Local Culture

Samuel Johnson went to what was then and may become again the Near Abroad of Scotland and the Outer Hebrides to discover what a people who were familiar yet distinctive enough to have a distinct culture and social structure were like. He captured the religious quality of the moonlight and the castles as well as the economic opportunities available in that then “underdeveloped” economy. He did not have to travel to the South Sea islands or North America to discover the exotic; it was much closer to home than most travel writers imagined. I have in the past few months begun to understand another Near Abroad. I have moved to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, which is some ten miles distant from the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where I lived for so many years. Here are some observations from someone who is a traveler in that my acquaintanceship with my neighborhood is fresh and catches the superficial aspects of the thing, and so predates a time when a deeper appreciation of the place will settle in.

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