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off broadway shenanigans

Day 86-87 Brooklyn Flea at Crown Heights, Pete's Tavern, and off-Broadway



Honest, we can't not go to the Brooklyn Flea. My aunt Carol does an admirable job of not twitching a facial muscle when we announce that we're gonna get on the 4 train (yet again) and speed into Crown Heights. I hear her on the phone later on. "They've even made it to Brooklyn. They've gone to Brooklyn a bunch of times."

I don't think she quite understands our fascination. Mine came from too much time reading internet blogs of mid-twenty to thirty somethings having fairy-light lit dinners inside cavernous brick buildings, discovering Mast Brother Chocolates, Saipua, and Bellocq, and seeing pap photos of Michelle Williams and Heath Ledger, in 2012, wandering around Boerum Hill and Williamsburg. Topped off by liberal sprinklings of Girls, of course.


Our walk from the Franklin Avenue station to Dean Street gives us a tiny flavour of this neighbourhood. Some brownstones are vacant and unloved. The laundromats and small grocers jostle with tiny but impeccably stylish cafes and restaurants. Of course, there's a bike shop. Gentrification is a mere sputter in a barely lit wick.


Inside a Dean Street building, we walk down a short, non-descript hallway and through a door. The Brooklyn Flea is crowded and stifling hot. Immediately to our right, there's a "stroller park"and Brooklyn Roasting Company coffee. To our left and in front of us, the stalls sell most everything you need for your modern Brooklyn life...


$30 hand-poured made in Brookly Apotheke scented candles, refurbished dining tables made from propping turn-of-the-century wooden doors on top of trestles, kilim rugs to warm up the wooden floors in your Brooklyn loft, taxidermy, creepy toys, terrariums, football jerseys from the 1990s, and prints of New Yorker covers.


Most everything is tempting, but not much is actually necessary. In a fight between the Brooklyn Flea and the Port de Vanves flea market in Paris, Paris would knock out this slick, self-conscious operation in a New York minute. Everything here has already been handpicked and curated; taking a lot of the joy of rummaging through piles of crap to come out victorious.  


Later, Rob lists all the different types of hipsters he saw at the Brooklyn Flea with glee. "There's the sweater hipsters, the record hipster, the foodie hipster, the fashion hipster, the bike hipster. SO. MANY. HIPSTERS." If I were a hipster, I'd want to be called the Vintage Tea Tin Hipster. In fact, I get stuck a vintage tin stall for quite a while. 


All this hipster spotting and tin rummaging has made us hungry. To get to the food stalls, you have to inch your way around the outer perimeter of the stalls and plunge down a different door. We walk through a corridor lined by stalls selling rarified stuff like different flavours of saltwater taffy, almond milk, almond butterpeanut butter (the salted caramel is totally sold out), and Dough doughnuts.

If you get past this corridor, you're funnelled into a cavernous, brick-walled garage where they keep the food stalls, ping pong table, pinball machines, picnic tables with potted plants on them, and an Ugly Christmas Sweater photo booth (BYO camera). Inexplicably, there's a large tree trunk in there too. I think you're supposed to use it as a table but it looks too much like a random tree trunk that nobody really does. 


The meat sandwich stall has sold out of meat. I'm pretty sure there's a fancier word for it than "meat stall" but all I can remember is that Rob is devastated by this turn of events. He keeps looking at the stall and asking, "Do you really think they've sold out of meat?" We settle for rice bowls and lumpia at the Adobo Shack. Here I am in a Brooklyn garage eating Filipino food. The only thing Filipino about the rice bowl is the rice. It's more Japanese, if anything, right down to the little pickled ginger on the side. The adobo sauce tastes more teriyaki than adobo and my mum's lumpia is way better. 


Because I'm a glutton, I buy two Dough doughnuts (salted caramel and cheesecake) and scoff it outside. Later, at about 10 pm, Rob will find me in a darkened hallway, stuffing the last of my cheesecake donut into my face.


After this day out, we have to go back to the apartment and crash. I feel terrible for the rest of the day. I have a donut digestion injury. I manage to perk up later that night though when I hear Carol in the kitchen saying that the sauce she's making looks like her mother's sauce. It's meatballs and 'roni for tea!


The next day, I'm punished for my gluttony by an absolute inability to do anything of worth. The best I get up to is lining up at Starbucks for a chestnut praline latte and then going back home to collapse on the couch. The best coffee I've had so far in New York was in Brooklyn at the Brooklyn Roasting Company. Everything else has ranged from dishwater to almost-drinkable. Nothing is as good as the coffee back home.  

We're spirited out of the apartment at night to eat at Pete's Tavern. At the end of lunch, I learn two new facts. O. Henry wrote a short story about a poor couple who struggle to buy each other presents for Christmas. In fact, he wrote it in a booth at Pete's Tavern. No one can tell me what the O stands for but the story is something Rob and I can relate to during the tail end of our four month expedition. Second, during Prohibition, Pete's Tavern was disguised as a florist and you went through the refrigerator to get to the bar.  


I also learn that pickles are just cucumbers. True story. All this time, I thought pickles was just a special pickle vegetable. The entire table is laughing at me but I really don't mind because New York has the best pickles I've ever eaten.

As a treat, we're treated to tickets to Fuerza Bruta, an off-broadway, low-level Cirque du Soleil-type show. We stand in the rush line and get tickets for $30 each. They're usually $99 each! The entire show takes place above your heads with the actors swinging on trapezes, chasing each other round and round the walls of the auditorium, and even swimming suspended in a floating swimming pool that gets winched down towards the audience then back up high. It's like a club mixed with a circus dashed with the teeniest bit of theatre. There's a high electricity bill for wind fan use.


There is zero dialogue, much gesturing, thundering drum beats, and an open invitation to get drenched in torrential rain at the end of the show. Two guys take it and one of them has their glasses snapped in half in the mess. When we come out, someone is explaining, "More people join in in summer. It's winter so people don't want to go outside in the freezing cold completely drenched." I ask everyone what they thought the narrative of that show was. "Oh. Well I think it was about survival in the face of nature's brutal force," says my aunt casually.        


the harlem shake

the harlem shake

star spotting and two pools in the ground