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one way or no wayBeadel Debevoise gives a cheer! Greenpointers is the realness. That might sound like a simple declaration & perhaps once it was. With the exception of a certain type of Brooklyn Heights resident, nearly all of BK was the realness: we couldn’t escape it, we didn’t want to. “The City”— not yet denuded of useful menace, funk, cheap fun & weirdness— was over there. Our Manhattan ran from Broadway to Newtown Creek & it traversed worlds, man. Ya’ll can read about some of them in New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg. One contributor, Jean Thilmany, who lived between Conselyea & Skillman, celebrated the clinking of coffee drink bottles next door at Manhattan Special. I’m a Caffe Capri & Fortunato’s gal myself but in a world of limited resources, that means more bottles filled with beer, at least a couple of which I’d hope to drink on the other side of the BQE with Justine Carroll: clink clink!

Justine is the founder of Greenpointers, a hilarious & informative spot on the interthing I’m delighted to recognize as WWIB’s very first Blog Of The Month. She is also a writer, humorist & mischief maker of no small achievement. Everybody has their own Greenpoint stories & Justine’s are among the best. My own tales include graffiti nights in run blogga run! McCarren Pool & GP Terminal Market, living in the Astral building with my ex-, goofing on the clueless Thai food pilgrims of the mid-1990s, dating Polish hip-hop boys, the Greenpoint gas tank implosion (RIP) & more but hey, I’m just the Fiction Editor around here— it’s not about me. In his brilliant collage-as-history Subway Lives (1991), Jim Dwyer introduces us to Paul Franklin, who at 5:40 A.M. is getting ready for work on Greenpoint Avenue:

Paul Franklin is in high gear already. Collecting fares, dispensing greetings. “You have a nice day now,” he says, saluting the people of Greenpoint, a hard-working Brooklyn neighborhood where the street signs are in English, Spanish and Polish. “Have a flier about the new fares,” says Franklin. In a city where everything is extravagantly overpriced— then marked down slightly to provide the illusion of a good deal— Franklin provides an authentic bargain. He charages half price, 50 cents, to get into the subway. At least, he did until today, when he raised the price a nickel, to 55 cents.

Franklin’s low prices are tribute to the private enterprise system, because he doesn’t work for the Transit Authority. He lives in a shelter for the homeless down the street and has somehow obtained a key to a part of the station that’s closed until 7 A.M. Not only does Franklin save his customers money, he also spares them a two-block walk to the official station entrance, which is operated around the clock by a transit worker. More than a hundred people every morning throw change into Franklin’s cardboard box.

Longtime friend of Greenpoint, Brian Berger saw people jumping the turnstile early, even before The Warriors (1979) made it cool again. If he were to do such a crazy thing today, there can be only one reason: more money for beer! On such a mission, Greenpointers would be his perfect co-pilot.

Brian Berger: You are possibly unique among North Brooklyn bloggers in that you’re a native of Greenpoint. How did your family end up there & what are some of your childhood memories of the streets— places to play, eat, maybe even a candy store?

Justine Carroll: I think I am pretty unique among most North Brooklyn bloggers because of the fact that I was born and raised in Greenpoint. My father was raised in Greenpoint, my grandfather and various other extended family members. I either know or have known someone who lives on probably every single street in this neighborhood.north brooklyn lap pool

My grandfather used to take me to what was like an ice cream shop on Manhattan & Nassau that used to sell egg creams and I definitely miss that. When growing up on Humboldt Street the candy store to hit was Jiffy’s— and it’s still there, though I’m not so sure if the same family owns it. I can remember their son always doing his homework in the back of the store. My parents and I did a lot of eating out and our favorites were Bamonte’s, Frost and Monsignors. My parents knew all the waiters and owners and even still when me and my Dad go into Bamonte’s or Frost, they still recognize him.

Brian: Without getting too deep into the demographics, Greenpoint in your youth was mostly a mixed Polish, Puerto Rican & Domincan (“Latino”) and Italian neighborhood— all traditionally Catholic. Nearby Williamsburg was similar, minus the Polish and a lot more Latinos and some blacks (very few of whom were Catholic). Do you have any thoughts on religious life in Greenpoint & did you ever know anyone involved in Santeria?

 

boricua memorial Justine: Greenpoint was definitely a religious neighborhood. My best friends family across the street from me were Italian Catholics and living right down the block from St. Stan’s I’ve seen more that my fair share of Polish processions up and down the street. I don’t come from a religious family personally, but as a kid I used to go to church with friends on Easter as it was such a big tradition in the neighborhood and it was always a beautiful mass. I lived in a more predominantly Polish and Irish section of Greenpoint as a kid and didn’t really have much interaction with the ‘other side’ until going to Junior High and by then. I do remember a Hispanic girls when I was younger being part of a religion where they could only wear skirts. I don’t even know what that religion was!

