I took a long walk through my neighborhood today. Through, what some would identify as, Carroll Gardens proper. New Yorkers are in epic disagreement about neighborhood borders (it is an endless conversation at dinner parties) so I can’t give you the cross streets. Only to say: you know Carroll Gardens when you see it.
Streets canopied with trees. Gardens that stretch from the front steps of each brownstone to the sidewalks. Young professionals with baby bjorns and strollers, toting canvas bags from a trip to the Sunday farmer’s market, bicycle helmets clipped to their messenger bags.
But there are also old women sitting on their stoops. Steeples of Roman Catholic churches creeping up towards the sky. And if you really look, you’ll see them: Italian social clubs where men sit on plastic folding chairs playing cards.
As I bought an armful of used books, as I rummaged through boxes of old photographs and sheet music, as I continued to walk and look, I realized that it is a neighborhood trapped in a constant state of remembrance.
One shop after the other, desperate to hold on to an old Brooklyn. There are coffee shops with boxes and boxes of vinyl records lining the walls. Hamburger places that aim to mimic old soda shops. A modern day pharmacy (now called the Farmacy) that sells egg creams, sundaes, and tuna sandwiches at it’s counters.
And it is a neighborhood that fights hard to preserve it’s history. Tirelessly working to restore the nearby Gowanus Canal and conserve the gardens for which it gets it’s name.
Today, I walked past a storefront I’d never seen before. To be honest, it looked more like someone’s old apartment. Though it was closed, I looked through the window to find a shop full of junk. Faded newspapers scattered everwhere. Dolls and books and clothes in heaps on the floor. There was no order, that I could see, no rhyme or reason to anything.
But the sign in the window said it all: I appreciate all your donations to my store but I am overstocked. Please don’t leave any more items at my door. Thank you!
And on a day like today, when there is just not enough room to hold all of our memories, when we wonder where we will keep them, I thought: this is what I love about Carroll Gardens. It is a place where it doesn’t seem right to throw away the old. A place where someone is always looking to find a new home for the past.