Park Slope

A farewell to Park Slope

September 1, 2021 By Taylor Syfan
Community Board Six boasts neighborhoods with beautiful old homes, like the ones on this block in Park Slope. Eagle photos by Paula Katinas
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There is a woman who sells rings and other jewelry in Park Slope on the weekends. Sometimes she sets up her table under the scaffolding on Fifth Avenue and Fifth Street — You know, that scaffolding around the Junior High that seems more permanent than the historic Stone House. Sometimes, though, she sets up on Seventh Avenue and Second Street by a different school. This woman has a cherry-red pixie cut and eyes carved from the same agate that is laid in the rings she sells. I don’t remember when I met her, nor whether I have ever owned a piece of her jewelry, but for the three years I’ve lived in Park Slope she has always greeted me on the sidewalk like a great aunt to a favorite niece.

“Hi honey,” she calls out, “how ya’ doing?”

I haven’t the heart to tell her that my boyfriend and I are moving to an apartment in Clinton Hill and will soon move away from Park Slope. I haven’t the heart to tell any of them, really — the many familiar faces I’ve come to know on the Slope. If I did, I’d surely have to mention, almost as though explaining away my infidelity, just how low the interest rates are right now. You know what I mean. Haven’t you heard? Well, they’re lower than low. Low enough to conjure so rare an adjective as “unprecedented.”

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“We wanted to stay in the Slope,” I would say. “But we just kept getting outbid!”

As it turns out, we are not the only couple privy to the “unprecedented” interest rates, nor the only ones interested in charming pre-war two bedrooms (or one bedrooms with space for an office) in the neighborhood. In fact, we’re not even remotely close to the only ones with such desires. Apparently, Park Slope is teaming with couples like us. Those couples just have a teeny bit more money.

The story ends happy, though, because we found an apartment we adore in Clinton Hill. Only, I wonder where I’ll buy my rings. Rather, I wonder who will be there to sell them to me. I also wonder from whom I’ll buy my coffee. For something like a year-and-a-half I worked at Café Martin; This is as much a café as it is an institution. It is well-known among the seasoned intelligentsia of middle-ish to North Slope, whether fondly or scandalously — in every case, loyally. Working at Café Martin in the afternoons introduced me to the lot of them, from the deadpan Junior High drama teacher to the vibrant women who manage the Historic Stone House to the handsome and sartorial owner of the sneaker store to the frenetic chefs and owners of the local eateries to the perpetually caffeinated doctors and the nurses at New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital to countless gaggles of subdued poets and ethereal playwrights and stylish editors and jaded non-profit workers. Et al. I will not soon forget my time at Café Martin, and I only hope that J, its proprietress post-Martin, will forgive me for being so repetitiously incompetent. It’s just that I was very busy making friends when I should’ve been sweeping, I think.

Café Martin is a short walk from the front door of the apartment on Fifth Street that I rent with my boyfriend. We won’t just miss living in Park Slope, we’ll also miss living in that apartment. One could call it a two bedroom, but what do you call a railroad-style apartment with six rooms of varying sizes and no discernible order between them? Our landlord, lucky for us, calls it a two bedroom and that is how we can afford an apartment with six rooms. We will miss our landlord. She can best be described as brassy, and she wears her grey-hair spiked on top with a mullet on bottom. You might not know she has grey hair, though, because she so often dyes it violently green. She has two small dogs, one of which dons a curly blonde mohawk. She hails from Great Britain but has lived in Brooklyn long enough to have adopted the most confounding and charming accent you have ever heard. I could never pin it down until one day I heard her say the word “airport.” For weeks, I infatuated over how Brooklyn the prefix “air” came through, but how British the suffix “port” followed up.

Our landlord’s mohawked dogs are walked by the bartender at Ginger’s Bar, a legendary gay establishment that is just down Fifth from Café Martin. I like to think of this man as something of an enigma and socialite, though I’m not sure that description captures him. He’s of a sunny disposition, is always ‘around,’ if you will, and has the most red-apple cheeks (in shape, in hue, and in sweetness) that you’ve ever seen.

Even on my commute out of it, Park Slope finds a way to charm me. I use an above-ground subway station where the F and the G trains stop. I take the F train to work, but every morning as I wait for it, a little after seven in the morning, the G train passes by me. Last Summer, in the belly of the Pandemic, the conductor of that specific G train nodded politely to me on his way to the next stop. At the time, you couldn’t have convinced me that any commuter actually sees the same conductor twice. I’d have liked to think this city were more gigantic and mysterious than that. It happened again, though. So, I returned the gesture, day over day, and eventually our nod became a wave. This continued through the Summer until I had surgery and was bed-ridden for three straight months. When I returned to the world in the Fall, he waved. As though he’d looked out for me all that time. As though he’d anticipated my return. As though my absence in this gigantic and mysterious world did not go unnoticed, and I was missed. Now it’s summer again and we wave still, everyday, a little after seven in the morning.

I would like to know: How do you tell a man you have never met how genuinely you will miss him?

I should look on the bright side. On my first-thing-in-the-morning laundry or grocery trips, when I am makeup-less and bed-headed, Clinton Hill will provide me some privacy; A safe-haven from running into everyone I’ve ever met. It’s like preparing for the Met Gala just to pick up my wash-and-fold in the Slope most days; I run into absolutely everyone. If not one or two playwrights or restauranteurs, then Steve Buscemi. I swear to you, that man senses when I’ve left the house without brushing my teeth or my hair and he roams the avenues until we’ve finally crossed paths. Someday, I hope we’re seated next to each other at my Park Slope diner of choice, Seventh Avenue Diner and Donuts. I’ll be sparkling and refreshed in crisp white poplin and I’ll say to him, “don’t you even recognize me, Steve?” And, we’ll have a good laugh.

This morning, I brushed my hair and I did not cross paths with Steve Buscemi. I had errands to run. I found myself on Seventh Avenue nearing the woman who sells rings at her little table. On my way towards her, I stopped to browse someone else’s little table, one with records instead of jewelry. A remarkably tall teddy-bear of a man manned that table. I asked this man what record a person should walk away with if she were to buy a record from him today. He laughed, dug up a sleeve or three from his cartons, and asked if he could play me something “that swings” on his turntable. He played a cover of “For Sentimental Reasons” by The Cleftones, right there on Seventh Avenue.

“That’s good music,” I told him.

He laughed, I paid, and he thanked me for “swinging by.”

But, I didn’t say good-bye. Did not mention the interest rates nor how many times I was outbid.

What for? For sentimental reasons, probably.

Taylor Syfan, author.

Taylor Syfan is a Brooklyn based writer and student at The New School. In the Pacific Northwest she was a freelance arts journalist, covering topics from music to fashion.

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