Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Did You Hear the News?

There it was on the front page of The Park Slope Paper, that venerable blabsheet of record stacked on the radiator at Cousin John's Cafe, Smartmom's morning breakfast haunt. The bold headline read: "Kennedy Eyeing Neighborhood," alongside a smiling picture of Caroline Kennedy and her beautiful teenage daughter.


Well, there goes the neighborhood. The Slope, already overrun with rich people and celebs, is fast becoming an unbelievably trendy and unbearably expensive place to live. With Caroline K's arrival, it will be close to impossible for Hepcat and Smartmom to ever buy their dream-brownstone. They discovered the neighborhoos 13 years ago when the Slope was a haven for writers, vegans, Legal Aid lawyers, teachers and artists.

Okay, Okay, Smartmomm knows what you're thinking. Rory Kennedy already lives in The Slope. Why, "The Fifth Avenue Reader" just did an extensive interview with this daughter of Robert Kennedy, who makes award-winning documentaries. She's even set up her production company, Moxie Firecracker, in an office space on Union Street. By all reports, she is nice, down-to- earth and real. Hell, she might even join the Park Slope Food Coop.

Yup, the celebrities are taking over. "Caroline Kennedy's family won't be the first of the ultra-famous to shuffle the sidewalks of the Slope's breezy tree-lined streets," writes Jeff Wisloski in The Park Slope Paper. "Actor Steve Buscemi has a place in the 'hood.' So does John Turturro. And actress Jennifer Connelly and husband Paul Bettany have nested there as well..."

But really, John Turturro and Steve Buscemi are our kind of celebs. They moved here before the slope was The Slope. And they really are part of the life of this neighborhood. They send their kids to school here (okay, private school) and can be sighted regularly at Connecticut Muffin and Second Street Cafe. Smartmom is truly proud to have these incredibly talented actors and artists as neighbors. And Park Slope isn't exactly hurting for literary luminaries: Paul Auster, Siri Husvedt, Kathryn and Colin Harrison Jhumpa Lahiri, Elissa Schappell, and many, many others. But they too are true Park Slopers.

Which isn't to say that Smartmom won't roll out the welcome wagon for Caroline and hubby, Ed Schlossberg. It's just that Caroline Kennedy is a different order of celeb -- as the daughter of a slain president, she is herself a real live ICON. Truth be told, Caroline K. is one of Smartmom's idols.

Smartmom can't help it. A child of the Kennedy years, the image of Caroline and John-John playing in the Oval Office or running on the beach in Cape Cod is practically imprinted on her brain. And, in some way, Smartmom thinks of Caroline K. as a kindred spirit.

Now that might sound kinda strange coming from a Jewish girl from the Upper West Side of Manhattan, who went to small, progressive private schools and a state university. How could she could be anything like a Kennedy? But really, it's not such a stretch.

Like Caroline K, Smartomom has a beautiful mother, who is intelligent, well-mannered, and impeccably stylish. Like Caroline, Smartmom's dad is smart, funny and handsome. Like Caroline, the family vacationed in beach houses on Fire Island (a far cry from Hyannisport, but whatever) Like Caroline, as a girl Smartmom wore her straight brown hair parted on the side with a barrette.

And for another thing, Smartmom's sister, Groovy Aunt, even has the same patrician-sounding first name as Ms. Kennedy.

Just like every American of a certain age, Smartmom remembers exactly what she was doing the moment J.F.K. was shot. She and Groovy Aunt were just back from Kindergarten and were miffed that "Romper Room" was interupted due to a special news report. The sisters barely understood what was going on. But as the days passed and their parents stayed glued to their small black and white television set, the sisters began to sense that their world had changed irrevocably. And like most kids, they were drawn to images of the children: Caroline in her little blue overcoat (like Smartmom's Best and Co. coat) and John- John waving bye-bye to his daddy's coffin.

As Caroline K. grew up, Smartmom continued to follow her in the news. When Caroline was at Harvard, Smartmom noticed that she dressed in the same frumpy, preppy style that Smartmom did. Smartmom wondered if Caroline had issues with her appearance like she did, and wondered if it was because they were both daughters of such fashion-conscious and discriminating women.

And there's more. Like Caroline K., Smartmom inter-married -- Caroline K. married a Jew, an older man, an unusual choice. And Smartmom married a Presbeyterian, just three years older than she. Actually, Ed Schlossberg reminds Smartmom of Hepcat in some ways -- he's a jack-of-all-trades, a renaissance man, a computer geek, a very creative person.

Smartmom likes the fact that Caroline married a Jew. She also admires the way she carries herself with grace and dignity and rarely embarrasses herself in public. And that she is a a smart woman who writes books and thinks about things deeply.

When John-John died a few years ago in a plane crash (on Smartmom and Hepcat's wedding anniversary) the grief on Caroline's face was almost too much to bear. Like Smartmom, she and her sibling had an unusually close relationship. You can see it in the pictures: the two really seemed to love and trust each other. The pain of that loss seemed to shadow Caroline K. for years.

Exciting as it will be to have Caroline K, Ed and the kids in the neighborhood, Smartmom wonders if Caroline K. is moving to the Slope because it is fast becoming a bastion for celebrities. Or because she truly appreciates the true pleasures of this neighborhood the way we real slopesters do: the historic architecture, beautiful Propsect Park, the great schools, the diversity of the people, and most of all, the caring and committed sense of community.

WIll Caroline dance at First Saturday in the Brooklyn Museum or get mornning coffee at Uprising Bakery? Will she be a regular at Al Di La or a be a fellow runner in the park?

I guess we're just gonna have to wait and see.


At 1:25 AM, Blogger Udge said...

Yep, Jane Jacobs had that one pinned down. The young, intelligent poor move to an area because it's cheap; they make it trendy; the rich in because it's trendy; the young can no longer afford it so they move out; the area is no longer trendy; the rich move on.

Hopefully Caroline is as nice as you paint her; I suspect the Slope will have more problem with the press than with her.

Wouldn't it be amusing if you met and she became a personality in the blog: Which anonym would you give her?

At 10:59 AM, Blogger Blank Postcard said...

Were you in SF this weekend? I thought i saw you.


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