The Brooklyn and Spike Lee in Me


What does this Shiksa-Jew of a Canadian white girl have to do with Spike Lee? Read on to find out.

It all started when I took the kids to New York in August of 2012. Instead of staying in Manhattan, I thought it would be more interesting to stay in Brooklyn. I researched the many cool and gentrified areas of Brooklyn and compared them to the available brownstones and eventually settled on one that seemed to meet the needs of two moms and three kids. When we arrived at the address, it wasn’t at all what I had envisioned as we were in a very ungentrified part of Brooklyn. My apologies to my travel companion were drowned out by Sam’s enthusiastic cheers that I had unwittingly landed us on the same street on which rapper Biggie Smalls had lived and died.

I was a mom-hero.

The brownstone turned out more or less fine and it was great escaping from the madness of Manhattan every night and taking the subway back to quiet, tree-laden streets of Brooklyn.

It even provided the opportunity for the most comical “cat call” I’ve ever received (and my favourite to imitate). One hot summer evening, I found myself walking on the adjacent main street desperately looking for fresh salad ingredients (that should give you a hint about our neighbourhood) when I passed two rather inebriated older black gentlemen. As I walked by in my summer dress, one of them looked me up and down then announced loudly to his companion, “I gotta get me a WHITE woman. I’m TIRED of the sisters.”

There was one day of rain and none of us wanted to venture into Manhattan. The girls went to a movie at a local cineplex and I found out that Spike Lee’s “Red Hook Summer” was premiering not far away at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music). Sam and I had a fantastic southern-inspired lunch of pulled-pork and corn bread at a local restaurant and then we ventured off to his first Spike Lee movie.

BAM is a fabulous cultural centre – if I had moved sooner I would have been able to purchase tickets to a later, sold-out show where Spike Lee was to introduce his film and answer questions. It was a great film about a 13 year old big city boy who is left to spend the summer with his preacher grandfather in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The film was engrossing and we recognized street signs from our current visit and I wondered what Sam thought about his first Spike Lee experience. He loved it and, ever since our outing to BAM, I have been introducing him other Spike Lee great films.

When your own kid gets interested in your favourite directors and movies, it’s pretty cool. We have discussed Spike Lee, the Coen Brothers, Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese many times since. I may not fully appreciate his taste in today’s rap music but at least we can be enthusiastic about the same films.

Last month I read that Spike Lee was going to be in Montreal this past Wednesday to receive an award from the Montreal International Black Film Festival and premiere his new film “Da Sweet Blood of Jesus” after which he would be present for a Q&A. I bought tickets for Sam and me to attend the event at the beautiful downtown Imperial Cinema. We had a great dinner at a local Brasserie and then walked over to the red-carpet and paparazzi on Bleury Street. Sam was literally blown away by the Imperial and I told him that many cinemas used to look like that before they were replaced with cookie-cutter multiplexes.

The movie was not my favourite Spike Lee film, but the quality of the actors and the beautiful way it was shot on Martha’s Vineyard and Brooklyn made it worthwhile. After the audience had asked its mostly inane questions to the gracious director, I grabbed Sam and we rushed down to speak to him before his entourage carted him away.

There was a woman in front of us with her daughter asking Spike Lee for a photograph with her, and I could see that he had had enough but he stood there kindly as she fumbled for what seemed minutes with her iPhone and then smiled charmingly for the photo. I asked him if I could share something with him and he stopped to listen even though he had mentally one foot out of the cinema door.

I told him about taking Sam to see his first Spike Lee movie in Brooklyn and how ever since I’ve been sharing my passion with my son and that I wanted to thank him for allowing me, as a parent, this wonderful experience. He looked at Sam and asked him how old he was. Sam replied “Seventeen” to which Spike Lee replied “That’s a great age.” He looked me in the eyes and then shook my hand and said “Thank you very much, that means a lot to me.” before he was whisked away.

Sam and I drove home pumped up by the evening and the film and stopped for pie and tea to discuss everything.

Seventeen is a great age, indeed.


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