My name’s Dallas and I’m from Dallas. That introduction always gets a good laugh but it’s misleading. It implies I’m proud to have grown up in my namesake city. But to me, Dallas is like my mother’s womb. It served its purpose in my growth and development but it’s not necessarily somewhere I want to return to. Dallas is a good city for certain people. I’m just not one of them.
You see, Dallas is a city built for family. (Why do I feel like I’m talking about myself in third person like The Rock?) To me, that means you work, go home, spend time with family, and repeat. You find your favorite places to hang out on weekends and get into your routine. There’s not much to do outside of that. Case in point, not a single comic superhero lives in Dallas. That’s rather telling.
Maybe it’s because I played too many video games as a kid, but I’m an adventurer by nature. I knew from an early age that Dallas wasn’t the place for me. I didn’t like Dallas very much. Maybe that’s why I had self-esteem issues.
And then I went to college and had a blast. Just watch National Lampoon (all of them) to get an idea of my college life. After four great years, I graduated and headed west.
Growing up, I heard from various Dallasites that college would be the best years of my life. That idea stuck with me and I felt like I was doomed to a life of mediocrity. As a consequence, I fell into depression when I moved to LA.
Though I learned to love the city and made friends that are now like family, living in LA was like surfing the web on AOL in the 90’s. Back then you were cautious about going to a different site lest you suffer another 20 minute load time. They should have packaged a Nintendo Game Boy with each modem. Something to do in the interim.
What I missed most about college was the immediacy of it all. So much was happening on-campus that the university felt like its own world, like those districts in the Hunger Games. You didn’t have to drive 20 miles in bumper-to-bumper traffic to meet up with friends; they were right around the corner. Plus, you were surrounded by so many like-minded individuals that you could always make new friends. I feared I would never feel that sense of community again, that this sensation was something only reserved for college.
And then I moved to Brooklyn. And they all lived happily ever after.
I first visited this lovely borough of New York in April of 2012, for Spring Break. The first things I noticed were the heaps of trash on the sidewalks and graffiti that defaced a building on almost every block. I didn’t think this was somewhere I could live.
But, after a stroll down Bedford Ave, I concluded this was where I needed to be. Things were happening here and I wanted to be a part of it.
What impressed me the most about this place was the real sense of community. I’ve never been anywhere else in the U.S. that really felt like a neighborhood. People talk to each other in the street. I was thrown off the first time it happened to me. When I moved to New York I was ready for people to cuss me out if I walked too slow or looked at them the wrong way. Instead, people say “Hi!” and “Good morning!” when I pass by.
I can get fresh bread from the bakery a few blocks down. It’s called Scratchbread. Because they make bread…from scratch. Run to the gym a few blocks the other way and say “hi” to my barber along the way. Talk to the bodega owner across the street about the latest happenings in the neighborhood. (I swear that man is a spy or something. He knows everyone’s business). Participate in the neighbor’s monthly board game night. Plant crops in the community garden. Buy locally-grown food at the market. The list goes on and on.
This is the post-college community I’ve been looking for. I remember running to the gym one winter morning in nothing but a t-shirt and runner’s shorts (think 1980’s NBA shorts). Though I was rocking music on my headphones, this old lady stopped me in my tracks. As if she were my own grandmother, she proceeded to yell at me and tell me to put on a jacket or something so I wouldn’t get pneumonia (thank you spell check). That snapshot exemplifies Brooklyn life. When you move to the great BK, you are a part of the family.
But, like college, I know my time in Brooklyn will one day come to an end. The opening of more organic markets, hip bars, and fancy restaurants foreshadows this fact. Eventually, Brooklyn will be too outrageously expensive for a humble teacher to live in. When that time comes and I must find a new home like a nomadic tribesman, I will look back on my Brooklynite years as some of the best of my life and indisputable proof you can enjoy life after college.But let’s not dwell on that presently.
At least for now, I am home.