...when you walk around my neighborhood. Well, neighborhoods, actually--we live in the pleasant but scuffed borderland of a pristine and magnificent historic district called Prospect Park South. Here are some of the cool kids on the next block (our block's houses are almost this big, but in less consistently "mint" condition):
The CrazyStable sulks on a block just north of this mansion-filled enclave, which we nicknamed The Magic Land, for its surreal air of enchantment and distance from its often gritty adjacent environs. (Our own area, between Prospect Park itself and this historic district, calls itself Caton Park, but I dare us to redub ourselves "NoProPaSo," or "North of Prospect Park South." I think it has a dashing faux-Spanish rallying-cry sound to it, and it is no sillier as a real-estate-boosting neo-name than "NoLita" or, most absurdly, the "BoCoCa" being tried on by Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, and Carroll Gardens.)
The greater area is quaintly termed "Victorian Flatbush," although its development began just about the same year that Victoria drew her last breath. (Queenly references don't stop there; any house in Brooklyn with a sagging porch and a few bits of wooden "gingerbread" trim is trumpeted as a "Queen Anne.") And yesterday the real estate section of the New York Post took its turn marveling at our leafy streets and sprawling domiciles. (To read it, go here, and submit to an innocuous-looking registration step.) Here's how Mary Louise Clemens, a house-hunter from the brownstone powerhouse 'hood of Park Slope, reacted when shown a house on nearby Argyle Road:
"I walked into the foyer, and everything changed," says Clemens, who's now moving into the seven-bedroom house she bought for $945,000 with her husband, Bruce Tyroler. "Something spiritual happened. Every floor got better and better. I said, 'That's it, Bruce. That's my house.'"
[Cute story, the evil twin of our first encounter with the CrazyStable. Every floor got worse and worse, starting with the pirate-ship plank we walked up onto the porch and culminating in the locked third-floor washroom whose door I kicked open to reveal a reeking pea-soup-green hellpit with no floor. "Oh, God, honey," I said. "That's our house."]
It's been a fine few days for relishing the neighborhood(s), turning our attention outward after the frantic self-absorption of the Law & Order shoot last week. On Friday night, we moseyed down to a local restaurant, walking back after dark through the Magic Land, stealing delectable glimpses of house-porn through mullioned windows: a luscious curve of oaken banister, a burnished mantel or library shelf bathed in golden light. Saturday afternoon, we hung out with old friends and neighbors at the NoProPaSo block party, snarfing down jerk chicken while the kids rode their scooters and drew with chalk in the middle of the street. Our street life has not always been so idyllic--in the nadir of the 1980s, a very different sort of chalk outline might have decorated the blacktop hereabouts--but the friends and neighbors have always been our lifeline through bad times and better ones. In the early days (see "The Bad Beginning" for a glimpse), they helped us dumpster and invited us over to eat because we had no kitchen. When we agonize aloud over (still) being an eyesore after 19 years, our NoProPaSo neighbors say things like, "It's a fine house. It just takes time." Many struggle as we do to master their "money pits," but they never seem to lose heart. And after a while...something spiritual happens.