As we crossed under the East River on the L Line you could feel the pressure change in your ears. It was at this point that I turned to my good friend and said
Are you OK, do you want to hold my hand?
Once more unto the breach, dear friends
For this was but the second visit in eight years for my friend across into the great tattooed abyss known only to him as ‘Billysburg.
My buddy certainly puts the Man in Manhattan but I somehow managed to convince him to join me in a visit across the East River and promised to fight off any hipsters than may try to abduct him & tie-dye his polo shirt. For the purposes of this post let’s call him… er, Matt.
“How’s the serenity!”
Darryl Kerrigan’s immortal words in the classic Australian movie The Castle doth ring so true for Billysburg. As soon as you emerge at ground level from the subway you are enveloped in a serenity far from the pastiche of noise & movement that you left only minutes earlier across the river.
It’s low rise, laid back & bohemian and it’s quiet. Wow is it quiet compared to its high rise neighbour. Oh and facial hair is very de rigueur here too. In short I LOVED it and after enticing ‘Matt’ out of the subway and onto Bedford Avenue with a copy of The Economist he seemed to be warming too!
Checking the Markets.
Cleverly one of my enticements to get Manhattan Matt under the East River was by mentioning the ‘Markets’. What he didn’t know was I was meaning the Flea & not the Financial variety. I was touched by pangs of guilt as he checked his iPad battery & ensured that the Bloomberg app was working correctly before we embarked.
Visit on a Saturday and there is a seducing array of markets appealing to all tastes none of which are more than a 15 minute walk from the Bedford Avenue subway stop. Food & wine, vintage, book swap, art & craft, fashion it’s all here and all with that laissez-faire vibe & retro feel. Check http://www.artistsandfleas.com/ and/or http://www.brooklynflea.com/smorgasburg/ for more info.
Time for a coffee
It is a pretty well stated fact that that until very recently New York has been to good coffee what Osama bin Laden was to Gillette. The cavalry has arrived though & one of the key players amongst the emergence of decent coffee has been an Aussie bloke called Toby. Not surprising given the extreme coffee snobbery in Melbourne & Sydney.
Replacing Whadda Bing Whadda bang with What a Bean! coffee houses such as Toby’s Estate & Blue Bottle (est. in San Francisco) are coming to the rescue of decent-coffee-deprived New Yorkers.
Oh and get ready to queue. Like anything good in NYC you will line up. Whilst I generally find lining up an anathema it’s pretty much operation normal here. Ironic that you can have quality (the business) & quantity! (the number of people waiting)
Start spreading the news.
This is my 2nd time to New York and inasmuch I think you can leave your L Line ‘Billysburg quest until after you have done the icons like Rockefeller, Staten Island Ferry, Central Park, Greenwich Village & Times Square (urggghh if you must) on your first visit. That said if you love the likes of Fitzroy/ Brunswick in Melbourne, Newtown in Sydney or Camden/ Chalk Farm in London then include on your 1st trip.
My name is Matt & I’m an Manhattan-aholic.
I think ‘Matt’ actually had a pretty good time across the ‘East. Certainly the convulsing subsided markedly as the hours passed. I even made him confront his fear head on in the most forthright manner I could think of. Much like someone with arachnophobia handling a spider I got Matt to Check-In from the Williamsburg Flea Market.
Pleasingly he tells me that he has only been defriended by 17 people to date.
Let your (facial) hair down & enjoy chilled out ‘Billysburg