At work today, a Mr. Duffy pronouncedly shamed me by stating that I was from Portland, when all well know my humble beginnings in Brooklyn make me largely who I am. “How old were you when you lived in Portland?” the porcine lout asked.
“I was ten, I lived there until I was eighteen.”
“Your formative years, when you pretty much become who you are. So you’re from Portland then, not Brooklyn.”
And upon reflection a certain scene recurred to me, when I was seven years old and my family was driving our car away from Brooklyn up the FDR, on the way to our new home in Westchester. I looked at the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building and the Queensboro Bridge, in front of their rich blue sky, for it was summer and we were embarking upon new lives, and without knowing why, I felt deeply moved, saddened, as though I were leaving behind a sedate chapter of my life during which I came into the world and discovered what it meant to feel. It wasn’t so much a sadness that I was leaving, but more of a nostalgia for a life that had ended: Brooklyn had taught me about the world, from my puerile crushes in kindergarden, to my walks around Bay Ridge with mother, to the Middle Eastern chicken sandwiches on the corner of 84th and 5th: it was all and everything I had known for those seven years and it was rich and full of pain and love and I didn’t particularly want to start again. To me, Brooklyn was more than a place; it was a way of life.
That is why I will continue to tell people when they ask me where I am from: Brooklyn and Portland.