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This past weekend was practically our first time in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I say “practically’ because I’d been there once after work for fifteen minutes to pick up a friend who was giving a book signing. And that’s it. Williamsburg is surprisingly difficult to get to by public transportation from our own part of Brooklyn (Bay Ridge) — you gotta go all the way into Manhattan, then back out on a different angle — so we didn’t go home right after the play. We walked around and tried to soak it in and see what was what. We’d heard the hype. How it’s the “decade-defining” neighborhood for the arts, and etc. And I dunno. I guess it was okay. I took some pictures:

Canadian French Sicilian Bread and Comic Booklets

Open Your Eyes / Yolk

The only sign of artists was the pseudo-dada graffiti, pictured above, and the occasional odd business, like the bakery/minicomic store, also pictured above (that’s where the signing had been, by the way). Tellingly, the most photographable things about Williamsburg are the things that live up to and reinforce its art-center hype, but they were not the most noticeable things “on the ground,” as they say on the newscasts, when they’re talking about the war. Here are some of the things that were more prominently part of the actual experience of walking around:

There was a small marching band of hunky Italian guys in their thirties and forties, literally marching, literally a band, passing out loaves of sticky sweet bread while playing horns and drums, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” putting on an apparently-impromptu parade to raise money for the local Catholic Church. Also: they were very friendly. They offered to help us figure out where it was we were going. But we pointed at our iPhones.

I also saw an old man sitting outside on his porch, blinking behind a large sore on his large nose, stunned by the heat and by the length, I think, of his life. The second time we passed by him, he had a loaf of sticky sweet bread in his lap.

I saw a dog with one eye sitting pretty inside the window of a closed, dusty record (I think?) store. It wagged its tail as we passed, but not overly much. Not like it wanted out. It was the kind of sitting-down, completely contented wag that makes a “thump thump” on the hardwood floor of a place, if you’re in a position to hear it, which I was not. I was only in a position to see it. Which I did.

Etc.

That was what Williamsburg actually felt and looked like. But when you take pictures of that kind of stuff, it could be anywhere. Right? So I didn’t. I just kept it in my head. And then I told you. I actually like that stuff better than the hipster stuff, anyway.

Williamsburg’s no Bay Ridge, though. That’s for sure.

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