Tim Harrington is best known as the frontman of the long-running, influential and just plain awesome post-punk/art-rock band Les Savy Fav. He’s also about to release his first ever children’s book, This Little Piggy. Written and illustrated entirely by Harrington, it’s a new take on the standard children’s story, focusing on the piggies on the other foot, which are taking part in decidedly non-boring activities like chewing gum, having costume parties, playing the drums and riding go-karts. It’ll be out in May, and you should buy it.
Harrington, who lives in Williamsburg, is also a father. We asked him a few questions about the pros and cons of raising a family in the city, as opposed to bolting for the suburbs or the mountains or whatever.
So I understand you have a child, or maybe multiple children, whom you’ve chosen to raise here in Brooklyn. Is it weird if I ask how old he or she or they are and what his or her or their names are?
I have two little boys, Ben and Casper, they are six and four. Six and a half actually. Ben would want that known.
Can you talk a little about how you made the decision to stay in Brooklyn rather than moving somewhere else? Was it something you struggled with, or was it sort of a no-brainer?
I don’t think we ever made a decision to stay in Brooklyn. I guess we decided not to move out. My wife and I have entertained thoughts of living someplace else, but whenever we really think about it being here in Brooklyn just seems best. There aren’t a lot of places where you can move so fluidly between privacy and community. A person can go totally unnoticed in a crowd of thousands just as easily as they can meet a friend on five minutes notice at 3am. Also there are some really good restaurants.
What aspect of city life was most appealing to you in terms of raising a family?
I believe a defining part of city life is the breakdown of private space and public space. In the city your home is small but the world around it is huge. That’s more inverted in the suburbs: there are big houses but the kinds of influences and environments you encounter out of your home ae dramatically reduced. Here you live in the city. In the suburbs you live in your house. I don’t know how rural living works, I never tried it, could be great, if you love driving 20 minutes to your neighbors for a cup of sugar. Brooklyn’s faux rural restaurants seem close enough for me.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a result of staying?
Well, the challenges we face as a family are the same ones almost all New Yorkers share in varying degrees. You can make five hundred bucks a week or five hundred bucks a day and the place will try to suck it all away. New York suffers from some serious compulsive consumption issues and managing the pressures of that and, where you can, mitigating those pressures for your fellow New Yorkers is the big challenge.
What’s your favorite kid-friendly Brooklyn activity?
That’s hard to say, we don’t really have a big go-to activity. Libraries work. We have a car so Fairway is usually kind of a hit—my kids are on a first-name basis with Sunshine, the lady who replenishes the olive oil sampling area. “Super Playground” at pier 6 is cool. One thing that is fun and kind of specific to us is what my kids call “the rounds”. It involves wandering around Williamsburg on a Saturday afternoon. We go to Kings Pharmacy and the kids snoop out the toys, pass through Academy records and I do some snooping, visit our friends at Bird on Grand, same with our friends at Pilgrim Surf shop on N. 3rd and Wythe (Ben is friends with their daughter), hit the playground at Grand and Wythe—we call it Hippo Park but I’m not sure that is the name. Then we’ll visit Main Drag music right there and mess around on the display drums and keyboards until the staff seems sufficiently headached. Finally we’ll stop by Millie’s Mini Mart on our corner for a little candy. The kids scoot or bike; we bump into friends on the street. It’s basically raising out kids to be flaneurs.
Kids in bars: Yes or no?
Do you see yourself living in the city for good, or do you think there will be a time when you retire to the country or the suburbs?
Hey! Now, your stressing me out. Did my mom put you up to this question!? Ma, it’ll be fine don’t worry, we’re taking it one day at a time.