Articles by

Margaret Bortner

06/01/16 10:27am
How do you help her out when she can't help herself ?

How do you help her out if she can’t get out?

Dear Penny,

I’d like some advice on how to help a close friend of mine who may be in a dangerous situation.

So my friend lost her father about a year and a half ago, to cancer. She was always daddy’s little girl, and has not been able to find peace with his passing. During her father’s fight, my friend began what she herself described as a ‘toxic relationship’ with a guy who sounded abusive. I told her more than once that she should get the hell out of there and not look back. She agreed with me, and I thought that was the end.

Recently, however, I learned that she’s still dating this guy. I also saw a picture of him for the first time… and he is the spitting image of her dad. Same height, face, build, features, everything. The resemblance is so close I have a hard time telling the difference between them when she posts pictures of the boyfriend and when she posts old pictures of her father.

I am not the only person to have noticed this. While psychologically I can see how this happened, the relationship has not been healthy for her and I doubt that she realizes why she is drawn to this guy. Is this something I should point out to her, or should she make the realization on her own? I’ve already told her what I think of his behavior towards her, but this is something else entirely.


Concerned and Creeped-out (more…)

03/09/16 4:24pm
Pigpen performing Pericles pre-show music. Photo by Margaret Bortner

Pigpen performing Pericles pre-show music. Photo by Margaret Bortner

In 21st-century New York City, the search for something as mundane as a decent job can seem like questing for the holy grail. We are the heroes of these quests, and we learn from each adventure and trial along the way. The Hero’s Journey is a common 17-step narrative structure seen in literature and film, and many real lives tend to follow as well. It’s what makes fictional characters relatable, and unites us all along this Sisyphean journey known as Life when we might otherwise feel like completely disparate human beings.

Shakespeare’s Pericles, Prince of Tyre is one of these lesser-known (and lesser performed) Hero’s Journey plays. After fleeing from a king who wishes him dead, Pericles embarks on his HJ. Along the way he encounters famine, shipwreck, love, murder, mistaken identity, and other makings of a Shakespeare romcom. Pericles is currently playing at Theatre For a New Audience‘s Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Fort Greene, in a brave new production directed by multiple Tony Award winner Trevor Nunn (Cats, Les Mis, and more), arguably the most prolific stage director of Shakespeare since Shakespeare himself. Among the cast is Brooklyn’s own PigPen Theatre Company. Not only do these musically versatile men play roughly 50 roles among the seven of them, but also sing and play its original music (composed by Shaun Davey).

Given this creative re-imagining of the play, I got to thinking about the Hero’s Journey. Is it just convention, or is it actually relevant to our lives today? I chatted with a few members of PigPen to ask them about their journeys toward this latest production of Pericles, and what its message for the 21st-century Brooklynite might be. (more…)

03/08/16 4:30pm

Photos by Margaret Bortner

Rape whistles have long been mocked for their purported function. Not only are 82 percent of sexual assaults perpetrated by someone known to or trusted by the victim, but generally speaking, by the time an attacker comes into view of someone who has a rape whistle, the time for defensive action has probably passed. So as a cautionary tool, it’s kind of useless. On the other hand, you can make some pretty beautiful music with it.

That was precisely the goal for the girls of Jess Delfino’s Rape Whistle Choir of America, who convened on the steps of City Hall today to send a very direct message to the mayor’s office: rape blows! (more…)

02/19/16 12:27pm

Once upon a Brokelyn many years ago, Dear Penny, an advice column dedicated to tackling readers’ recession-related inquiries, graced our virtual pages until Penny got priced out of Park Slope, and fled Brooklyn for the greenback pastures of Connecticut.

Luckily, Penny has returned to answer all of YOUR burning questions, whether they be regarding roommate drama,  the woes (or woahs!) of dating, Brokester etiquette, or anything else that’s been causing you to wake up in a cold sweat. Send us your questions! Here’s how: (more…)

02/12/16 9:32am
We got a lot to talk about.

Settle in, we got a lot to talk about.

My fellow Brooklynites, I come to you today in anticipation of the world’s 616th Valentine’s Day. It’s not a holiday created by Hallmark, or a cruel joke played on single souls by all the happy couples of the world. It’s a tribute to love that was first observed as a romantic celebration in 1400. It’s historical, dammit.

