About these stories and this writer
My name is Garth. I lived for my first 18 years in Los Angeles, California--a city I've since loved from afar--then Santa Cruz, California; Istanbul, Turkey; San Francisco, Oakland (a short time), Washington D.C., Takoma Park, MD, and finally, for the last 21 years, Brooklyn, New York.
I've also been a pharmacy, liquor store, and shoe-insole delivery driver. I've been a record store clerk. I've rented roller skates out of a truck on the Venice Beach Boardwalk, sold New York-style pizza in a California beach town, worked as a sports reporter, in a hippie food co-op, built toilets in Costa Rica, taught English language to rug salesmen in Istanbul, manned the microphone at the National Mall and Arlington National Cemetery as a tour guide, worked as a newspaper and radio journalist, published short fiction, and finally, for the last 23 years, taught English and coached teachers at the college and high school levels.
Why am I giving you my resume? What you do for money is, for better or for worse, part of who you are. This is a blog about cities, about living in Brooklyn, but also about how where we live informs who we are. I live on a teacher's salary, which, after the amount of time I've taught, puts me in the middle class. And class is about who we are as well.
Mother died earlier this year. My father is dead too. All my aunts and uncles have died, the last one well into her 90s just a few months ago; the grandparents, none of whom were born in this country, passed long ago, the first in the 1920s from a back alley abortion (rumor has it), the last in the 1980s. I have two sisters, one reportedly living in Arizona, the other in California, where my nephew and his wife also live. I see my older sister once a year, and she lives outside Santa Barbara in a small beach town. I've been engaged twice, married once, divorced once, and have one smart, enigmatic, loquacious, lovely daughter. Family is also how we are defined. Fatherhood defines me, and helps me choose where to live.
I'm white. I'm Jewish. I'm an atheist. I have little family. There are a few cousins from my dad's side in New York City, who I haven't seen in years. Another cousin on the Island, who I do occasionally see, and my mom's 80 year old niece, who lives in Westchester and with whom I have recently gotten back in touch.
Don't get me wrong. I am not alone nor am I lonely. I have a girlfriend who lives on Long Island. I have joint custody of my daughter--a half-time arrangement with my ex-wife. I have cousins in other parts of the country, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Arizona, Massachusetts, California, and even in Canada. I have lots of friends, some of whom are so close, they are like family.
But I am alone, in the sense I don't live among family. There is nothing to catch me. I have such great friends, but they are disparate. I work with some great people, but I don't feel a part of any community. I rent the garden/basement apartment of a Brownstone in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. I like my next door neighbors very much, but I don't know that many people on my Block. I am happy in my apartment. But it maxes out my middle-class teacher's salary.
I am writing this blog to situate myself where I live, to discover how I fit in, if I fit in, or how I don't. Gentrification is a big issue in Brooklyn, as it seems to be all over the place. Gentrification is, I hope to argue over the course of my blogs, with my blogs, something complex, complicated, paradoxical, painful, other things.
Because I like cities, and want to live in a city, I am like the Talking Heads' song that named this blog: "I've got to find a city, find myself a city to live in"--which to me, is also saying that I have to find a place for myself, somewhere, somehow.