Brian: One of the old-school Brooklyn icons (i.e. before Kings County was in any way “hip”) is the GG train. It’s repped in literature & hip-hop, even jazz— Charles Mingus has a song from the early ’60s called “GG-Train”. Any GG or G memories to share? How did you get to school when growing up and when did you learn to drive?

saddle up!Justine: As a kid my grandfather was the token clerk for the Nassau Avenue GG train and I remember getting to sit in the booth and I loved it! I can remember the old style token machines and all the tokens we always had around the house. My father still kept a lot of those old tokens, like the ones with the Y cut out. I never had to take the train to school since I was able to walk to both my elementary and junior high school but my friends and I probably started taking the G to Steinway Street and travelling out to Coney Island in the late 1980s. I didn’t learn to drive until I lived on Staten Island for a couple of years!

Brian: As a mischievous or well-behaved— you tell us— Brooklyn teenager, when & where did you first drink, or smoke, or make out with boys? Kids today don’t know when you used to really— like the song— be able to go under the boardwalk at Coney & there’s still plenty of action going on beneath the Verrazanno. Did you ever go to Rockaway Playland?

lookin’ shady

Justine: I as definitely a BAD kid like my father before me. My first cigarette was a pack of Marlboro Reds when I was probably 12 and me and my best friend walked around the industrial parts of the neighborhood near where Rite Beer used to be Humboldt & Moultrie between Norman and Meserole. My first make-out session came not too much later but at the Honeywell parking lot in LIC where we used to admire boys who rode skateboards and freestyle bikes. And drinking was probably right around that time as well – maybe 14? My first beer of choice was a 40 of Old English, which all the kids were drinking! My best friend was more prone to St Ides and Hawaiian Punch herself! I remember when I was like 16, $5 would get me set for the night with a 40 and a pack of Newport. With some change left over for gum. Ah those were the days!

I never went to Rockaway Playland that I can remember but the “Greenpoint” beach was Rockaway 116, if I remember correctly. You’d always be sure to spot other peeps from the neighborhood there.

Brian: You don’t have to agree, of course, but I sorta love Staten Island– and you lived there? The Rock is easy to criticize of but I find the extremes of ugliness & beauty, ridiculousness oddly inspiring. Can you share some thoughts on your own favorite & most hated Staten Island experiences? I’ll rep the pizza & steep hills here for starters.

staten livingJustine: I definitely have a love/hate relationship with Staten Island. I hated it when I was forced to move there from Greenpoint at 16. Then I loved it when I found friends, boyfriends and my own life there. Then it was back to hate as I grew older and sick of things like the commute and the stench of the dump in the Summer heatwaves. The pizza places are amazing but mostly because the people come from Brooklyn who own them! Random fact – when I first moved to Staten Island, I stopped in a pizzeria and saw no other than Sal, the guy who used to own Baldo’s around the corner from where I grew up in Greenpoint. It was surreal. I’ve since heard he’s back at Baldo’s, but I’m not positive.

Some of the best stuff in Staten Island is the fact that it is suburbia within the city. There’s a nice big mall and every chain store you could ever want. And sometimes, that’s seriously comforting and nice. There are also some cool things that were going on near the end of tenure. One of my favorite bars was Cargo Café right on Bay Street within walking distance of the ferry. Good food and a cool vibe. I could go into my late teens and early twenties traipsing down Forest Avenue and Victory Blvd, but I honestly don’t remember much of it!

skater chick

Brian: Regardless of whether you share their opinions or not, Greenpointers is a funny motherfucker, & seems like good— or at least interesting— times. I’ve always thought a dark sense of humor is part of everyone’s Brooklyn birthright, yet goddamn… some people don’t know how to laugh. What are they afraid of, driving down the property values? Do you think this is true & were there any Brooklyn or New York comedians/comic tv shows/movies that influenced your style? I grew up with Barney Miller, Taxi, Howard Stern, some of the insane local tv shows also, like Bowling For Dollars & the beautiful insanity of Phil Rizzuto on the radio. A friend of mine worked at Roll ‘N Roaster in Sheepshead Bay when Andrew Dice Clay live near there but I don’t think he ever met Chris Rock; maybe he doesn’t like chicken?

Justine: I definitely appreciate the compliments on my sense of humor but I gotta say that it’s probably all inherited. My Dad was a party parent with a potty mouth. I grew up in Williamsburg bars like Partners and Teddy’s, which is still there and where my Dad threw my surprise 21st birthday party! I spent a lot of time around drunk people and their un-PC sense of humor. I’m even a lot more controversial among friends. Some of the things that come out of my mouth would not do me any favors on a blog!

I do remember how much I absolutely loved Eddie Murphy’s Delirious and Raw when I was a teenager. I still think those are two of the funniest fucking stand up shows ever. There are some uptight mofo’s around nowadays but thankfully I find that 99% of the time they’re not from here and then I feel better!

