The history of Brooklyn is a history of waterborne insult. The Gowanus Canal is a joke and Brighton Beach is a shambles, and it is the black, forbidding waters of the East River that make Brooklyn not-Manhattan, the biggest insult of all. On the fifth floor of the Brooklyn Museum, the permanent collection begins with a roomful of water paintings, the best of which are Marsden Hartley’s Evening Storm, wherein a huge white wave rises El Greco–like off the coast of Maine, and Louis Remy Mignot’s enormous Niagara, painted from memory while Mignot was in England during the Civil War. They are remarkable paintings that acknowledge in every stroke their inability to capture water on canvas, with oil.
And yet outside, at the entrance to the museum, a series of water jets rise as high as 60 feet into the air. They vibrate as they do so and on their cascading way down they plume out like icicles as brilliant white lights play upon them from below. The water says thoomp! as it leaves the ground in tight formation and then, upon returning severally as raindrops, thwack-thwack-thwack. The kids love it. While in Manhattan the bankers counted their money, the Brooklynites tamed the water and made it dance.
Because people are who they are. They’re mad when they’re supposed to be mad and happy when they’re supposed to be happy.
Because . . . know what? I’m a New Yorker. We don’t talk about the things we love. We complain about the things we’re pissed off about.