.”
He also nails the desire and the fear that lies at the heart of many a considered relocation to Brooklyn: “I did not want to risk finding myself, up and alone in the middle of the night and on deadline, living in a beautiful townhouse filled with beautiful things on a beautiful tree-lined block—that is utterly dead by 11 p.m.—obsessing over whether it was my night to move the car.”
Then he quotes Anthony Lane’s New Yorker review of The Ring Two to emphasize that he didn’t want to move across the river into “a howling wasteland of intolerable fear.”
In any event, he’s now living in Alphabet City and considering the Upper East Side—apparently following the advice of the friend who he quoted in his original essay: “I’d rather live on the friggin’ anodyne Upper East Side than live in Brooklyn!”
A few other gems from the original essay:
“Most of the people who are moving to Brooklyn these days are couples with kids who treat Brooklyn as the new, hip suburbia, or artists and rich kids without the class issues that my friend Joe and I are saddled with. Now that rent control is effectively over, it makes me wonder who will be left in Manhattan once the Brooklyn exodus is complete. My prediction? Old-money families, Eurotrash, newly minted millionaire bankers, and stubborn, overleveraged, delusional, middle-class strivers like me clinging just a little too tightly to their fast-lane fantasies and 212 area codes.”
“It’s not that I don’t like the culturati hipsters, but the last time I was in an environment where people only wanted to be with people exactly like themselves was in a fucking mall in Minnesota, which is why I left there twenty years ago.”