Brian: You’ve talked about your interested in thrifting &, sadly, it seems Brooklyn’s best days in this regard— lotsa stuff, cheap prices— are past. Do you agree & what were some of your fave shops then & now? Were you a Domsey’s kid?

slaughter on west stJustine: As a kid I definitely went to “the city” to do my vintage shopping. I hit places in the village and thankfully my Dad was cool enough to take me school shopping at places like Unique and Antique Boutique on Broadway which were two of my favorite stores. There was also a shoe store near there where I used get my Zodiacs. Ah, the 90′s. Brooklyn’s days have been numbered for years. I used to go to Domsey’s a few times when I was younger but it was so huge and overwhelming that I always wound up with nothing much to show for my visits— stupid, lazy me! Now either everywhere is picked over or worse with the bedbugs. The only vintage you’re going to find that’s clean and wearable is usually gonna cost you an arm and a leg.

Brian: Although WWIB has a large staff, we haven’t had a fashion editor since we got burned on the whole Urban Cowboy thing in the early 1980s. Mind you, I can listen to Willie Nelson records all day every day & still have two pairs of Justin Ropers but, in your opinion, is there any time when flip-flops are not appropriate for the streets?

Justine: I think flip-flops are always appropriate unless you got some nasty feet. Then it’s just gross.

the secret of wwib

Brian: Years ago, I had a date with a Polish-American woman who lived her mom on the third floor of a Clay Street rowhouse; they had a couple cats and fed a lot of strays outside too. We met at Twin Donut first but I was early & killed time walking up Manhattan. It was super cold & I remember a snowman outside a Spanish restaurant & somebody had put Puerto Rican flags in each of Greepoint Frosty’s hands. It was one of the funniest, most beautiful things I’ve ever seen there, with the windows of the restaurant all steamed up from inside & the Christmas lights flashing. Do you have any really sharp memories of Greenpoint nightlife like that? (I’m pretty sure the Spanish joint was where the Acapulco, is now: Manhattan & Clay.)

Justine: That snowman sounds just about right for the hood! I’ve seen snowmen with penises but I think the PR flags are much more creative! As a kid and teenager my Greenpoint nightlife consisted of hanging out by the factories or parks drinking 40s and smoking blunts with other local badasses but as I got older and of the age to go to bars we definitely went more to Sunnyside and other parts of Queens. Early on me and friends did go to Workers (pronounced Walkers) Tavern on Nassau and Manhattan where many a night the underagers like myself were shuffled into the basement to hide when the cops would come raid it. And on those really cold nights we would hang out in any abandoned buildings we could find where the wind wasn’t so bad!

Brian: As one of Brooklyn’s realest bloggers, have you ever “offended” anyone & did you care? The “ego” of some of these yokels is totally ridiculous too— like some people are trying really hard to make themselves appear way more authoritative & streetwise than they really are so they start these little blog mafias— oooh, scary. I might get de-linked!

gp styleJustine: Oh my GOD! I totally agree! I’m a pretty link happy person myself. Not because I’m in fear of any conflict at all but just because I’m a generally friendly kind of chick. Even as a kid I was more prone to befriend people who were picked on. I felt it was too easy to fuck with people who didn’t have a lot of friends or weren’t popular. I instead enjoyed fucking with bullies. I had many friends from different cliques and never had a bad word to say about anyone until they fucked with me. Same pretty much goes for me in the blogosphere. Some bloggers have felt the need to oust me or to have a problem with me for really no other reason than their own insecurities. I’ve never been one to need or want any ‘approval’ from anyone and I’m sure as fuck not gonna start now.

Brian: What’s next for Greenpointers? A lot of people bemoan ersatz hipsters/yuppies and while neither group (as a group) thrill me, I think Greenpoint is going to remain diverse, and weird, for a pretty long time. There’s a Mexican grocery I love there but never talk about, just to keep it to “myself” (and hundreds of others— I think it’s as absurd for white people to say they “discovered” something ethnic as it is when they pretend to be “pioneers”).

meow

Justine: Next for Greenpointers is new blood. I’ve recently added a few other bloggers to the mix. They’re younger than I am and have different lengths of time living in Greenpoint but they’re all interesting, funny and have something to share and I’m open to new people who’ve moved here. They’re not all hipster fucks looking to be assholes. There are some pretty cool peeps who live here now and actually like the vibe that Greenpoint has and prefer it to the Williamsburg scene. I’ve become someone in the middle of the local and the hipster. I can’t fully identify with either all the time. There are locals that have basically just become dregs of society and there are hipsters that are just outcasts and jerkoffs from whatever Midwestern state they migrated here from, but there’s a happy medium here, too. And those are the folks I identify with and enjoy.
 That’s it for now– I might think of something else.

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