Shake Rattle and Roll

The antidote to Maple Street can be summed up in one word: Brooklyn.

When I say antidote, I don’t mean that our life of bubbling brooks and shingled barns is somehow poisonous, of course.  But whether or not people who live here realize it, it is an extreme. Any place where llammas outnumber black people by at least two to one qualifies as an extreme environment. When the extremism of a town like ours starts to feel like the real world — and when day-trip adventures in a remarkably still-segregated Boston just aren’t cutting it — New York is medicine. It’s the remedy, the counteragent, the elixir. The fix.

This weekend, Sky and I got to call Brooklyn home. For his (long overdue) birthday present, we rented a place in Brooklyn Heights — a lovely apartment we hardly got to know because we used it purely to rest our heads, brush our teeth, and store our stuff while we hit four out of the five boroughs. I’d have to sit down and calculate this, but it’s very possible that we spent as much time on the subway as we did in our actual accommodations. Sky was in heaven: To a 6 year old, the F or the Q or the 4 or the 7 aren’t just ways to get to and from the Lego store, the Staten Island Ferry, the Teacup Ride at Coney Island, the 100-year-old great-grandmother at the end of the line in Flushing, Queens. They’re destinations all by themselves.

Things happen in New York that don’t happen anywhere else. For example, you catch an uptown train at Whitehall Street and four guys who sound like they could be an award-winning doo-wop quartet break out into a rendition of “Shake, Rattle and Roll.” You go to Junior’s in Brooklyn on a Sunday morning, order a plate of silver dollars, look up and realize that Spike Lee and five of his closest friends are sitting three tables away from you.

Which is weird, because I was thinking about Spike Lee last week. Specifically, I was thinking about Señor Love Daddy, the local DJ from Lee’s 1989 masterpiece Do The Right Thing. (If you’re reading this post and have never seen Do The Right Thing, you are uneducated about one of just five movies in the history of American film to be chosen for preservation at the Library of Congress in its first year of eligibility.) I was thinking about Love Daddy’s parting question, which is really more like a challenge: “Are we gonna live together? Together, are we gonna live?” Sunday night, as I pass the grazing deer on country roads that wind back home, I realize it’s a question that could just as easily be asked of a semi-rural New England town as it was of Lee’s fictitious Bed-Stuy, engulfed in flames on a hot summer night.

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