Stepping way far back into vanished New York history, Governors Island this weekend hosted a few groups of Civil War reenactors, who transformed the island to its olden days as a base for recruiting Union soldiers and a prison for Confederates. And while it was Governors Island circa 1863, it felt, in odd ways, eerily like Brooklyn 2010.
photos: my flickr
There were musket drills and firings of cannons. There were tents set up in rows, each one outfitted by its owner with personal items--packets of letters, tin cups, tobacco.
Womenfolk baked bread over open fires, in between the washing and drying of clothing. They talked about sewing and the business of handwork. The officers and their wives enjoyed a lavish meal of local foods.
A makeshift general store sold pickled eggs, handmade soap, and plain wooden pencils that brought to mind Field Notes pencils, each of which are stamped with a dizzying description of their virtuous contents: "Lacquer-free Renewable Cal-Cedar Wood Casing, Recyclable Aluminum Ferrule, Enviro-Green Degradable Eraser and Certified Non-Toxic Imprint Inks."
The Civil War reenactors' pencils did not have that information stamped onto them. Still, I couldn't help but think of the artisanal trend, the simple trend, the DIY, seasonal, locavore trend. Everything looked, in some odd way, contemporary.
Aside from those pencils, it reminded me of the Freeman's empire. And of people who pickle things and put them in jars with labels that look old but aren't old then sell them at the Brooklyn Flea, or who hawk hunks of rough-hewn soap at the Renegade Craft Fair.
Maybe it was all those guys with curly mustaches and burly muttonchops, but the whole thing was kind of hipster, except without the irony.