Though some couples choose not to celebrate it, the importance of the holiday is certainly not lost on the singles of Brooklyn, who are often left feeling lonelier than ever on Feb. 14. For them, it’s a time to reflect on the past year of dating, the ups and downs of the grand Coney Island Cyclone of love. I’ve already shared my own noteworthy experiences spent looking for love, so this time around I turned my lens on the masses to get a broader picture of the state of modern romance in this fine borough. Is dating in Brooklyn truly harder than it is elsewhere? And is it as beautiful and romantic as the Brooklyn Bridge, or does it suck as much as seven years of suspended L Train service? Ladies and gentlemen, the state of dating in Brooklyn is not strong. (more…)

01/26/16 4:38pm
Fighting an old guy is never a good idea. Especially when you're on a date.

Fighting an old guy is never a good idea. Especially when you’re on a date.

I happen to be a Brooklyn dating pro, because I naively choose to believe that I will find my love and together we will ride a tandem bicycle into the sunset, which in turns means that I go on an absurd number of dates. My (nearly) 10 years of dating in this borough has had its perks as well as its disadvantages. Perks: Being privy to the particularly bad dates that plague Brooklyn, I know the warning signs and can hope to avoid them in the future. And sometimes I get to make out with a cute guy. DisadvantagesI must endure the dates at all.

Despite the optimism that someday my hipster prince will come, I realize my dating record doesn’t speak highly of the kinds of guys who remain single in this borough. (I know men have it hard, too, but their dates generally aren’t as creepy and violent.) I have been on far worse dates than the ones mentioned herein, but please allow me to share with you the five worst dates I’ve been on in Brooklyn. Because if others can learn from my experiences, at least some good will come out of it. And so, from worst to most worst: (more…)

12/03/15 2:02pm

Then: a picture of love. Now: A picture of a drunk guy leaning on his patient girlfriend

Brooklyn (the movie, based on the novel of the same name by Colm Toibin) is a stunning portrait of Brooklyn in the early 1950s and a romance that blossoms between a young Irish immigrant and her Italian suitor. The beauty of their budding relationship against the backdrop of the city is a coming of age tale for its characters and Brooklyn alike, struggling to find their way and navigate the modern world while maintaining tradition.

Although our protagonist, Eilis, certainly has her own romantic struggles and heart-wrenching decisions to make, dating in 1950s Brooklyn looks a hell of a lot better than dating in 2015. Dating in any decade has its downsides of course, but when I look at my personal experience in the 2000s and 2010s, compared to dating in the Brooklyn of the 1950s, I’m clearly dating in Brooklyn in the wrong era. I was supposed to be here cavorting among the men of a simpler time, but someone messed up and plopped me in this atrocity known as the 21st century, amidst ghosters and Tinder. Just look at all the ways that dating in 1950’s Brooklyn was way better than dating in 2015 Brooklyn (extremely mild spoilers follow): (more…)

10/06/15 10:24am
Cocktail Booking at  Castello Plan, via @jamessaraseaknee on Instagram.

Cocktail Booking at Castello Plan, via @jamessaraseaknee on Instagram.

In April, we introduced you to our new Cocktail Book, the junior partner to Brokelyn’s ever-popular Beer Book series. Packed with great places including Erv’s, the Great Georgiana, Lea and Branch Ofc., the Cocktail Book sold better than hotcakes. (Because who wants a hotcake when you can have free liquor?)

In response to the demand, we’re giving the people want they want: more! More margaritas! More mai tais! More daydrinking all winter long! More of THIS:  (more…)

09/24/15 10:14am
You've gotta be on your guard

You’ve gotta be on your guard

We all know that a crowded subway car is no excuse for sexual misconduct (or sexual conduct, for that matter; get a room, guys). We’ve all been the victim of manspreading at one point or another, and we’ve definitely had to fight people to share the pole that they thought was their personal leaning post. But what about the lesser-known rules of subway etiquette, the ones the MTA doesn’t advertise on its website, via press release, or by adorning train walls with cute cartoons?

There are problems more serious than “showtime” plaguing the New York underground, and Brokelyn feels a moral responsibility to inform you. Let our staff contributors’ tales—and the appropriate Seinfeld reaction GIFs—inspire you to take heed. Avoid becoming the victim of poor subway etiquette, but above all, please don’t exhibit this behavior at the expense of your fellow commuters. (more…)