We come here with dreams of writing the great American novel, or of becoming the next Carrie Bradshaw. We come here for the countless daily and weekly newspapers, for the vast expanse of niche websites, or to claim our place in the richest blogging culture in the country.
Which is why I had to check out the fifth annual Brooklyn Blogfest, a congregation of hundreds of the borough’s brightest bloggers, held in the Brooklyn Lyceum in Park Slope, June 8.
Louise Crawford, of Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, a Park Slope-centric blog about parenting, arts, culture, restaurants, politics, and more, founded the event in 2005 because she felt Brooklyn bloggers needed and wanted a way to connect. Since then, the Blogfest has grown into part seminar, part networking event, part all-out blogosphere bash. This year, bloggers were more eager and ready than ever.
Pre-registration having filled up, guests arrived as early as 5:40 p.m, more than one hour ahead of schedule. As they waited for the Lyceum's doors to open, bloggers started conversations with the single, simple question: “So, what’s your blog?”
That’s how I met Raphael Pope-Sussman, the man behind the blog The Audacity of Pope, an account of his life during treatment for testicular cancer. “It’s not as depressing as it sounds,” he assured me as we entered the Lyceum.
Inside, bloggers milled about, trying to find good angles for their photographs of the venue, while others sat, thumbs a-blazing, typing away on iPhones and Blackberries, all the while keeping one ear open for possible networking introductions.
(Note to self: Sharpen up those photography skills).
Eventually the evening burst into action - after a few minor technical difficulties and about a half an hour delay - with a video about blogging in Brooklyn. Crawford took the podium to welcome us and express her love for blogging.
She likened the earth-changing nature of self-publishing to the printing press. With blogging, she said, “you don’t have to be a computer geek or a best-selling author, you can just be you.”
Wait a minute. All of these people - the crowd spilled into an overflow room where latecomers watched the event on video- are just a whole bunch of Brooklynites being themselves?
Soon after extolling the “true stoop life in Brooklyn,” and the borough's sense of community, Crawford turned the microphone over to actors Aaron Costa Ganis, Charlotte Maier, and Natalie Paul, who performed short, dramatic adaptations of entries from some of the blogs represented in the audience.
Pope-Sussman, who I had met earlier outside the Lyceum, was included in the presentation.
Another featured blog, A Cake Bakes in Brooklyn, dealt with a less serious topic, the hand-written recipe cards collected in flea markets and shops around the borough. “They are windows from the past I pry open one stick of butter at a time,” Maier read.
(One more note to self: find a more focused topic for my own personal ramblings).
And speaking of rambling, there was Spike Lee, the one-time Brooklyn resident, who sauntered on stage to deliver a slew of strange comments on the effects of gentrification on the borough (Lee has long since moved out of Brooklyn for the Upper East Side).
He appeared mainly in order to plug his latest venture, Absolut Brooklyn, a limited edition red apple and ginger-flavored concoction the vodka company created in collaboration with the world-famous director.
Lee went on to admit that he doesn’t blog, then tried saving face by touting the benefits of blogging as a way to gain followers and support, and perhaps even as a way of finding funding for your first feature film.
As Lee floundered, Crawford suggested he take a few questions from the audience, which prompted Borough President Marty Markowitz to ask the filmmaker when he plans to move back to Brooklyn.
Lee said a homecoming isn’t in the near future, but it also isn’t entirely out of the question. “Most every creative person finds their way back to Brooklyn,” he said.
Jake Dobkin of Gothamist said that's because Brooklyn is - or at least was - cheap.
“All of you moved here for a reason,” Dobkin said. “Well, most of you moved here because you couldn’t afford Manhattan, but some of you moved here because you wanted to be around like-minded people where you can be creative and still be respected.”
Then we broke up into creative, like-minded focus groups. At that point, some weary bloggers headed for the exit. Those with any energy to spare darted for the bar. The blogfest was sponsored by Absolut, after all.