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  • The first hardware store we went to when we moved into the neighborhood was the Ace on Myrtle. At that time, people still used to talk about another time when people called Myrtle Avenue Murder Avenue. But when we arrived, the danger of the infamous east-west thoroughfare had all but evaporated off, giving way to exposed brick coffee houses, brunch spots and the occasional shady bodega holdover that employed a sweet cat with clipped ears and sold weed over the candy counter, if you knew how to ask.

    At the Ace, we bought essential mechanical doo-dads to outfit our apartment. Hooks to hang towels and jackets. Nails for our meager collection of art made by friends. Screws that had gone missing from the bottom-of-the-line Ikea pieces where we stored our books and sweaters.

    When we broke up and I moved across the neighborhood, I started to go to Sister's Community Hardware. Before ever setting foot inside, I was excited by the name of the shop. I imagined a benevolent coven of sisters earnestly and radically interested in purveying local hardware. The reality of the situation was that the shop was owned by a woman, but she was just a single woman with the last name of "Sister," which, sidenote, is an awesome name.

    I purchased a variety of useful objects over the years at Sister's: a window screen to replace one with many holes that the landlord had no interest in fixing; Raid to zap rogue waterbugs to a cruel, seizure-ridden, chemical death; plastic sheets that my then-girlfriend/now-wife used to seal my windows from leaking precious heat into the January chill, all while I chided her lovingly with the first nickname I ever gave her, "Minnesota."

    "Minnesota, you are doing an AMAZING job with that window."

    The help at Sister's was the neighborhood's finest--they always had plenty of choice comments. Once, I went in to buy a mouse trap.

    "Enjoy your purchase," the clerk called, on my way out. Then, he paused. "Actually, how you gonna enjoy a mousetrap? Shit."

    "I can think of a way," I said, walking out.

    When I came back to the neighborhood on a recent visit, Sister's Hardware was closed. I had to make a few copies of a friend's house keys, so I stumbled into another hardware store down Fulton, closer to Franklin Ave. Four men were there, not doing much of anything. A portly tabby lounged on a chair.

    "I need two sets of these," I said, handing the lone white guy behind the counter my keys. He passed the order to his associate, who started cutting the keys with an "Ay ay, boss."

    "Here's your 17 keys," said the keycutter, handing me back two new sets, along with the originals.

    "For my 17 doors," I said.

    We all laughed and I walked back onto the street--a street that still had a slight air of danger to it...but not for long.
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