By Spencer Ackerman
Authenticity is, I’ve contended, a mug’s game, a sucker’s bet, an argument doomed to be lost. But never is an authenticity debate more obnoxious or inane when a New Yorker — a child of a polyglot, miscegenated and cosmopolitan immigrant city — intones about what’s the realest of real. Irony being what it is, argument-prone New Yorkers can’t help themselves, and so the infinite regression continues, to the eye-rolling exhaustion of all non-New Yorkers. My Manhattanite friend Matt Yglesias once memorably remarked that the truest New Yorker is the privileged white youth from Bridgeport who finally makes it to the city and claims it as his own. He’s right. Put less provocatively, to be a New Yorker is to reject essentialism.
Which brings me to my friend Ben Adler’s idiotic attack on Old Bay-slathered crabs. You can read Ben Miller’s substantive response for why Adler is wrong. I’d rather focus on the schtick. Much as I remember what it’s like to arrive in D.C. from New York and hate everything, the act has worn thin, revealing an insecure refusal to accept an experience for what it is because that’s not how they do it in the Old Country. As a favorite Brooklyn son once put it, I tried to ignore him and talk to the Lord, but some fools are just born to perform. So let me do this in my old accent, on Ben Adler’s terms.
Ben Adler: you are from the fakest part of pre-2000 Brooklyn, the People’s Republic of Park Slope. You are a brownstoner. Do not front. I have been to your parents’ house. Even before the late-Giuliani gentrification swing, your neighborhood was filled with stroller-pushers. I remember it all, even from my outpost on Glenwood Road, where Flatbush meets Midwood by the Junction. Am I from the hardened streets of Brownsville or East New York? No, not at all. But I’m sure as fuck not from Park Slope. And I am calling you out in the interest of full disclosure. Remember this, IFA readers, the next time Adler proceeds to tell you why everything outside of his actually-anti-New York provincial mindset is wrong: he’s never even had ice cream from Taste The Tropics. Rate some beef patties for me, Badler, and then you can tell me why Old Bay sucks. From your house in Mt. Pleasant. Your neighborhood in D.C. is realer than your neighborhood in Brooklyn, and you can get better Latin American food there. Or are you still pining for California Tacqueria?
I feel dirty now, and wish I hadn’t descended into an authenticity debate, but I’m feeling like my hand was forced. Yesterday I had possibly the best meal of my life at D.C.’s Komi with Mandy Simon — nothing I ate back home comes close. Tonight Amanda Mattos and I are going to see Wale perform, and we’re going to hear “Chillin‘,” and we’re going to marvel that his style on that track marvelously updates a style that Brooklyn began. That’s the way Brooklyn wants it: unafraid of outside influence. I’m headed for D.C.; anybody feel me?