The gist of yesterday’s A.O. Scott vs. Spike Lee contretemps, ignited by Scott’s Sunday N.Y. Times piece about the evolving gentrification of Brooklyn (“Whose Brooklyn Is It Anyway?”) , is as follows: (1) Scott suggested that Lee’s presence in Fort Greene had nudged along the gentrification of that now-thoroughly-yuppified Brooklyn nabe as much as anyone or anything else , if not more so, (2) he further implied Lee can’t really complain because he lives in a figurative “glass brownstone” on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and then (3) Lee claimed in an open letter to Scott on that Scott hasn’t thoroughly done his homework (i.e., a reference to the fact that Lee’s dad bought a brownstone home in Fort Greene in 1968 and still lives there) and that Brooklyn is a state of mind that you carry around and that, in his words, “I can live on The Moon and what I said is still TRUE.”

Lee’s letter is absolutely terrific in its straight from the shoulder resolve. Where Scott’s prose dances and glides and riffs around, Lee speaks with a blunt street patois about heritage and community and the residue of memory and family. The piece presents his no-pretense personality, vocabulary and way of thinking. He’s an American Original. I love it when he tells Scott that his argument is “OKEY DOKE,” and I love his sign-offs — “WAKE UP” and “WE BEEN HERE.”

During the 1992 Cannes Film Festival Lee gave me a feisty buckshot quote about a remark Mickey Rourke had shared with a reporter for London’s Evening Standard about the L.A. riots, to wit: “The blood of Los Angeles falls upon those who instigated this revolt…the malicious prophets of black cinema and rap music…the movies such as those by Spike Lee and John Singleton.”

I showed Lee this clipping at a Cannes beach party and he saw red. He asked for my mini-cassette recorder (which had just been turned on) and barked the following right into the mike: “Mickey Rourke is a fucking asshole. He’s a fucking redneck, motherfucking cracker, motorcyle-riding…you know, what kind of work does he do? I mean, he’s an idiot! He’s been riding a motorcycle without a helmet and he’s punch-drunk from being in the ring. How can Mickey Rourke say that me and John Singleton are responsible for the riots in LA? Like, his films are responsible?”

I transcribed Lee’s quote later that night. He obviously sounded a bit coarse, and I thought he might want to refine his remarks and…you know, sound a little more avuncular and reined in. So I called Lee at his hotel the next morning and asked if he wanted to burnish a bit. “Nope,” he replied. “I said what I said and that’s it.” So I sent the story along to Entertainment Weekly and his quote ran raw. Lee was way, way ahead of me. If he had refined his quote his honest response would’ve essentially been de-balled. I see that now. It took me years to develop Lee’s level of confidence in my own instinctual responses to this or that. I still re-think and refine every time I post something, but I trust the instinctual a lot more today than I did 22 years ago.