Back in London we used to regularly indulge ourselves in a little casual torture. Fine weekends would be spent wandering around Clapham, or Greenwich or Notting Hill, looking at the houses and choosing which one we'd want to live in. With the aid of our trusty pack of London walks we'd idle along tree lined, litter-free streets, peering into bars and delis and parks and wondering what life would be like lived in a place where the menus were hand-written rather than backlit and badly spelled. It wasn't that we didn't love our scrappy bit of East London, with its canal path and Victorian pubs and grown-over cemetery, but the glitter of gentrification kept us riding the subway and pounding the streets, searching for not-so-hidden gems.
These days a perfect weekend for me is one where I don't have to leave Brooklyn. Since I work from home, I no longer have the commuter's burden to shrug off, but still, there it is; this sense of wanting to stay within striking distance of Prospect Park and Michelle Williams' favourite cafe.
Both the cafe next to Michelle Williams' favourite cafe and the Caribbean restaurant on the opposite corner have closed their doors in recent weeks. Although it seems as though my neighbors spend their lives eating and drinking and tipping a clear 20% I guess even that's not enough to support all the cafes, bars and restaurants within a five block radius. But whereas back in Mile End we used to look at the empty junk store on our corner - the one with the ginger kitten forever sleeping in the window - and fantasize about coffee shops and delis and second hand bookshops, here it's hard to think of what we need, what we lack. Already on the street there are restaurants (French, soul food, New Orleans, Thai, Vietnamese), laundrettes (two), boutiques (innumerable), bodegas (five), thrift stores (two) and quirky-cafes-with-wifi (three). We can buy cards, children's toys, jewellery, vintage signs and organic icecream sundaes; Time Out, yoga clothes, flowers and wedding lingerie. There's even the offices of a private detective.
Shamefully, after talking it over, we realised that there was only one thing we really wanted to put in the empty store-fronts, and is wasn't anything that would help us shop local or organic or get us drunk on happy hour margaritas. Oh no, we want Bank of America cashpoints. Somewhere between those dreamy walks through London parks and writing this blog The Man has well and truly got our souls.