Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Red Hooked

Joseph Erdos
Brooklyn, NY--Red Hook
August 2007
3-bdrm apt occupied by two roomies (one known, the other not) and I

I remember clearly the August of 2007 spent in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Along with a friend who I had met through a publishing program that summer, I settled on subletting an apartment right off Van Brunt Street. We had intended to find an apartment to share as roommates, but that didn't work out, so we decided to sublet for the meanwhile. In the end we ended up going our separate ways and I ended up back with my folks. He stayed on in Brooklyn.

I saw pictures of the apartment on craigslist.org--how original, right? The apartment was at Brooklyn's end. Eric and I scraped together the deposit a few days before we were set to move in. Then we took a trip to the place to pay the owners in person. You could only get there by taking a subway and then a bus from downtown Brooklyn. It wasn't that bad, but it was going to be a 45-minute commute for me to get to work in Midtown West. After we got there Eric showed me around. He had been there before to scout out the place and talk to the owners. I had not met them and never did end up meeting them.

The couple made their apartment on the second and third floors, with the main living area on the second. The third floor had a small bedroom that they used as the master along with a bathroom and a large room used as an art studio. Eric immediately told me he was picking the smaller (also nicer) bedroom. I felt I was shafted, having been left the large room with the smell of turpentine, the fold-out futon, and three street-facing windows with no curtains or blinds. But I ended up being lucky in that it was the only room with an air conditioner on the third floor. He ended up suffering, I think, for the rest of the month--it was the hottest month that year in New York, I believe, on record.

Even though I had an air conditioner, I only used it at night, so it was pretty darn hot. And then the next problem was no curtains. The street lights shined in my eyes at night, keeping me awake most of the time. So I had to do the most basic and tape garbage bags to the windows.

The apartment was decorated very IKEA style, but featured the owners' art everywhere. I felt I was really living in a New York City apartment, except this one was out in the middle of nowhere. Supposedly Red Hook was set to go under gentrification, but it really seemed to be doing the opposite. Many stores were closed, boarded up, and/or in the process of closing. One cool thing about the area is that it is filled with artist spaces--all the old warehouses along the waterfront have been mostly reinterpreted as artists’ studios. The owners of our apartment, in fact, have one. I would really love to go back and explore this stretch, something I didn't do while I was living there. Since then I've read that a winery and wine bar are set to open in one of the waterfront warehouses.

It was great being a few blocks from Fairway and Baked--now my favorite bakery. Nearby too were Good Fork restaurant, which I never made the time to visit; a great looking diner; and right across the street, Bait and Tackle bar. Sometimes I would sit on the deck when no one was home and just listen to the voices of screaming kids having a good time at the nearby public pool. Also close were the soccer fields where Hispanic ladies would sell street-style food.

Leaving on my last day was pretty much anticlimactic. It played out like some sappy leaving-New York movie. I hadn't found another apartment to rent, so I had to move back in with the folks. I packed up everything and called a car service. The driver was there way too fast, so I had to get it in high-gear and hustle on out. That night was my first time over the Brooklyn Bridge. It seemed everything was lit up that night. I was entering Manhattan, but really I was leaving. I don't think I could ever forget this subletting experience. I still haven't gone back to Red Hook, but it would be nice to return one of these days--if only to get a cupcake from Baked.

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