"God, I love Brooklyn..."
We're at a launch party for the 2010 edition of Not For Tourists - Brooklyn, a hitherto hipster-skinny guide to the borough's best bits, now growing paunchy with maps of Bedford-Stuy and Clinton Hill. It's held at Brooklyn Bowl - allegedly the world's first eco-friendly bowling alley, and certainly one of the shiniest and most beautifully designed I've ever seen. At your lane, you can lounge on leather sofas and watch the live band in the next room, or order obscene portions of Blue Ribbon (and, presumably, blue-blood) fried chicken. Since it's a launch, the bowling and first drink are free, and we've teamed up with a couple of guys, both sporting prominent facial hair. At one point I'm trailing 30 points behind my nearest (bearded) competitor, and only a flukey strike keeps me from total humiliation.
It was only when we were walking home (several Righteous Ryes, 8 chicken parts, and one Haitian benefit later) that we realised that this new alley is literally a couple of blocks from its less glitzy predecessor. The Gutter has its own beaten-up charm. The way I bowl, the aerodynamics of the lane doen't matter. Moreover, they serve hard cider in big bottles, not just local beers for local people. And I like the way the frequent malfunctions add an element of drama and suspense. Yet it's hard to see how it will survive the competition shimmying into the neighbourhood. Sure, Gutter's cool, and it's a damn sight cheaper, but it's pitting vintage against state-of-the-art, a mailing list against a PR machine, a jukebox against guitars and drums.
"We should go back to Gutter next time," I say, as we march to the Nassau G.
"Yeah." There's a pause. "But they don't have fried chicken, do they?"