amalthya: (fuck off)
[personal profile] amalthya
I spent the majority of Saturday with Yenni in Soho and the Bowery looking for (and buying) a light fixture for my living room that didn't look like it came from a hospital ER.

And I came to realize that a) I barely spend any time downtown these days and b) downtown is not how I remember it.

Madonna made some comments earlier this week that New York had lost its buzz and while I find her personally offensive, what she said sort of rings true.

As I sat in my super trendy cafe on Spring and Lafayette, waiting for Yenni, I noticed that the cafe had STEVIA in the sugar jar. [Pretentious check-mark number one].

But as I people-watched out the window, I noticed too that no one I saw actually looked like a New Yorker. They all seemed to be obvious tourists, maps and shopping bags in hand, or people who are clearly NOT from New York but have moved to New York and are dressing/behaving how they see New Yorkers behave on TV.

And yes, this means 800 iterations of Carrie Bradshaw et al but I feel like more importantly, the spirit of what made New York, "New York" was lost. When I was in middle school/high school, what set downtown apart was that it was different, and funky. Extremes were the norm, and there was no Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen boutique in the Meat Packing district.

It bothered me, I suppose, that none of the people I saw out the window seemed real. With their matchy-matchy outfits, and designer strollers, and enormous-insect-sunglasses, they didn't look like people who had jobs, or families, or real lives. They just looked like characters they expected to be played by on Television.

I guess all New Yorkers have had this complaint, but it does feel like what characterizes New York nowadays is not its uniqueness, but it's expense. Numerous people have pointed out that no one could live the Carrie Bradshaw lifestyle now even if they wanted to.

I think it was funnily characterized by Yenni too who said "Not even Chinese people want to go to Chinatown now."

Anyway, I still enjoy my sojourn to Montien on Thursday nights, and at least some parts of the East Village still feel like real New York. But overall, I'm coming to appreciate "upper manhattan" more and more. It may be a little rough around the edges, but no one can deny that it's real.

Date: 2008-04-01 05:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Funny, we were in SoHo on Saturday too; the fact that the sidewalks were clogged with tourists drove me up the wall.

Right now I appreciate my train rides for being "real" - everyone else is going to Rockefeller Center too, and it's because they actually work there.
Edited Date: 2008-04-01 07:14 pm (UTC)

Date: 2008-04-01 05:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
But isn't a yearning for authenticity just another bourgeois pretense?

Date: 2008-04-01 05:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Loyalists: the original New Yorkers. ;)

Date: 2008-04-01 06:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Harvard Square in Boston used to be more real then everyone started hanging out in Davis Square. I don't think the tourists have caught on yet. Then again the coolness of Harvard Square was dead about 8 years before I was born.

Date: 2008-04-01 06:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This entry makes me sad :( I haven't been back to the city forever but it's always going to be the home of my heart.

I don't think yearning for the authentic is a bourgeois pretense, it's a natural instinct for people to want things to be true, and above all, to be real --- or at least what they remember as real. Perhaps authentic in this case just means the stuff that one's nostalgia is based on.

Date: 2008-04-02 01:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I really enjoy the tourist/resident dynamic over by wall street. I think moreso than elsewhere tourists feel like they're on safari, and are moving aside not to get crotch-decked by traders letting off a little steam.

New York has always been about shifting neighborhoods, and you can never forget the outer boroughs if looking for neighborhoods full of regulars rather than passers by.

Date: 2008-04-02 03:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
what the hell is wrong with a hospital ER?

Date: 2008-04-02 06:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That is the most awesome comment you could have possibly made.

Date: 2008-04-02 02:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
After growing up between Manhattan and the South Bronx, I've got to say I definately left NYC for a reason. I can't stand it there anymore. To live there, you either have to be super rich or dirt poor - the middle can barely survive anymore.

I think it was funnily characterized by Yenni too who said "Not even Chinese people want to go to Chinatown now."
My dad and I used to tear across Chinatown, exploring, eating, getting lost, learning all of it until we knew it better than the people who lived there. Then the tourists/residents of the city began shrinking the "no white people zone" until Chinatown became a hip place to get bubbletea. I hate it. I LIKED the fishy smell. I LIKED not knowing what the hell they were feeding me at the dim sum restaurants, being stared at by shop keepers until I tasted it, and having them getting the biggest kick out of me inhaling every morsel with delight. I remember when it used to be weird for anyone but asian folks to be able to use chopsticks.

By the time I was in HS, I was relegated to the deepest parts of Chinatown. I thought nothing of it and took Ari to show him the heart of the area. I thought nothing of it until a Chinese friend and resident of the area actually TRACKED me down because she heard whispers of a white girl fitting my description roaming the streets where NO ONE but asians roamed. I shit you not, she actually went looking and found me. She was shocked, we were happy to see her, she asked us if we were lost. I told her all my local faves, she was more shocked (I was all proud of myself), and we had a great time. I guess the whispers were the "oh shit, here comes another bubble tea and mochi sucking, pocki hunting Chinatown ruiner." NYC has lost the feel. It's all turning into the midtown/upper east side. It's a huge part of why I'll never go back.


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