We're doing a new interview series with boys and girls in the hood who we like, and we're kicking things off with recovering Park Sloper and Gothamist Publisher Jake Dobkin. Who knew this dude actually grew up in the belly of the beast? Or that he was so funny?--he's got Park Slope's number.
Why don’t you live in Park Slope anymore? Do you hate us?
I love my parents, but if I spend more than two hours with them consecutively, I become suicidally depressed. It's the same with Park Slope, but a little less intense — I can be there three hours without wanting to throw myself into the Gowanus Canal. It's not any one thing, like the strollers, or the conspicuous consumption, or the judgmental non-judgementalism, or the proliferation of high-end coffee bars, or the $3MM brownstones, or everybody talking about how much cooler it was in 2005 when Park Slope was REAL--it's all of those things. Also, I hate the F train. Also, I'm still scared of the John Jay kids. Also, every time I walk down 7th Avenue I feel like I'm going to run into my nemesis from high school and have a panic attack. Also, I refuse to pay $150 to eat some fusion sushi or whatever crap they're selling now on 5th Avenue just on principle, ever.
As an adult survivor of a Park Slope childhood, tell us your favorite thing about growing up here. And, ok, also your least favorite?
I don't understand why child abuse survivors and bulimia survivors and cancer survivors get Lifetime movies, but Park Slope in the 80s survivors don't get shit — except The Squid and the Whale, which was good and fairly accurate, but really just gives me one more thing to feel bad about (like, "Noah Baumbach already won three Oscars and is best friends with Wes Anderson and is married to that lady from SWF- and you're doing what?") Ed Note: Guess he didn't hear the news: they're kaput).
I suppose my favorite thing about growing up in Park Slope was the souvlaki sandwich from Mr. Falafel, which I believe is still available. Runners-up would be the insane politics (you'd walk into your friend's apartment, and there'd be three bookcases of "Engels and Marx", "Lenin on Stalin", and a lot of "Reopen the Rosenberg Case" pamphlets), the class struggles (the dividing line between rich and poor was 7th Avenue, and it got tense when the public school kids had to mix with the private school kids after-school at Garfield Temple — all the Berkeley Carroll kids wore those letterman jackets with the leather sleeves and it would sometimes erupt into class-warfare. And by "class warfare" I mainly mean fights with sugar cubes that we stole from the lobby where they put them out for coffee, which sounds like a joke but my friend almost lost an eye when one of the Berkeley kids nailed him with one. And the drugs --I remember when DARE came to 321, and they gave us this big speech about the dangers of las drogas and how if you see an adult doing them you should probably turn them in immediately. This was at a time when most of us didn't know the difference between cigarettes and weed, because our parents were smoking so much of both.
I don't really have a least favorite thing. My childhood was pastoral and energetic and rich in experiences which developed my character. I could go on and on, and though I am in a sense, lying, in a sense I am not.
How much did your parents pay for their brownstone and when? Are they the sort of people who can brag about buying their ginormous, 4 story house for eight grand at a dinner party?
I think they bought it in 1977--so they probably paid with like a bag of patchoulli or something--but they only bought half. They had to buy out the other family in an acrimonious separation in the mid-80s--I'm guessing that probably cost another $100K or something insane. They don't brag about it, because my father is a Communist, and he's embarrassed by being an owner of capital. He allays this guilt by renting out the garden apartment for a few hundred dollars under market. You could feel jealous of them, but really, why should you be? Do you really want to have children who are living in one-bedroom apartments because they can't afford a two-bedroom $1MM shithole in Graveyard Heights and not-so-secretly wishing for your death for property reasons? Exactly.
Favorite Park Slope haunt?
Sometimes I take the train to Park Slope without telling my wife, and I get the ice at Uncle Louis G's on Union. I find the poem written on the mural outside very inspiring (read it here).
Have you read Prospect Park West?
No, but I once interviewed Amy Sohn about it at Gothamist and like you (not ME! That's Erica!), I'm kind of obsessed with her. I'd say it's her writing, but I think we both know the truth — I just like busty Jewish girls.
Favorite Park Slope author: Jonathan Safran Foer, Nicole Krauss, Amy Sohn, or none of the above?
Paul Auster, obviously. I find his solipsism and post-modern ennui very consoling. Except for that book with the talking dog-- that was just plain weird.
What schools did you attend growing up and what were they like?
I went to P.S. 107 for a couple of years, because that's where the hippies were sending their kids in 1980. But I think we were really zoned for 321, and they caught on or something--or maybe it was because the kids at 107 were stealing cars and smoking crack in the schoolyard--but anyway, we transfered to P.S. 321 for second grade. I've blocked out most of that time, but I do have two distinct memories: 1. my friend Dan throwing up on Tascha Van Auken in the hallway outside the library; and 2. the time Ms. Ellis bought us all Michael Jackson digital watches after second grade. Then P.S. 51, which was kind of like The Warriors, except instead of the gangs in the facepaint and baseball bats, it was the 9th graders who terrorized us. Actually, we also terrorized each other--like the time my friend started spreading rumors that different people in our class had AIDS. Good times!
Are you a member or have you ever been a member of any Park Slope coops?
No. My parents have joined the Food Coop a bunch of times, but they always got suspended because they can't get it together to serve their shifts. This was a real problem for me growing up, because my best friend had Food Coop access, and he had all those Fruit Leathers that they sell by the checkout. I was so jealous that I wanted to die.
Do you ever read Park Slope Parents listserv?
No. I have enough problems without diving into that pit of insanity and despair. My wife reads the Bococa list, which I think is only about 20% as crazy. The Buddhists have a saying- "Don't Eat Poison"-- it means don't read shit that makes you crazy. And it's like, I read blogs for a living — I'm drowning in poison as it is. I don't need to read some email about how feeding my kid glutenated foods is the equivalent of child abuse.
Where do you come down on:
a) parents/parenting in this hood?: It's probably better than raising kids in Basra or Williamsburg or whatever. But don't take it too seriously. Back in the day, the prevailing Park Slope parenting philosophy was to just let your kids run free — through Prospect Park, down 7th Avenue at night, etc. And most of the kids I know from the neighborhood aren't in jail.
b) babies in bars?: Only if they're ordering ironic drinks--like 4Loko with Milk (that's a "Loko Russian".)
c) the word “snowpocalypse?”: At our office they're calling it snowmaggedon. Just adding a funny ending to a word does not make a word funny--you all need to try harder.
d) the Pavilion?: The last movie I saw there was "Titanic." It was very moving. But I wouldn't go there now without a full body condom--bedbugs are no joke.