Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Greenpoint Satire Mini-Tempest

Nassau Avenue Station

The funny thing is that when we saw the headline on this story in the Daily News yesterday, (City Worker Polish 'Joke' Bombs Out), we skipped over it. We entire missed the Sun's article on it too. Way too much information to process and no immediate Brooklyn connection.

Boy, were we wrong.

We almost choked on our coffee when we saw Gothamist's item about it and Gawker's headline about "Polacks." Turns out the "Polish joke" is a long essay about Greenpoint that ran in the Haverford College alumni magazine. The writer is a 2005 grad who wrote a humor column at the college and now works for the Parks Department. Clearly, the essay is satire and full of biting, sardonic verbiage. On the other hand, it's so over the top that you can see how many would take serious umbrage.

If you want an interesting perspective on this, check the blog justsayin, which is written by someone who knows the writer and reporter that wrote the Sun's article. It helps put the essay and its writer in a little perspective. For a different kind of reaction, you can check Transparentique, a blog that deconstructs the pieces.

Haverford's alumni mag has yanked the essay from its website. But Gothamist preserved the evidence and ran most of it, and we filled in a bit more using Google's cached pages. Here it is, with only a couple of passages deleted, because it's pretty long as it is:
After graduating from Haverford in 2005 I decided to move to a neighborhood where I knew I could make a difference. That neighborhood was Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Greenpoint is a tightly knit, working class, semi-urban community of first- and second-generation Polish immigrants. It’s the kind of place where the old ladies shop at Gus’s Fruit Stand instead of Wal-Mart, and parents take their kids to the park on Sunday nights to play softball and drink lemonade.

Communities like Greenpoint are a dying breed in America, and thank God for that. Try ordering a Venti Caramel Macchiato at the Franklin Street “coffee shop” and you’ll see what I mean. While the community has several problems, most of them come back to the high density of Polish people infesting its rowhouses. Mocking Poles for being stupid is perhaps the last form of politically correct prejudice, as well as the most accurate. The other day I asked a local Polak shopkeeper if he’d heard the one about the Polish guy who tried to fill up his gas tank by driving the car in reverse. The shopkeeper didn’t respond because he’d accidentally put his pants on his head that morning and the waistband was cutting off his hearing.

I’m kidding, of course, but Greenpoint’s problems are no laughing matter, and they won’t be solved by teaching the locals how to wear pants. The Greenpoint business district, for example, is even uglier than the morons who work there. Shoddy hand-made signage pollutes the storefront windows, and some of the signs aren’t even in English. A friendly corporate logo or two would do wonders for the place. The good news is that it looks like they’re opening a Blimpie on Calyer Street, where Ula’s Deli used to reside. I’m not sure what they’re doing with Ula, but maybe if she promises to clean her ears once in awhile they’ll let her work the cash register.

Amidst these modest improvements are a few old-school New York charms. I’ll admit that I was kind of intrigued by the bearded alcoholic homeless man who lives outside the subway station. That was cute for about five minutes. But day after day with the nonsensical screaming and the pointing…get over yourself, buddy.

So why do I live in Greenpoint? Because if I didn’t, then it wouldn’t get any better...Not to toot my own horn, but I’ve done wonders for the community. My non-ethnic whiteness, above average hygiene, and dependable income have already attracted new investments to Greenpoint. Private developers are within months of breaking ground on a massive high-rise condominium complex on the Greenpoint waterfront. There’ll be a rooftop pool, a fitness center, and gorgeous views of the Manhattan skyline from across the East River. It’s not quite perfect—a small percentage of the apartments will go to low-income families—but nine tenths of a loaf is better than none.

One thing I do worry about is that Greenpoint will gentrify incorrectly. This is what’s happening in adjacent Williamsburg, where the Hasidic Jews are being displaced by hipsters. Sure, their parents give them enough money to keep the neighborhood looking decent, but the new population is almost as annoying as the old one. And yes, they do wear suits and ties sometimes, but only to be ironic. No thank you.

I’d hate to see that happen to Greenpoint, because it has so much potential. It’s a place I’d like to raise my kids: Within a stone’s throw of Manhattan, amidst lawyers and investment bankers, and as shut off from civil society as humanly possible. I dream of a Greenpoint where Banana Republic is open all night, where groceries are ordered over the Internet, and where the churches are converted to mixed-use parking facilities. Mine is a Greenpoint of the future, sensitive to the desires of its residents who so desperately need a racquet club and driving range. Or who will, anyway, after the vermin are gone.

So join me, my fellow Greenpointians. That is, if you’re literate enough to understand what I’ve written.
If you want to know a bit more about the writer, David Langlieb, he contributes to a blog called The Boob Tubers, which offers this commentary on the little tempest in a teapot. The writer writes about Sex and the City over there. His latest contribution is the Sex and the City Pre-Election Day Special.

There you have it.


Blogger boobtubers said...

Thanks for the plug! We love our Langlieb.

2:30 PM  

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