I went out with some Californian friends of friends to the depths of Williamsburg. This was unchartered territory for me, as I’d only whizzed in and out of Brooklyn on my last visit to NYC for a comedy night and a visit to a friend’s terrifying hostel and my impressions of the area otherwise were derived entirely from Girls, Broad City, and Brooklyn 99. All things can be learnt from American comedy TV.
Williamsburg itself reminded me a lot of the edgier neighbourhoods in Berlin. Every other building promised an atmospherically-lit bar full of people with moustaches and turn-ups. Brightly coloured bikes clustered around lamposts or cast silhouettes through floor to ceiling windows, and both Vice and Brooklyn Lager have giant warehouse bases in the area. Our first stop was a painfully trendy hotel that I have been meaning to visit ever since one of my favourite photographers managed its refurbishment publicity; The Wythe is all about brunch and exposed brick walls, but better than that has a rooftop bar that overlooks the entire Manhattan skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge. We had draught beers and complained loudly about men – which seems to be the prime topic of female conversation in this city – before interrupting a romantic moment to Instagram the twinkling metropolis over the water.
What followed was a whirlwind of bar-hopping and money haemorrhaging on shots and Mexican beer, which is predictably the cheapest thing to drink – and in this city of IPAs and excessive hoppiness by far my beverage of choice. Identical twins served us at a bizarre bar with a floor three inches deep in sand and a ceiling of surfboards. A rack of martini glasses teetered precariously above our table and leis of dollar bills strung up like garlic wreaths were distributed amongst scraps of beach polaroids and bumper stickers. A group at the table next to us complained loudly about men, and Lexie informed me that in America “If you don’t make a scene it’s not dinner.” We moved through a couple of different options including a kitsch ice-cream parlour and an empty dancefloor with a silhouette of a stuffed fox in its window and a party of Orthodox Jewish men out the back, before we settled on a dog-friendly drinkery near Metropolitan Avenue. Because dogs are MY FAVOURITE. In brief pauses between petting pugs and vainly trying to attract the interest of a French bulldog, we picked up four Englishmen following Ryan Adams on a tour around America and a hairdresser from New Zealand. Those of us who didn’t have work in the morning ended up in a bar appropriately named “Honky Tonk”, dominating the jukebox and loudly complaining about men.
I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t gush about NYC. Even those hipper natives who have learnt to contain their enthusiasm under the guise of “I don’t really care about anything” hipsterness (something that Williamsburg seems to personify), even they cannot manage to hide their awe. And though I hear it’s hard to live here and many prospective residents fall by the way-side within a few months of braving the city that never sleeps, I can absolutely see just why people stick out the fight for space and the inordinately high rent and the hellish subway system and hang around. We were kicked out of the bar at 4am and wandered through the first of the morning light to an all-night diner, where I discussed the Santiago di Compostello route with a passionate Portuguese guy over a burger. And as dawn broke above Manhattan’s jagged skyline a Pakistani cabby drove me back over the Williamsburg Bridge and told me that though he lived in London for eighteen months, nothing compares to New York. Amen.